As offices begin to re-open, some professionals are looking for ways to retain an element of remote working. In this article, Teresa Stapleton shares her top tips to persuade your employer and make the most of your new arrangement. The COVID-19 lockdown has allowed many people to work remotely for the first time, and explore if they want to do this long-term. While remote working doesn’t suit every business or every role, the lockdown has forced many companies to radically change working practices, opening up the possibility of working remotely for more people in the future. Having worked from home part-time for many years and managed teams in different countries, my experience has been overwhelmingly positive. The time and money saved by not commuting and the flexibility to adjust working hours around other life commitments are significant benefits. Offering flexible working arrangements is also a great way to attract, retain and motivate employees. One of the fundamental principles of flexible working arrangements is that they will only be successful if it is mutually beneficial for the business and the employee. If you think remote working is the right solution for you, here are some tips to set you up for success. 1. Know the terms  Companies offering remote working should have a policy document outlining the terms and conditions to ensure consistency and avoid disputes. This typically describes the aims of the policy, eligibility criteria, the application process, how decisions are made, the appeals process, trial periods, and notice timelines for altering working arrangements to support changing business needs. Remote working applications typically involve the completion of a thorough risk assessment to review potential health and safety issues. The remote working policy should describe how the risk assessment will be completed, who is responsible for providing and maintaining furniture and equipment, and outline any other relevant factors (such as core working hours, insurance, expenses, confidentiality, security, and data privacy). 2. Structure your day It takes time to get used to working remotely and find ways to stay productive. It’s essential to have a schedule and to stick to it. Having a designated quiet space where you can concentrate is also critical, as is good online connectivity with high-speed broadband, video conferencing, and access to company apps and data. Anticipate technology issues and have a back-up plan. For example, have mobile numbers ready so you can stay connected and keep working while offline. Discuss your remote working plans with family or housemates to minimise disruption and get their buy-in. Avoid getting into the habit of constantly checking emails or taking calls outside designated working hours, so you don’t get sucked into long workdays with no time for family, friends or anything else. To avoid cabin fever, take breaks regularly and go outside for walks or exercise to clear your mind, relax and recharge. 3. Set boundaries Many people say they work harder and get more done when working at home. This is sometimes a result of extending the working day, by using the time saved not commuting to get more done. Some find it easier to concentrate at home, with fewer interruptions than the office. Others work through lunch and don’t take many breaks by choice to finish early and free-up time for childcare or other activities. It’s common for remote workers to say that they feel a need to work longer and respond immediately to calls and emails over extended hours to demonstrate their commitment to doing a good job. This ‘always on’ mentality can be draining and may lead to anxiety, stress and even burn-out in extreme cases. It’s a good idea to set boundaries in terms of your availability and share the details with colleagues to manage expectations around reasonable response times. 4. Demonstrate results  Managers will only support remote working if they believe employee performance will be as good, or better, than if the employee was office-based. Having clear objectives and targets is key to any performance management process, but it is even more important for people working remotely when their contribution is less visible. Agreeing up-front the results that are expected and understanding how performance will be assessed are essential for remote workers to ensure that they are fairly treated in performance appraisals and rewards decisions. The most common concerns raised by remote workers during coaching discussions are losing out when it comes to rewards and career progression. Office-based colleagues have a natural advantage as they can interact face-to-face with management, enabling them to build stronger working relationships and raise awareness of their impact, aspirations, and potential. To avoid being left behind, make your impact visible to your manager and others involved in assessing your performance. This typically involves more structured reporting, regular update calls with your direct manager, frequently connecting with stakeholders, and looking for other creative ways to raise your profile. 5. Encourage teamwork  The main concerns raised by managers of remote teams are that teamwork will decline and employee engagement will drop, ultimately reducing performance levels and business results. It takes sustained, conscious effort by everyone to prevent this from happening. Implementing a communications programme at the individual, team, and organisational level is essential to keep people connected, collaborating and engaged. There is, of course, a risk that some employees will become disengaged, and some may miss social interaction with colleagues. Companies new to remote working should raise awareness of the benefits and pitfalls of remote working and explore ideas to make it successful for all concerned. Teresa Stapleton is an Executive Coach at Stapleton Coaching.

Jul 22, 2020

Emma Noonan, Chair at CASSI, shares her time management tips and the key to her early career success. What do you love about your job? There are many aspects of my job that I enjoy, particularly the learning opportunities, challenges, and variety in the tasks I am assigned. However, what I truly love about my job, and what I really value is the people. This is the real differentiator between each firm, and I have been fortunate to work with strong and supportive teams during my time in KPMG. When you are faced with a problem at work, it’s great to be able to turn to a colleague and reach a solution together rather than struggle alone. The teams I have worked with have supported me, challenged me, and taught me everything I have learned so far in my career. So really, I have them to thank for the love I have for my job. What’s the best career decision you’ve ever made? Deciding to study with Chartered Accountants Ireland to become a qualified Chartered Accountant was the best career decision I have ever made. When I was in college, I was on the fence as to what I wanted to do and I found the idea of studying for another three and a half years very daunting. However, my decision was final when I did an internship with Risk Consulting at KPMG, where I saw the direct benefit becoming a Chartered Accountant had on working life in terms of both career development and career potential. I am now in the midst of my contract and I am delighted with the choice I made. How do you organise your time? That is a great question, and I welcome all suggestions! Scheduling everything I must do for the week ahead (both professionally and personally) in my diary works best for me. It has become a habit at this stage, and I always have my diary with me – it’s a great way to get an overview of my weekly plans at a glance. Every week, I write down what I need to achieve so that by 5.30pm on Friday, I will feel as though I have had a productive week. This is something I learned from Pat Divilly and it is a really useful exercise when I feel like I’m not getting enough done. Every day, I align my daily to-do list to my weekly objectives and prioritise each item. To achieve this, I write down realistic and specific to-dos. The more specific I am with my to-dos, the easier I find it to meet my weekly objectives and, as a result, feel more productive. For me, it’s essential to distinguish between my short-term and long-term goals. I can’t achieve everything I want in one day, so I try to bear this in mind as I set my daily tasks to meet my weekly objectives. What has been the key to your career success to date? I have had some small wins in my career so far including passing my CAP1 exams, being elected as CASSI Education Officer, and being elected as the Chair of CASSI this year. My goal at the moment is to build a varied skillset, which will benefit my career in the future. To me, this means taking every learning opportunity I can get my hands on and pushing myself out of my comfort zone. What is the best career advice you ever received? That’s a tough one! I’ve received advice from several mentors and my team in KPMG. However, the one that stands out is: seek to learn. Throughout my career, and with thanks to my firm, I have been exposed to a number of learning opportunities. These range from working with high-profile clients to learning key technical skills such as SQL, POWERBI and Excel. Educational opportunities are extremely important to me and in terms of my career, I endeavour to continuously upskill – sure, that’s exactly what the training contract is for! If you were to change one thing about your professional life, what would it be? Ironically, it would be to have more time. As I settle into my new role as CASSI Chair while working and studying full-time, I find myself struggling to have some downtime. This boils down to time management and what I am currently prioritising. So for now, I’d change how long it takes me to re-order my priorities! What lessons did you learn about yourself, and your work, during the pandemic? I have learned several lessons from both a personal and professional standpoint during COVID-19. However, my two key learning points are: communication and work-life balance. The fundamental role of face-to-face interaction in my daily job became very clear to me as we shifted to working from home, full-time. I learned the importance of open and continued communications, be it client-related or simply a discussion with a team member. In such uncertain times, an email or weekly catch-up really makes a difference when it comes to clarifying the company’s direction of travel for the months ahead. It was interesting to see how smoothly we shifted to online platforms and this has been key to increasing the frequency of communication in recent weeks. That said, I look forward to getting back to the office to see my colleagues, as it’s hard to beat a face-to-face interaction. But for the time being, the likes of Microsoft Teams is an excellent substitute. As a result of COVID-19, I also found myself out of the routine to which I was very much accustomed. It came as a bit of a shock when I realised that working from home wasn’t going to be a short-term thing and I struggled with the uncertainty I was facing. From this, I learned the importance of building and maintaining a work routine as well as factoring in down-time to catch-up virtually with friends and family. It took some time to get used to my kitchen/office hybrid, but I’ve settled in nicely to my new routine.

Jul 22, 2020

Bring your personal brand to life before, during and after an interview with these ten tips from Áine Killilea. 1. Be clear with your key messages  Your cover letter should state clearly the position you are applying for, and make a compelling case as to why you are the best candidate for the role. These are the most vital objectives of any cover letter and while they should take priority, you also want your potential employer to connect with you as a person. Refrain from using industry business jargon – you may end up diluting your value and confusing the reader, which would make any form of human connection virtually impossible. 2. Show up as your best, authentic self We always want to put our best foot forward at an interview. “Be yourself” might be a cliché, but it’s a cliché because it’s excellent advice. If you shine a spotlight on your best attributes in an interview, in the knowledge that every word you’re saying is valid, it makes it easier to get into a confident stride. If you’re trying to oversell yourself, there’s a high chance you’ll end up even more nervous and could contradict yourself during the interview. 3. Refine your elevator pitch Your elevator pitch is a quick snapshot of your background and experience. It should be 30 seconds in length and inform your prospective interviewer who you are, what you do, and what you want to do. Communicate your elevator pitch by giving it a story structure; this makes it more interesting, both to tell and to listen to. And when you have finalised your elevator pitch, refine it to reflect the requirements of the particular role for which you are applying. To update and create consistent content across all of your communications, adapt and use your elevator pitch as the introduction on your CV, your cover letter, and your LinkedIn ‘about’ section. And include keywords from your elevator pitch in your LinkedIn headline to help prospective recruiters and employers find you among the masses. If delivered compellingly, your elevator pitch will help you build business relationships throughout your career. It can also help you connect more meaningfully with colleagues on day one of your new role. 4. Align your values Research the values of the company you wish to join. Consider which of your own values truly align with the company’s values, and include them in your CV, cover letter, elevator pitch, and in how you answer interview questions. This will help your prospective employer more easily envision you slotting in with the company’s ethos and culture. 5. Communicate your core messages Identify the core messages of your professional personal brand and incorporate them in your communication with the interview panel. Doing so will reinforce critical messages and ensure that you won’t have that rueful “I never told them I could…” feeling after the interview. 6. Prepare stories Stories connect us to people. The job description highlights the characteristics of the role you’re applying for, so prepare a variety of stories which demonstrate each of these characteristics. Give each story a beginning, middle and end. And keep them brief – this will make the remembering and telling of each story much easier. 7. Listen! In the rush to communicate your suitability for the role, it can be easy to forget to listen or to mishear what is being asked of you. Listen to what is being said, and take a breath before answering the question. Doing so will reinforce your value as a measured and discerning candidate. 8. Dress as if you already belong there Leverage your personal style by indicating through the use of colour that you fit in with the company. If possible, incorporate a colour used in the organisation’s branding in your interview clothing (if the organisation’s branding features purple, for example, wear a purple tie or handbag). This gesture creates a visual cue that you already belong in the organisation. 9. Manage your online presence Social media is a fantastic way to showcase your skills, interests and network. A recent study by the Society For Human Resource Management found that 84% of employers recruit via social media, and 43% of employers screen job candidates through social networks and search engines. The same study found that 36% of companies have disqualified job candidates after doing an online search or viewing an applicant’s social media! With this in mind, Google yourself and ensure that prospective employers will find only favourable information when they do the same. Also, review your social media accounts – including those you don’t currently use, but have in the past – to ensure nothing could go against you in the eyes of a prospective employer. Use your elevator pitch as your starting point and when posting online, reflect your values and highlight clearly what you have to offer to the companies you wish to be employed by. 10. Reflect your personal brand in VIRTUAL interviews Online interviews can also present you with opportunities to highlight your personal brand to companies before you even speak. Pay attention to your clothing, background and lighting as this will emphasise your attention to detail, which is a skill consistently sought by employers.   Áine Killilea is Director of Áine Image & Communications and Founding Director  of Evolve PR.

Jul 22, 2020

Jonathan Rockett, CFO at Ding, looks back on his career progression from his early days at PwC to his current role in a fast-growing company.What does your role as CFO at Ding entail? Finance is one area of the business that has full visibility from left to right across Ding’s different business lines, and also top to bottom in terms of operational infrastructure to support those business lines.In general, the CFO role can be quite broad and can look entirely different in different company contexts. My role is varied, but the core aspects involve reporting to the board on current and projected performance or KPIs; tax and treasury projects associated with geographic expansion; financial planning in terms of the short-term and long-term requirements of the company; and strategic decisions on the next phase of the company’s growth, as we are at a pivotal stage in our scale-up. Finance touches all teams and projects in Ding. We are embedded in the commercial and operational running of business lines, where the global pricing function manages the pricing negotiations for new deals and amends pricing based on FX trends associated with the various currencies we deal in. To what do you attribute your career success? Attitude and a variety of experiences. I have always been driven and committed to succeeding in this industry, which has played a decisive role in getting me to where I am today.In terms of experience, I had the privilege of working in a variety of roles in several companies. The different skills I gained along the way have been instrumental in laying the foundations for my current position.At PwC Assurance, I refined my accuracy and attention to detail in working through technical accounting standards. In PwC Transaction Services, I gained exposure to project delivery under extremely tight deadlines and upskilled in the application of a commercial lens of analysis in the presentation of numbers. This ability to leverage data to deduce and communicate the real KPIs and value drivers across various industries has been invaluable, and I continue to build on this expertise to this day. At Paddy Power, I learned the importance of process and system automation to enhance team output in cross-functional departments.These experiences shaped the way I work and gave me the skills I needed to succeed in this industry. Ding went through an intense M&A period with three acquisitions, for instance, and my experience in transaction services was central to the successful completion of each deal from a finance perspective.Describe your career planning process. People advise you to look at your career in stages of three to five years. Whether by design or accident, I followed that process relatively closely.University was phase one, and my ambitions were to complete my bachelor’s degree in business and economics at Trinity College Dublin, followed by a masters degree in accountancy from UCD Smurfit Business School. I then wanted to work in a Big Four accountancy firm and gain my ACA qualification. During my first year in PwC, I also decided to pursue my tax exams. That decision has been particularly beneficial in my current role in a global operation as it has allowed me to understand potential tax implications.The second phase began after I completed my three-year training contract. I knew that assurance wasn’t my long-term target, so I applied for – and secured – a Transaction Services position in PwC. It was more commercial in nature, and built on the skills I developed during the previous four years.After interacting with company leaders on due diligence projects and getting a grasp on the business drivers of their growth and success, it didn’t take me long to realise that I wanted to work in industry long-term. The most important consideration for me was the company and the strategic direction it was moving in, and this marked the beginning of phase three. Paddy Power was in high-growth mode and offered me the perfect opportunity to deploy the competencies I had developed at PwC. It also exposed me to a more multifunctional team and operational environment. The ability to work cross-functionally is a critical competency that becomes increasingly important as you progress through your career.Most recently, phase four began when I was contacted about a role in Ding. I was immediately interested as the market opportunity was – and remains – huge. The role of Head of Finance, which I was first appointed to, was expansive, encompassing full profit and loss visibility as well as tax, treasury and financial operations teams. It allowed me to play a material role in the company story, and being a part of a fast-growing company in scale-up mode was very attractive to me.What do you look for when hiring or promoting talent?One of the key characteristics I look for when hiring is the desire and drive to improve and make a change. At Ding, our evolution and growth means that there are plenty of opportunities to grow and expand within roles if you have the ambition to do so.I always look to assess if new employees can evolve and take on new responsibilities as the company grows and expands. The phrase “surround yourself with good people” is underrated and is something that resonated with me in recent years. It underscores a team and a company’s ability to be successful.What is the best career advice you ever received? The best piece of advice I received is ‘never take a job, or stay in a job, you no longer learn from’. This has led me to ensure that every new job, new year and new quarter presents a challenge that allows for my continual development and improvement.If you were to change one thing about your career choices, what would it be?While I look back with fond memories of the different stages of my career, you only truly learn from the mistakes you make. So embrace the mistakes, learn from them, and continually aim to improve.Overall, there is nothing I would change about the  career path I chose. I feel incredibly lucky that, in every role and company I have worked in, I have continued to expand my skillset and learn from individuals operating at the top of their fields. All of these have brought me to Ding, which is an exciting place to be.  

Jul 22, 2020

Soft skills are already essential assets, but employers will look for particular aptitudes as the pandemic subsides and the ‘new normal’ takes hold. By Dr. Annette Clancy Coronavirus has changed how we work and how we live. The rapid change to online and remote working has challenged many of us as we juggle home, work, and caring responsibilities. This period has also helped to surface and refine new types of skills that will be essential in the ‘new’ world of work. Here, I reflect on just a few of them. 1. Adaptability COVID-19 forced companies to adapt and change with unprecedented speed. Change is always on the agenda, but the pandemic accelerated it. To succeed in the future, workers will need to continually update their skills and be willing to adapt and be flexible. Job titles won’t necessarily fully describe the breadth of roles. In job interviews, candidates will need to give clear examples of how they have put these skills to work because the traditional CV won’t convey the nuance of someone’s adaptability. The conventional cover letter will also need more thought and will need to be adapted to each employer’s particular circumstance. 2. Creativity and innovation Businesses have always had to come up with new ways to deliver services, but COVID-19 highlighted just how important creativity and innovation are to survival. The Abbey Theatre, for example, unable to present work on stage, created ‘Dear Ireland’ and invited Irish writers to write a postcard to Ireland – it asked them to imagine what Ireland might need to talk about during this time. The Abbey Theatre commissioned 50 writers to write monologues for 50 actors, each of whom performed on camera in lockdown. These performances were then broadcast live on the Abbey’s YouTube channel at the end of May (they are still available to view on YouTube). The Abbey Theatre performs work on stage directly to an audience, so this type of pivot was a gamble for the theatre. However, the quality of the idea, its passion for creating work for Irish artists, and the novelty of delivery carried this over the line. This type of creativity and innovation, commitment to care for employees, and desire to connect with customers will be a crucial skill in a post-coronavirus environment. 3. Managing remote teams Many of us have come to terms with Skype, Microsoft Teams and Zoom as part of our day-to-day routine during the pandemic. Some organisations such as Facebook and Twitter are now planning for permanent remote working. We are also likely to see remote working policies in many other non-technology firms in the future. The ability to manage remote teams effectively will be a critical skill in a post-coronavirus context, but this means more than managing a conversation with 12 people in a Zoom room! Research tells us, for example, that issues of trust are magnified when team members are remote (do you trust someone when you can’t see them?) Research also tells us that the maximum number for a remote team is 100. Beyond this number, it is difficult for people to engage in a task. Managing relations with, and between, people who will never be in the same room is a sophisticated skill that will be much in demand as remote working increases. 4. Critical thinking COVID-19 spread rapidly throughout the world and due to the shortage of research and reliable information, fake news and unreliable data spread with comparable speed. Business leaders, politicians, and governments wanted to shift blame and avoid scrutiny. The capacity to parse information to determine what is accurate and reliable will be a valuable skill. Businesses need to know that objective and credible data inform their decisions. The capacity to critically analyse data to establish an informed opinion will, therefore, be valuable in the post-coronavirus world. 5. Trust-building and leadership There have been stark differences in the type of leadership exhibited by those charged with guiding us through the COVID-19 pandemic. The unsuccessful leaders are those who tried to offer certainty by making false claims and offering false hope. The most successful leaders have built trust, admitted what they don’t know, and managed anxiety. Leaders do not always know the answer, but they recognise that followers are afraid in times of uncertainty. They also know that part of their role is to hold and contain uncertainty. In the future, this type of trust-building and containing skill will be more important than the ‘strong man’ version of leadership we have seen fail during this pandemic. 6. Emotional intelligence If this pandemic has taught us anything, it is that anxiety is very real and it has severe consequences. In the future, employers will look for people who can assess the circumstances around them while also paying close attention to the emotional impact of decisions. Skills such as reflection and, more importantly, reflexivity will be critical. How well do you know yourself emotionally? How well do you know your impact on other people? What changes can you make to your management style as a result of knowing the answers to these questions? These are not intellectual questions that call for snappy answers at an interview; they are emotional questions that require an ongoing process, such as coaching, to answer. These six skills are not a definitive list, but they offer a baseline from which others can develop. Dr Annette Clancy is Assistant Professor of Management at UCD School of Art, History and Cultural Policy.

Jul 22, 2020

Niamh McInerney shares practical tips for job-searching during a pandemic. When we look back over the last six months, the speed of change from a growth economy to one with a challenging financial path ahead is staggering. COVID-19 has had an immediate and unprecedented impact on businesses with some able to work through, some temporarily closed, and others closed permanently. What does this mean for jobs, your prospects, and the ability to find the right job for you in this new environment? While we have seen recruitment freezes over this period, the economy is now starting to open up again and businesses are beginning to hire. In that context, here is some advice on how to put your best foot forward. Leverage LinkedIn We all know how vital LinkedIn is when looking for a job, but LinkedIn is also a critical channel when a company is looking to hire people with specific skills. Here are some ways to boost your prospects: Step back from the language and read it through to confirm that it reflects your CV in the round. View other role models’ profiles for inspiration. Ensure that your profile includes language akin to job descriptions relevant to your search. Follow the companies in which you are interested. Only ‘like’ relevant posts with which you agree. Share relevant content on LinkedIn (think of it as Facebook, but for your professional life). Be proactive As the market re-opens, it will be competitive. There are some practical, proactive steps you can take: Research the companies and roles in which you are interested. Check out the latest news sites for the issues they are commenting on, as well as their website. Scan relevant jobs boards regularly. Reach out to recruiters and share your CV. While there may be a hiring freeze in certain sectors, you might be called first if they have your details. Follow companies’ social media to get better insights, and also to hear about job opportunities they may have. If a company is hiring, find out the closing date and apply well in advance of this to avoid any technical issues. Use the time to upskill While you may have more time on your hands, smart upskilling will help you bridge the gaps on your CV to what companies are looking for in their job descriptions. There are many free resources available online or through courses that will help you. An excellent place to start is somewhere like Coursera – there are thousands of courses available online on a range of topics. Webinars are also an excellent opportunity to learn from industry experts, so have a hunt around and sign-up to useful webinars in relevant industries. Digital is key to everything we do now; this has been highlighted since working from home, and collaborating with our teams is set to continue as we seek to serve our clients’ needs. There are great quick wins here, like Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets courses. You can also make considerable advances in more specialist software like Altryx or Tableau, which are used increasingly in businesses. Many of these courses are free and have communities to help you upskill. PwC has also developed a digital fitness app, which assesses your capabilities and suggests mini courses to help advance your digital skills and track your progress. It can be accessed through the App Store and Google Play Store, with the login code ‘lRNALL’. PwC adds new learning assets to the tool weekly to reflect the latest developments and thinking. Once you download the app, be sure to take the self-assessment, which takes less than 15 minutes to complete. Upon completion, you’ll be given your digital fitness score and your personalised learning feed. Avoid over-looking the short-term Although a job may appear to be short-term on the surface, do not say no straight away. Such roles can sometimes lead to long-term opportunities. I moved to my current position, for example, from assurance on secondment for one year. Four years later, I’m still here. Even if a position remains short-term in nature, such opportunities give great depth to your CV as you learn about new industries, businesses, and systems while expanding your network and enhancing your relationships. Your network and connections are particularly important in these times. Be creative with friends I would also encourage you to be creative with friends at this time, when some of you may have more time on your hands than usual. What could you do together that you would otherwise not get the opportunity to do normally? Be brave and go for it. These are unusual times of momentous change, and with that comes new opportunities. If you get practical, focused, and seek out the opportunities, you will hopefully be able to begin a bright new chapter in your career. I wish you the best of luck. Niamh McInerney is Head of Graduate Recruitment at PwC Ireland.

Jul 22, 2020

Flexible working was a ‘nice to have’ six months ago, but COVID-19 has given it pole position in business strategy and planning. And that won’t change as the crisis fades, writes Ed Heffernan. We can be sure of very few things in the next 12-18 months. Right now, some fundamental changes are happening in the world of work – changes both in the jobs market itself and in the way we work. In Barden, we have a few predictions for you about precisely that. What will the jobs market for accountants be like in the year ahead? In the short-term, people will work harder. Companies will be reluctant to replace headcount in finance or hire additional finance people, for a while at least. That means the current workload will be shared among the team that is now in place. This will likely result in a higher workload per person, but it may also offer a more diverse mix of activity in finance roles (which could be positive if approached and managed correctly).  The market has shifted from candidate-driven to client-driven. Supply will, for a time, exceed the demand and this will have an impact on salaries. We predict that wages will drop by roughly 5% in the next 12 months, but are unlikely to drop much further. The majority of accountants are still gainfully employed and will continue to be remunerated at pre-COVID-19 levels. Good accountants are less likely to move for less money. Bonuses and salary increases for 2020/21 are very likely to be put on ice in most companies. And don’t expect salary reviews in the next 12 months to be as favourable as those in 2019. Candidates will also have to work a little harder and be a little more flexible when looking for a role. With less demand for people, candidates will have fewer options and must, therefore, be less prescriptive in their job search. They will need to be flexible when it comes to trading variables such as location, salary, the nature of the role, the kind of employment (more on that below), the type of business and so on if they want to advance their careers externally in the years ahead. Contract roles will rebound faster than permanent roles. As with all previous recessions, the jobs market will rebound first through contract positions, followed by permanent roles. Why? Contract roles represent a temporary commitment/spend and are therefore easier to get approved in an uncertain market. Contract roles are often a “must hire” to cover key personnel during maternity/paternity leave. Project work associated with finance business process transformations to drive efficiency (and ultimately lower costs) are often recruited for on a contract basis. Many roles that are usually permanent will be recruited on a contract basis initially and, assuming improved trading conditions, will ultimately be made permanent (which has the knock-on effect of reducing the number of permanent roles that come to market). The value of contract roles for ambitious people should not be underestimated in the months ahead. While a near full recovery is predicted by many for 2021/2022, the jobs market for accountants will lag slightly behind as many companies will invest in direct revenue-generating recruits first (sales roles, for example) and indirect revenue-generating recruits second (such as accountants). It will take some time to return to a normalised jobs market, but the astute finance professional that spends this time wisely will position themselves well for when that time comes. How will work, work in the future? First, flexible working will become more normalised. At a basic level, people will likely have more flexibility on start and finish times (staggered working patterns), more flexibility when it comes to working between the office and home, and more options to structure their working week to suit themselves (four-day weeks, condensed working hours, or a 40-hour week but work when you want, for example). Wider adoption of flexible working will have enormously positive effects on how life and work interact, as well as productivity. Second, companies will re-think how they view the connection between job and location. Right now, these things are synonymous – a financial controller role in the New York office, for example. In the future, the two may not be so tightly connected – a financial controller role supporting the New York business, for example. In this context, flexible working enables remote working within the business itself. If companies are happy for their people to work from home, does it matter where that home is? This thinking has both opportunity and risk for accountants in Ireland. The danger is that this thinking further enables the relocation of jobs to lower-cost locations. The opportunity is that this thinking might enable talented, sought-after people to choose where they live first, and what company and role they want second. If a highly skilled statutory accountant lives in Waterford, they may be no longer limited to jobs in their immediate vicinity; they could take a role previously held by an office-attending person in Dublin – or London, for that matter. The blurring of the connection between job and location is not a new concept, but the adoption of remote working policies has the potential to bring it to a whole new level. This shift could see Ireland change from a local jobs market to a global jobs market, which would have enormous and far-reaching consequences. And third, there will be a shift in the tools we use every day. Companies will need to invest in infrastructure, security, and team working tools to both enable and make the most of this new flexible working landscape. Expect the continued proliferation of virtual meeting technology and its rapid advancement to virtual reality meeting technology. Expect a complete reorganisation of recruitment and onboarding processes to accommodate this new approach to working. Expect home office set-up costs to become a part of benefits packages. Expect the creation of HR functions to accommodate, monitor, and enhance flexible working processes. Expect all this, and a whole lot more. The future of work will not look like the past, but with change comes opportunity; opportunity for those willing to embrace change.

Jul 22, 2020

With companies tightening their belts, technology budgets are on the chopping block. However, Robert Byrne suggests that more technology investment is needed as we navigate the crisis, not less. It’s clear that it’s another tough time for businesses. Belts are understandably tightening with capital investment going towards plexiglass screens and other social distancing measures so staff and customers can safely interact and operate in our new COVID reality.  Unsurprisingly, companies that had invested in technology and digital platforms prior to the COVID-19 crisis have seen clear benefits – some benefits as fundamental as helping them to survive and stay in business. Despite the pressure on budgets that all organisations are feeling, to survive and thrive in the next economic chapter will require more digital investment, not less.  PwC recently launched the findings from its Chief Information Officers survey that was conducted across 11 countries in Europe, including Ireland. One significant finding from this report is that a notable proportion of respondents in Ireland (36%) are planning a reduction in IT investment for the remainder of 2020 and beyond. However, recent events have clearly shown the benefits of technology investment. Outlined below are three significant benefits from technology investment that were observed by organisations during the initial months of COVID-19. Agility In times of crisis, organisations need to be agile and technology is a key enabler of this. Those organisations that had invested in remote working and collaboration technology minimised disruption and saw real benefits during this crisis. They have been able to maintain sales, serve customers and continue to work together throughout the disruption. Investment in digital tools and collaboration technologies over the past few years enabled companies, including PwC, to move to full remote working over a single weekend while seamlessly continuing to serve our clients. Looking forward, organisations now need to consider their future agility needs (e.g. increased resource mobility, faster decision-making capability, new routes to market) and invest now to enable this capability.  Responsiveness  COVID-19 generated significant volumes of information and processing requests for certain organisations. Examples included banks dealing with massive surges in queries and payment break requests, insurance companies addressing large volumes of quotes and policy information requests etc. Those that had invested in technologies such as automation and data analytics have been able to respond quickly to the urgent set of demands placed on them by COVID-19. Looking forward, organisations now need to consider how to apply these technologies to develop their responsiveness in a business as usual context. Customer experience  Organisations that have invested in their digital channels have demonstrated their ability to increase market reach, improve customer experience and increase revenues. COVID-19 has been one of the greatest triggers for digital transformation. Providing your customers with a rich digital experience is more important than ever in retaining and delighting your customers. Companies in all sectors have had to innovate at pace and embrace digital channels to engage with their customers. Looking forward, organisations now need to invest in further developing a strong digital experience for their customers to reduce the impact of limited face-to-face interaction. Despite the temptation to weather the storm and reduce IT investment until economic conditions improve, technology can give organisations the edge in these uncertain times. As organisations shift the focus from survival to emerging from COVID-19, now more than ever, technology investment is a key enabler of your future success. Robert Byrne is a Partner in Technology Advisory in PwC.

Jul 17, 2020

In March, organisations had to act quickly to create a remote working culture in response to the COVID-19 crisis. Now, they need to consider what the next phase of work will look like, and how and where work will be done into the future. Kevin Empey explains. COVID-19 has prompted a lot of discussion about the next phase of work and working life. For many, the pandemic has provided an unwelcome but informative and possibly pivotal experiment in how and where we work. It has also accelerated trends and practices in world of work that were already happening, bringing them firmly into the mainstream. Most agree that we will not return to pre-COVID ways of working, nor will we see continue with this pandemic model of work we have experienced in recent months. The next phase of working life will be some form of a blended approach that historically carries a variety of labels such as remote working, flexible working and smart working. Whatever label we choose for it, employers (and employees) now have an opportunity to create a broader working culture – beyond the provision of ad-hoc flexible, technology-enabled, remote working practices which, on their own, may miss a much bigger message and opportunity. Levels of flexible working There is a clear spectrum of strategies or ‘levels’ that employers have taken in relation to flexible working. While health and well-being concerns are clearly dictating short-term return-to-work approaches, these different levels of flexible working are now informing more deliberate, ambitious and strategic workforce options that employers are considering for the longer-term. The choice of strategy comes down to whatever best suits the future business model, culture, and talent strategy for each organisation. The choice of approach should also complement other transformation objectives and not just be a stand-alone, isolated initiative.   Tactical levels – focused mainly on employees only Level 0 – Little or no flexible working offered or actively promoted. Level 1 – No formal guidelines but some ad-hoc, isolated and unstructured practices have evolved over time and are allowed. Mainly based on informal agreements and accommodating some work-life balance arrangements. Level 2 – Formal guidelines do exist but limited based on certain clear parameters e.g. Fridays optional for remote working or 80% expected in the office etc. Specific arrangements that are role specific and not universal across all job types. Strategic levels – focused jointly on the business and the employee Level 3 – Formal guidelines and principles exists as part of a wider workforce strategy. More freedom and discretion allowed at local business, team, and individual level. Parameters exist based on business and customer needs, but they are kept to a minimum. Remote working seen as part of a deliberate and wider agile working culture and integrated with other programmes and people priorities, e.g. diversity and inclusion, talent and skills strategy, recruitment etc.  Level 4 – Maximum level of freedom and choice provided. Clear business rationale (e.g. talent, efficiency, dispersed workforce, property benefits etc.) for optimal remote working offering and formally expressed as part of the organisation strategy.  Working remotely accepted as the normal practice with variances based on business need to be in the office for certain activities. These COVID times are presenting a once-in-a-generation opportunity to ‘reset’ a vision for how work will be designed in the future. This will help not only to increase organisational agility and future-fitness, but it will also distinguish employers in the battle for top talent who will be watching your next move with huge interest. Talent that will have higher expectations regarding how and where they work than they have ever had before. Kevin Empey is the Managing Director of WorkMatters Consulting.

Jul 17, 2020

Uptake in remote working brings about big cybersecurity issues. How can organisations keep themselves and their end-users safe? Ross Spelman outlines the best ways to mitigate the risks. It is nearly four months since most businesses in Ireland moved to remote working from home. It was evident early on in the crisis that most organisations coped well with the initial challenges, exceeding expectations in delivering remote working and collaboration capabilities at scale. The investment of time, money and effort in business continuity and crisis management planning paid off for many organisations and essential services providers. Many organisations across all sectors have executed their crisis management strategies with relative ease. Security, however, can often be sacrificed in times of rapid change – not just the direct implications of technology changes, but also indirectly through changes to behaviours and processes. More “mature” organisations (from a cyber perspective) were able to introduce essential technology solutions by making smart, quick risk-based tactical decisions, without sacrificing security or compliance. While security is often described as a “non-negotiable” by the C-Suite, it is not easy for the security function to push back on a wide-spread Zoom or Teams deployment due to security, configuration or privacy concerns. Addressing these concerns early on has been vital in the successful introduction of these solutions, as demonstrated in the media since April (and before). The risks in our new way of working The transition into the next phases of the crisis and beyond into the new ways of working will present several risks, including the potential for complacency. Organisations will need to remain vigilant and closely monitor the evolving threat landscape and their threat profile. They should continue to make users aware of their security obligations and provide guidance on specific risks. Broad phishing attacks, for example, have been reported globally since the outset of the pandemic, and now we are seeing an increase in targeted spear phishing attacks, particularly against the healthcare industry and pharmaceutical companies. Phishing attack simulation exercises should be considered to heighten awareness. Safe computing practices It is critical for organisations to provide continuous guidance to end-users on safe computing practices. End-users may begin to work from alternative locations including public places, such as local coffee shops, which may introduce risks. Even at home, guidance should be provided for remote workers on securing their environment, including the secure configuration of home wireless networks and the dangers of unauthorised software installation and shadow IT. These are potentially significant risks. Above all, multi-factor authentication should be in place for all users connecting to the corporate network remotely from anywhere, and organisations should review the appropriateness of their existing identity and access management solutions. Enhanced security monitoring Other considerations are to enhance security monitoring and testing processes. Reviewing and improving the scope and granularity of end-user systems and access monitoring will help to ensure that organisations have a comprehensive view of remote user activities with no gaps, particularly for remote users with privileged administrative access. Additionally, increasing the regularity and breadth of vulnerability assessments and penetration testing will provide added assurance. Critical resource planning Critical resource planning is another area which can often be overlooked during a crisis. Organisations should be looking at succession plans and already have a strategy in place to ensure that they have a level of resilience for critical cybersecurity roles. This can be achieved by documenting critical procedures and cross training across the wider team. Reviewing crisis and incident management practices for ease of execution by a remote workforce is important, and should include both incident response and data breach requirements. Trust but verify The old saying “trust but verify” is very apt when it comes to remote working. Organisations should review and enhance their monitoring capability to account for their ever-evolving threat profile. This should include additional security testing and reviews of the security controls for the remote workforce.  Planning for the worst is a proactive approach. Organisations should consider all facets of their third-party relationships, including security questionnaire responses, service level agreements and contractual obligations in supporting the organisation to continue to operate securely. A good understanding of cyber threats and existing vulnerabilities is fundamental for effective cyber risk management. With a surge in remote access, an organisation’s identity access management, VPN and security information and event management solutions will increase in priority as critical components in a defence-in-depth approach to security. Reviewing, testing and monitoring all aspects of these controls is critical. Additionally, encryption and data loss prevention solutions is crucial for protecting data on end-user systems and devices. Finally, by educating users on the cyber risks associated with the current crisis and secure remote computing practices, the likelihood of end-users being compromised will be reduced. Ross Spelman is Director of Cyber Risk Services at EY Consulting.

Jul 16, 2020

Julia Rowan shares her six simple steps for a digital networking strategy that will help you connect with the right people, build your network, and raise your profile with minimum fuss. First of all, let’s consider why you might network: it’s because networks offer opportunities at every stage in your career. Early in your career, they help you stay abreast of professional developments, acquire clients, find help, and know what’s current. Networks can also help you find a job or move to another employer. (As an aside, estimates about the number of jobs that are never publicly advertised differ – but they are all much, much higher than you might expect. At a very conservative estimate, at least 50% of jobs are filled without their availability being publicly advertised. And how are these unadvertised jobs filled? Through networks, of course!) As your career develops, your network may be useful in helping you move to a new role, find clients (or, indeed, recruits for your team), and identify experts or consultants. Working as a coach, I constantly see the value that developing good relationships and networks can bring. Shatter the stereotype What’s your idea of a great networker? A shiny, smiley person working the room? A cheerful word for everyone and a handful of business cards – given and received? Finding precisely the right moment to land and engage – and then move on to the next group before they get stuck? Or is it a more thoughtful and generous person who sincerely engages with a small number of people; one who is interested in who they are, what they need, and how they can help? Whatever the stereotype says, they are much more likely to be in the second category because networking is a long-term, ‘fees up-front’ activity – credits first, then debits. And while the current pandemic prevents us from meeting in crowded rooms, social media is a great leveller. It favours younger people who tend to be more tech-savvy. Your simple strategy Your online presence tells a story about you, and your story must be coherent (or, even better, compelling). Like anything worth doing, having a strategy is essential – but don’t let the word put you off. ‘Strategy’ is just a fancy word for planning which, in turn, is a fancy word for thinking. Here are some pointers: The starting point is to work out what you want. It’s back to the useful, if clichéd, question: where do you want to be in three years? But it’s a cliché for a reason – because it’s a great question. Do you want to work in practice? In industry? In financial services? In tax? In M&A? In Ireland? And if so, where? Or abroad? Talking about goals can seem scary, but working out what you want (which can sometimes be done by working out what you don’t want) is a great way to focus your attention on what is important to you. You will probably be very clear about some of what you want, and there will also be little whispers that are worth listening to. Some people have been asked by their employer to build their network, so consider how to make that a win for all three sides – you, your employer, and your contacts. Next, reflect on what you can offer. What knowledge, skills, interests, and experiences do you bring to the table? It’s unlikely to be a significant amount of accountancy experience and contacts if you are in the early stages of your career. You will nevertheless have up-to-date accountancy skills, not to mention other skills picked up in part-time jobs. Know your strengths: perhaps you are flexible, a problem-solver, good at defusing tension, or are comfortable with ambiguity. Early career professionals are often full of energy, enthusiasm, curiosity, and new ways of looking at things. Be realistic and reasonable with yourself. A small network of the right people is much more valuable than 2,000 followers or connections. There is little harm in playing the numbers game, but not much benefit either. Get your head straight. Are you conscious of your internal story? We all have internal stories and we are often not even aware of them, but they drive the permission we give ourselves – to be active on social media, to apply for a job or a promotion, to take a risk. “I don’t have much to offer” and “I am the greatest” are not useful internal stories. A good internal story combines realism and optimism. Get active on LinkedIn. It’s an essential digital networking platform and the first stop for recruiters. Create a compelling profile with a good photo. When you invite people to connect, always write a personalised message. Be honest and explain why you would like to connect. For example, “I am interested in moving into financial services and would find it helpful to see what senior people in that sector are posting about” or “I saw your post about IFRS 17, which is an area I’m really interested in”. Update your profile regularly and post short, chunky takeaways from CPD events. Follow company pages, relevant groups, and hashtags. Consistency is critical; liking or commenting once or twice a day will give you far more reach than a weekly or monthly ‘blast’. (Lots of specialists post excellent information on YouTube and other platforms about how to work the algorithms and make the best use of such sites). After qualification, building your network is probably the most important thing you will do in developing your career. As your career evolves, so too should your network. Good networks take time and energy to create and sustain, but they repay the investment in spades. Julia Rowan is Founder of Performance Matters.

Jul 16, 2020

By Teresa Campbell The last few months have been a difficult time for employers and their teams. Many employers had to avail of government incentives as businesses were forced to deal with the lockdown brought about by COVID-19. Some employees working from home have struggled with feelings of isolation; others have experienced pressure due to crèches and schools being closed, and those caring for elderly or less able relatives have found that many of their usual supports were unavailable during the lockdown. Workplaces that remained open, or are now reopening as restrictions ease, have had to implement changes to keep staff, clients and other visitors as safe as possible as we learn to live with COVID-19. Concern about the impact of the pandemic, along with the emotional and economic pressures that many people are experiencing at present, makes it more important than ever for leaders to reassure, inspire and motivate their teams. The six Cs of confidence, clarity, communication, cooperation, community involvement and celebrating success all have a role to play in this regard.   Confidence: to successfully motivate your team, you must inspire confidence. With so much uncertainty and change at present, it is important to be flexible so that you can adapt quickly to overcome challenges and grasp opportunities. While you may have fears about the impact of the pandemic, it is vital to remain calm and show that you have a realistic plan to take your business forward. Prioritise wellbeing by implementing effective health and safety protocols, both in the workplace and for employees working from home. Clarity: set clear, short-term goals and empower your team to manage their own contributions. Recognise that people are working in a changed environment, and be open to allowing people to find new ways to solve problems. Monitor performance, and seek and give regular feedback to ensure everyone stays on track. Communication: clarity and consistency are essential when it comes to communication. This helps ensure that employees, clients and other stakeholders share the same understanding of how your business is responding to the changes ahead. Don’t over-rely on email. Face-to-face, voice and video communication channels should also be part of your communications mix. Cooperation: when we work together, everyone achieves more. Teamwork, collaboration and a shared sense of purpose are great motivators. Organising virtual coffee breaks for remote teams and encouraging individuals to share tips on how they motivate themselves is as relevant now as it was at the start of the pandemic. Community involvement: many leaders today want their businesses to be socially responsible. They recognise that encouraging teams to give something back to their community enhances motivation and helps strengthen employees’ pride in the organisation they work for. Celebrate success: recognise and reward successes – whether that’s achieving a goal, winning a new client, raising funds for charity, or individual achievements, such as passing an exam. People are at the heart of every business and leaders need to be supported by teams that are committed to their individual roles, focused on exceeding client expectations and capable of identifying future business opportunities. Now, more than ever, motivating your team is crucial as you adapt and drive your business forward. Teresa Campbell is a Director at PKF-FPM Accountants Ltd.

Jul 09, 2020

By Moira Dunne Due to the COVID-19 restrictions, many people are still working from home over the summer months. Staying focused can be difficult, as home working presents many distractions. In last month’s article, I gave some tips for managing distractions at home. The summer introduces a new set of distractions, however, such as good weather and school holidays. In this article, I will outline some strategies to help maintain motivation and productivity in the months ahead. The challenge is to stay focused so you can get your work done. There are two things you can do: manage yourself and manage others. Manage yourself Managing yourself means understanding what impacts on your productivity while placing a high value on your time. Think of your workday as a simple equation: you have X amount of work to do in Y amount of time. Be clear about the work you should prioritise each week and each day. Then, protect your time for those priorities by negotiating when asked to do additional pieces of work and saying no to non-essential activities. This can be hard to do, but it is essential to stay on track. If you find that summer weather affects your productivity, turn this distraction into a motivator. By setting a goal to finish on time, you will be more inclined to stay on track during the day. You will procrastinate less and not be as distracted by time-wasting activities. Instead, you will be focused on the prize of getting out into that good weather. Be strategic and adjust your plan if you know the forecast is good, for example, starting earlier than usual so you can get through all your work to finish early. Manage others Working at home while minding children is hard. Now that the school term is finished, your homework routine is probably gone. Is it time for a new plan? Involve your kids in coming up with ideas and create a summer routine together. Design the plan to incorporate your work hours. One approach is to work in time blocks to take advantage of the quiet times in your house. To optimise your productivity, plan to work on your priority tasks during these high-focus time blocks. Save your low-level, administrative tasks for periods when there will be more noise and distraction. Here is a sample schedule that may help you plan your alternative workday: 6am to 8am: high-focus work. 8am to 8:30am: breakfast with the kids. 8:30am to 10am: kids’ activities while you do low-focus tasks like email responses or attend an online meeting. 10am to 12pm: outdoor activity with the kids. 12 noon to 2pm: high-focus work while your kids have some downtime and a lunch picnic. 2pm to 3pm: time away from work for an activity with the kids. 3pm to 5pm: low-focus tasks like email responses or online meetings. If necessary, do a short time block later to complete some administrative tasks. Design a plan that suits your parenting and working responsibilities. Perhaps you can avail of a summer camp or childminding by a relative to increase your options and flexibility. Be productive To be productive, you must be pragmatic about your circumstances and do what you can to optimise your working time. By using a well-planned routine, you can give yourself a higher chance of managing your time and productivity. Have a great summer! Moira Dunne is a productivity consultant and Founder and Director at BeProductive.ie.

Jul 09, 2020

By Louise Molloy We are transitioning to the next phase of COVID-19 survival. We have proven that we can work from home, pivot, virtually engage and bounce back. In a crisis, we do what needs to be done. As we face into a ‘new normal’, economic uncertainty and a looming Brexit, our ability to choose our commitments and complete them has never been more challenged. I am increasingly having conversations on how to manage priorities, relationships and commitments. It occurred to me that we Northern Europeans squirm at the thought of saying no, having become addicted to the way the pleasure centres in our brains fire up when we are wanted and our talents are recognised. Now is the time to redefine caring, to redefine empathy and to deliver real, long-term support. We all accept that there are times when we have to say yes. However, there is no point in overcommitting to prop-up a broken system or inappropriate solution. I worked with a significantly challenged project manager who couldn’t say no. Once they reframed asks in the context of overall business deliverables, however, they found their voice and delivered better business outcomes. Saying no is about understanding (yourself, your situation and the asking party) and practice. Self What are my boundaries and values? What am I prepared, and able, to commit to while honouring my health and existing professional and personal commitments? How does the request affect my energy? To do a good job, it needs to inspire, not drain, my energy so that I can fully commit to it and persist when challenged. What decisions am I making when I say yes/no? If I am saying yes to avoid unpleasantness, what is the price? Human beings have finite energy and mental capacity, so investing in this request means taking from another or turning down something else in the future. Am I okay with that? Your situation Clarify the context: why is this ask being presented to you? Understand the ask; confirm the desired outcome and whether the question is the right one. For example, it is common to request more people on a project when, in fact, more ‘bodies’ isn’t the answer. More sponsorship for momentum may be more effective. What conditions are needed to make this a successful fit, and is there evidence that such conditions exist? Identify the reciprocity: put your project manager hat on and assess what you need to invest (time, effort, your advocacy) and what you will get out of it (money, promotion or, less obviously, new skills/networks/brand redefinition). We are often on the receiving end of requests, but there is always something to bargain for. Be clear on how an ask can work for you, and be confident about negotiating it. Others If you never say no, how can someone trust your yes? Be explicit about this, that it is your personal value to only say yes to things you can undoubtedly complete or achieve. You will gain respect and brand authenticity. Give this approach a go. You may find that no becomes redundant as the question becomes a different question, or you are happier to say yes. And if you do have to say no, be clear, direct and give a concise reason. This shows conviction, and that you have respectfully considered the ask. Less is more. Practice on small asks and watch the impact – you might find that the right no is far more supportive than the wrong yes! Louise Molloy is an executive coach, facilitator and independent director.

Jul 09, 2020

By Mark Kennedy As we begin to emerge from the COVID-19 restrictions, minds inevitably turn to restoring trading to a semblance of normality. Our trade with the UK will not, however, return to what we have long considered normal. We sell approximately €34 billion worth of goods and services to the UK annually and import approximately €30 billion in return. Today, it appears that the UK Government is determined to proceed with its planned separation from the EU at the end of this year, whether a deal is agreed with the EU or not. Time will tell if this serves the UK. It certainly seems short-sighted to abruptly discard very effective arrangements with its largest trading partner. It may, of course, simply be a negotiating stance – but one European leaders seem determined to dismiss. More than one European leader has made it clear that in their view, Britain would have to “live with” the consequences of Brexit, as Mrs Merkel rather pointedly put it. Meanwhile, back in the UK, things seem to be moving on. The general population seems, if one follows a recent survey by the Guardian newspaper, more inclined to seek an extension, allowing more time for a deal to be done. But that message hasn’t reached Government, where everyone seems to be hunting for the nearest and earliest possible exit. Notably, the opposition doesn’t seem too inclined to make any last-ditch attempt to change that view in any meaningful way. So, what does that mean for an Irish business? As regards Brexit, it looks like our fears of a very shaky series of trade arrangements with the UK may replace the current seamless relationship. Of course, politics will wend its windy way and that may change things, but it looks more likely than ever that not much will be agreed by Christmas. The impact of that will be felt sector by sector. As an example, 30 June 2020 was the planned date for the exchange of a full assessment of the financial services regulatory regimes in Europe and the UK. This date passed without the data requirements being met by the UK, which means that the continuation of existing cross-border arrangements with the City of London is less and less likely and will ultimately impact the broader sector. We will likely see the same uncertainty re-emerge in other sectors in the months ahead. And what of COVID-19? What consequences does that have for us as a (relatively) small, open economy? Two scenarios beckon. In the first, the UK, Ireland and the rest of the world – or at least the countries we trade energetically with – will enjoy a V-shaped recovery from the “Great Interruption”. The second is that we, the UK and many more will suffer from a resurgence of the virus – the so-called “second wave” of infections. This will be akin to a re-run of the 2009-10 recession, albeit with an entirely different cause and, potentially, consequences. In the former, Brexit is a headache and, for some businesses, a potentially devastating one. In the latter, we face a much more generalised slowdown. On top of that, as the emerging decisions on Ireland’s status as a travel ‘partner’ for European countries have shown, the rest of the EU will not necessarily and spontaneously act in a way that suits our strategy. The confluence of the pandemic, geography and economic recession may mean that we are about to enter the most challenging period, economically speaking, of our long process of disentangling from the UK. The answer? In both cases, and in the short-term: a robust stimulus package to encourage recovery. The Government should not delay in implementing as-large-as-possible a package of measures to support challenged business in dealing with both COVID-19 and Brexit. We should lean heavily on the EU in this regard – the departure of the UK is as significant an event for the EU as the reunification of Germany, and budget needs to be made available to manage the process. The EU needs to ensure that impacts are substantially absorbed as a collective exercise, but all of that is really about recovery. For Irish businesses, the first challenge is to survive both Brexit and COVID-19. The next is to take on something we should have done before now: to diversify our trading partnerships, both within and outside the EU, so we are no longer dependent on the UK for almost 20% of our trading activity. Mark Kennedy is Managing Partner at Mazars Ireland.

Jul 02, 2020

By Paul Rodgers and Simon MacAllister The Withdrawal Agreement of 17 October 2019 brought a wave of optimism after the tedious doom and gloom surrounding Brexit. It bought time and goodwill, as it seemed that the dreaded hard Brexit had been avoided. Fast-forward to today and time is running out, goodwill is in short supply, and a hard Brexit still looms on the horizon. So, what has been decided and what remains unclear as we approach 2021? Quick recap The UK left the EU on 31 January 2020. However, the transition period has meant a continuation of the status quo to allow time for the future relationship to be agreed. The UK Government has categorically stated that it will not seek an extension of the transition period, which means 1 January 2021 is a hard deadline. The goal of a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (FTA) by the end of the year looks as far away as ever, with both sides still disagreeing on several critical issues. If no FTA is agreed, the new relationship will be based on WTO rules – the dreaded “hard” Brexit. What is clear From 1 January 2021, there will be a customs border in effect between the UK and EU for the first time in over 25 years. Customs formalities (import/export declarations, presentation of documents, customs checks) will take place for movements between the UK and EU. Regardless of the outcome, trade compliance processes and procedures should be in place for 1 January 2021. What isn’t clear Hard Brexit or FTA?: In the case of a hard Brexit, WTO tariffs will apply to trade between the EU and UK. In some sectors, such as agri-food and apparel, high duty rates will have a material impact on landed costs. An FTA would mean that UK- and EU-originating goods could, subject to specific criteria, clear customs at a 0% duty rate. This would be a significant cost saving for traders in the high duty sectors mentioned above. However, there is a compliance burden and cost associated with FTA management. Customs easements: The UK has announced that it will ease the customs impact of Brexit for imports from the EU for the first six months of Brexit until 30 June 2021. Depending on the type of goods, there may be significant clearance simplifications and cash-flow benefits available to traders. The operational details are still being worked out. At the time of writing, Ireland has not yet confirmed any reciprocal arrangements. Northern Ireland: Despite the Northern Ireland Protocol, the customs and operational treatment of goods to/from Northern Ireland and Great Britain are still being worked out. Squaring the circle of Northern Ireland being part of the customs territory of the UK, while simultaneously being subject to EU customs and regulatory laws to keep it aligned with the EU customs union and single market, is proving as difficult as it sounds. However, one point is clear: there will be no hard border on the island of Ireland. Get ready There will be no more delays or extensions, and the transition period will end on 1 January 2021. Irish companies trading with the UK must put measures in place now to ensure that they are operationally ready to import/export and to prepare for the additional compliance costs, and potential additional duty costs, of a hard Brexit. Paul Rodgers is Global Trade Director at EY and Simon MacAllister is EY Brexit Lead - Island of Ireland.

Jul 02, 2020

By Carol Lynch As we know, the UK left the EU on 31 January 2020. While the UK is currently a non-EU country, the transition period means that importers and exporters have experienced no change in trade with the UK to date. Earlier this year, discussions started on a Free Trade Agreement, which is to be concluded between the parties before the end of the transition period (31 December 2020). The impact of COVID-19 severely hampered negotiations and as most people will be aware, these talks have not progressed particularly well with serious differences emerging over the ‘level playing field’ requirement of the EU, among other things. To add additional pressure, the UK decided not to request an extension to the transition period (the deadline for which was 30 June 2020) and a full economic Brexit will now come into effect on 1 January 2021. Negotiations are now back on, but the UK insists that they must be complete by the end of the summer. There is additional pressure in this regard as David Frost, the UK’s Brexit negotiator is due to move on from the Brexit talks to assume the position of Chief Security Advisor around September. So where does that leave us from a Customs perspective? There will be no frictionless trade from 1 January 2021. At that point, Customs formalities and procedures will come into effect. An open question, however, is whether a Free Trade Agreement will be concluded in time. This would mean, for the most part, no customs duties between the UK and Ireland, but additional documentary requirements for importers in terms of proving and verifying the origin of their goods. These two aspects, along with an update on Northern Ireland, are summarised below. Customs compliance Customs declarations will be required on export from Ireland and import into Ireland. This will involve companies lodging their declarations directly with the Customs authorities or engaging a customs clearance agent to lodge these declarations on their behalf. A simplification on the lodging of customs declarations on import into the UK was introduced to allow particular importers to defer the lodging of a declaration until July 2021. The full import details must nevertheless be provided. Export declarations will also need to be lodged. It is important to be aware of the information to be supplied to the revenue authorities in both jurisdictions, as the importer/exporter of record is liable for the quality and accuracy of the information provided. Customs duty rates If a Free Trade Agreement is not reached, customs duties will apply on imports into Ireland and on imports into the UK. For the UK, this payment may be deferred until July for specific importers but will be payable at that point. Importantly, the new UK tariff was published in May. While last year’s proposed tariff introduced mostly 0% import rates across the board, this has now been scrapped with positive duty rates applied to most products. If there is a Free Trade Agreement, importers must be able to comply with the rules of origin in the agreement and register with Revenue to issue a confirmation of the origin status of the goods. Northern Ireland The Northern Ireland Protocol in the Withdrawal Agreement provides for no customs border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. If you buy goods from Northern Ireland or sell goods into Northern Ireland under this agreement, there will be no customs formalities. However, there are several complexities in the agreement which are currently being discussed by the Joint Committee, particularly concerning imports to Northern Ireland from Great Britain, transit through the Republic of Ireland to Great Britain, and access to EU/UK Free Trade Agreements. What should importers and exporters do? I recommend that businesses continue to take all steps to:   Ensure that they have the procedures in place to import and export goods post-Brexit. Have all necessary documents and authorisations in place. Decide on how to clear goods, either in-house or through a third-party. Become familiar with the free trade rules. Become familiar with the talks regarding Northern Ireland, where relevant. Carol Lynch is Partner, Customs and Trade, at BDO.

Jul 01, 2020

How can we support the LGBTQ+ community in the workplace? Alexandra Kane details what it means to be an ally and how it can make a huge difference. “Be yourself, everyone else is already taken” – Oscar Wilde The quote above sits among the desks on the fourth floor of the Grant Thornton Dublin building. It’s a poignant reminder and struck me a little differently reflecting on this year’s Pride month. What would it feel like if I couldn’t be myself in the office, that I had to hide a part of my life from my colleagues? What if I were afraid that a part of my life would create a backlash, negative reaction or possible career repercussion? The place we spend most of our time, albeit virtually and on video calls in the current climate, should be one of welcoming and support. To me, as a LGBTQ+ ally, there is not a single reason that anyone should feel that they can’t be who they want to be, who they identify as, and not face any adversity in doing so. In my organisation, there is a huge drive to stand as an ally with our friends and colleagues through our Ally Programme and Embrace initiative. We have marched in the Dublin Pride Parade for the last four years and, took part in BelongTo's ‘Come In’ campaign last year. This initiative flipped ‘coming out’ on its head by promoting the positive message that everyone should be able to come in and feel welcome as they are, rather than having to ‘come out’ as anyone other than themselves. To be an ally An ally can come in many forms, but should always come from a place of support, openness, kindness and ready to do the work. From recent global events in the Black Lives Matter movement, I have learned that it is safe to speak out and say that I didn’t know how to support or say the right things – and that is accepted when it is accompanied by a willingness and promise to learn, educate and support. It’s never too late to educate yourself, even if you have to start at the beginning. Learning about the Stonewall Riots, listening to the experiences of LGBTQ+ people of colour, and asking how you can support others is an important step to allyship. We can never under estimate the power of support in any form that it comes in, be it going for a coffee to listen to someone’s concerns, wearing rainbow colours in solidarity, attending the Pride Parade, and actively showing support to colleagues and friends in the workplace. Some recommended viewing for allies: Disclosure, found on Netflix. I recently attended a webinar ‘The L to A LGBTIQCAPGNGFNBA’ which explored the ‘lesser known’ letters of the LGBTQ+ community. It discussed why gender identity and sexuality are intrinsically linked. The key take away I received from the webinar is that language is ever changing and our identity is a personal preference. The pronouns or letters we choose is exactly that: our choice. If being an ally makes one person feel more comfortable, supported and accepted as their true selves, I couldn’t encourage being an active ally more. Alexandra Kane ACA is a Manager in Financial Services Advisory at Grant Thornton, a Grant Thornton Ally and member of the Grant Thornton Ally Programme.

Jun 25, 2020

With no party or march this year, how are businesses showing meaningful support for the Pride movement? John McNamara tell us how can we adapt to actively support the LGBTQ+ community in a virtual space.  So how did you celebrate Pride this year? Yes, we are approaching the end of June, the month where people from all demographics, race, religion and, of course, sexual orientation take to the streets to come together and celebrate acceptance, and agitate for the rights still being fought for. (Unless you live in one of the 73 countries where that is still illegal.) Except, of course, we didn’t march this year thanks to the non-discriminatory nature and reach of COVID-19. Most businesses quickly scrambled to develop virtual programmes to keep staff awareness and engagement alive. Another Zoom call, another webinar, why not? But there are lessons still to be learned that are applicable across the full inclusion agenda, many of which will have the potential for positive enduring business impact. Year-round support Every year there is heated debate on the ‘corporatisation’ of what is, essentially, a protest movement. It will now be very clear which businesses do little else in this space except throw money at Pride parade participation. Now is the time for employees to call out this performative participation in the movement and encourage their organisations to refocus budgets on both active staff collaboration and engagement and support of community organisations throughout the year. LGBTQ+ young people are four times more likely to experience anxiety and depression, three times more likely to experience suicidal ideation and that happens in December as well as June. Creating long-term change If there is no party this year, there is the opportunity to develop meaningful digital messaging, to focus more on staff connection and conversations and to place a stronger focus on advocacy. We have shown more curiosity, shared more of our own lives, and our understanding about our colleagues’ personal circumstances is much deeper than when we sat in the office together. I have heard more conversations on mental health recently than at any time I can think of. The pace of change in many of these issues has historically been too slow. In recent months, however, we have shown our ability to quickly build new business models and our flexibility in remote working. How can we sustain these new ways of working that can, for example, access more women working from home rather than leaving the workforce or accept that highly talented people with neurodiversity need not be present in an office environment to shine in their roles? Intersectionality This year also brings greater awareness of intersectionality which, simply put, means we are complex beings that cannot be defined by one characteristic alone and, depending on the hand you have been dealt, can be disadvantaged by multiple forms of oppression, isolation or exclusion or, conversely, benefit from white privilege. Black Lives Matter is here to stay. The LGBTQ+ community is acutely able to recognise inequality of treatment, that sense of not belonging, and our allyship is evident through activism, protest and sharing the platforms we have through the month and beyond. Do better Most of us do not wish to emerge from this crisis without changing something for the better. We have perfected banana bread, know too much about Joe Wicks and got as far as we could on Duolingo. How about we become proactive in making a personal commitment to ourselves to do more? Become a volunteer, train as a mental health ambassador, develop charity trustee or board experience or become a visible LGBTQ+ ally at work. Do it and you won’t look back. Now that would be something worth celebrating. John McNamara FCA is Managing Director of Canada Life International and a member of the Chartered Accountants Diversity and Inclusion Committee. He is chairperson of the NGO behind SpunOut.ie and 50808.ie, the newly launched free crisis text messaging service funded by the HSE. He a member of the fundraising committee of BelongTo, which supports young LGBTQ+ people.

Jun 25, 2020

To truly embrace diversity, businesses must view inclusion through an intersectional lens. Deborah Somorin explains why this is so important, both personally and professionally. Intersectionality was first coined by Professor Kimberlé Crenshaw back in 1989, and has gained common usage since. According to Womankind Worldwide, a global women’s rights organisation, intersectionality is “the concept that all oppression is linked… Intersectionality is the acknowledgement that everyone has their own unique experiences of discrimination and oppression and we must consider everything and anything that can marginalise people – gender, race, class, sexual orientation, physical ability, etc..”. In 2015, ‘intersectionality’ was added to the Oxford Dictionary as “the interconnected nature of social categorisations such as race, class, and gender, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage”. What does that mean? While Pride is a celebration of the LGBTQ+ community, it is also a protest, and intersectional Pride continues the fight for LGBTQ+ rights, as well as the rights of all marginalised communities in Ireland and around the world. Intersectional Pride Flag You’ll notice the Pride flag on the street and in some corporate Pride logos, such as LinkedIn and Chartered Accountants Ireland, look a little different this year. In 2018, designer Daniel Quasar started a movement to reboot the pride flag to make it more inclusive and representative of the LGBTQ+ rights we are still fighting for. According to Dezeen magazine, “Graphic designer Daniel Quasar has added a five-coloured chevron to the LGBT Rainbow Flag to place a greater emphasis on ‘inclusion and progression’. The flag includes black and brown stripes to represent marginalised LGBT communities of colour, along with the colours pink, light blue and white, which are used on the Transgender Pride Flag. Quasar’s design builds on a design adopted by the city of Philadelphia in June 2017.” Intersectional allyship To quote a recent GLAAD (formerly the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) statement: “There can be no Pride if it is not intersectional”. If we want to celebrate Pride in our profession in an inclusive way, we must make an intentional effort to celebrate intersectional Pride. If Pride doesn’t include the acknowledgement of other marginalised other communities, it is performative. The LGBTQ+ movement doesn’t need performative allies – it needs authentic allies who care about making the communities we work and live in more inclusive of all races, genders, class, physical advantage and sexual orientations. I’m a gay, black woman who happens to be a Chartered Accountant. If your organisation or community is choosing not to view inclusion through an intersectional lens, you are unintentionally choosing not to include people like me. Deborah Somorin ACA is a Management Consultant at PwC, a member of the Chartered Accountants Ireland Diversity and Inclusion Committee and founder of Empower the Family.

Jun 25, 2020

Allies play a crucial role in the careers of LGBTQ+ people. Daniel Turley explains the difference they can make to an LGBTQ+ individual’s working environment. “I moved to Dublin with my girlfriend.” I had just started a job in a Big Four accounting firm, and that was my answer to intrigued colleagues that wanted to learn a bit more about the new guy at work. To anyone that knew me outside of work, this was very clearly not true. For one, I didn’t have a girlfriend; two, I am a gay man. However, when faced with a meeting room of partners, managers, and rugby lads, I choked – I didn’t want to give so much away about myself so soon. Saying “my boyfriend” seemed too controversial and “partner” would be a dead giveaway. My experience is not that uncommon – a Vodafone survey conducted by Out Now noted that 78% of LGBTQ+ individuals had hidden their sexual orientation or gender identity at least once in their life. This was mine. A second coming out Over the coming months, I slowly started to set the record (un)straight. To say that I received a positive reaction is an understatement. The responses were a mix of delight, compassion, and outright confusion – primarily as to why I felt the need to lie in the first place. I wondered that myself. What was clear for me, though, was how lucky I felt. Lucky that I had such a warm reception to my news, and lucky that I worked in a firm that was so supportive of its LGBTQ+ individuals. Management had always made it clear that discrimination would not be tolerated in the firm; however, it was the actions I saw beyond the non-discriminatory practices. I was amazed by the additional support that was on offer – a non-LGBTQ+ partner made efforts to introduce me to other LGBTQ+ leaders in the firm, and significant efforts were made to support LGBTQ+ Pride Month every year. With my firm, I got to walk the Dublin Pride parade, and I did it with a partner in the firm and her kids. Allies When I first joined the firm, the term ‘ally’ was a relatively new concept to me. I hadn’t thought of non-LGBTQ+ individuals in this way until then, but the firm had a network available to LGBTQ+ employees and allies. My experience with the network showed me how much of a difference good allies can make to an LGBTQ+ individual’s working environment. There is no one way for someone to be an LGBTQ+ ally. Allies, like gender, can fall on a spectrum, and all types of ally-ship can be equally valid when coming from the right place. This may take the form of marching in Pride parades, actively identifying and removing discriminatory practices from office culture or wearing rainbow colours. However, I also see significance in quieter forms of ally-ship. Some of the most poignant experiences I have had in the workplace have come from conversations with colleagues who aren’t necessarily familiar with the concept of what it meant for me to be gay. Allies have been there to share their experiences, speak of their LGBTQ+ family members and provide understanding. They have also been there to course correct conversations when necessary. These conversations have proven to be insightful, thoughtful and – most importantly – respectful. (They have also proven to be low-key hilarious. One fella still can’t believe that I am not physically attracted to Kelly Brook, but he’s getting there.) I’ve since moved to a different organisation. This time around, I was gay from the first moment it was relevant to the conversation. My confidence going into a new working environment as myself this time and not as a straight man comes from the inclusivity at my first firm in Dublin and the allies I found within it. Daniel Turley is a Financial Accountant in BioMarin and on the Chartered Accountants Ireland Young Professionals committee.

Jun 23, 2020
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