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The cloud of uncertainty cast by Brexit is not all grey. Silver-linings have emerged in Ireland over the past few months. Mollie O'Donnell, Tax Manager in Mazars, outlines how Ireland has found itself as an attractive option for international business after Brexit. The countdown is on to the next meeting of the European Council scheduled for 29 June 2018 with progressions on Brexit high on the agenda. However, this week our Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has, yet again, made his growing concerns clear, calling for substantial progress before the June meeting if any agreement will be reached by the October deadline. With the political trade deal still very much out of grasp and Theresa May admitting the withdrawal bill could stall until autumn, Irish businesses need to future-proof their organisations and operate on the assumption that a trade deal will not be made.  Silver-linings However, the cloud of uncertainty cast by Brexit is not all grey. Silver-linings have emerged over the past few months. Most recently, the Thomson Reuters group have confirmed it is set to move its $300 billion dollar-a-day foreign exchange facility to Dublin from London. The group will transfer all existing client relationships, as well as fixed income call-outs and auctions, to its new Irish legal entity ahead of the Brexit date. Martin Shanahan, CEO of the IDA Ireland said, “Thomson Reuters’ choice of Ireland is very significant in terms of our ability to attract top international brands that have influence and reach. This provides IDA Ireland with another powerful calling card for new types of business within international financial services and points to Ireland’s attractiveness to international financial services business. Ireland has the right mix of regulation, skills, experience and office space to make us a very logical place for financial services to locate." Thomson Reuters are following in the footsteps of Bank of America, who have confirmed plans on moving its EU headquarters from London to Dublin between July and December this year. The move results in up to 125 British jobs relocating to Ireland ahead of Britain’s exit from the EU. Not only as a country are we winning the spoils of Brexit from a domestic perspective, it is positive to see that indigenous Irish businesses are being pro-active in trying to source alternative markets as a defence against Brexit. For Ireland, it is the agri-food sector that will be hit the hardest by Brexit. The news this week of a €50 million, three-year deal between the Irish ABP group and Asian restaurant chain Wowprime Corporation, demonstrates how Irish businesses are expanding their global footprint and diversifying their trade portfolios as an effective hedge against the Brexit. This deal is followed by an equally impressive and lucrative deal for the Kepak Group into the Chinese market. Ireland's competitive advantage However, while these stories are positive, we need to remain vigilant. Apple's recent decision not to proceed with an €850 million data centre in Athenry over delays in planning highlights our need to continually improve our competitiveness and responsiveness. With Budget season approaching, it is important the Government introduces the correct measures to further prepare Ireland’s economy for the significant challenges arising in the context of Brexit. Retaining a competitive advantage in attracting inward investment is more important than ever and Ireland's pro-business environment must be emphasised in the coming months as Brexit uncertainty remains. Mollie O'Donnell is a Tax Manager in Mazars.

May 18, 2018
News

Given that Ireland's first governance code was only developed in 2008, we are still getting to grips with governance and what it means for boards and directors in Ireland. We have a lot to learn. I wonder how many people say yes to a board appointment without thinking about the role, responsibilities and skills they need to know to carry out their new job. Once on a board, a new member can be overwhelmed by the breadth of knowledge that is required. This could include the Companies Act 2014, tax law, finance, health and safety, the relevant code (if there is one), on top of understanding how a board works. The key challenge is understanding how one, as a new board member, can uphold the responsibilities of board membership, such as voicing opinions and contributing to the group. Good induction can help and should include an induction pack that contains not only the necessarily documents and an explanation of the organisation's functions and services, but also an insight into the corporate culture of the organisation, as well as the roles and responsibilities of board members. This can help a new board member put on the correct hat as soon as they join, and avoid dysfunction later on. Board responsibility Regardless of what introduction into the organisation a new board member has, the early days of board membership can be intimidating. It may take some time before a new board member is comfortable contributing on a spontaneous basis and, in the process, taking a chance at inadvertently upsetting the status quo. However, it’s important to remember you still have the same collective responsibilities as all the other board members, which includes voicing your opinions and only representing your board while in that boardroom. Many directors do not know that the board is collectively responsible for all its decisions. They should know that even if a member disagrees with a particular decision where the majority is in favour, they must respect the decision and support it outside the boardroom. This can be hard for some board members if they are there are in a representative capacity, such as for a VC fund or for a province of a sports organisation where they sit on the national board. They have multiple hats and sometimes it's hard for those people to remember which one they have to be wearing. All members of a board must remember that a director can only wear one hat in the boardroom and that is the hat of the board they sit on. If they are there in a representative or other capacity, they need to leave that hat at the door. If they don’t, the whole board will become dysfunctional, unknowingly catering to the interest of another organisation before looking out for the best interests of their own. Board members elected in a representative capacity will find this the most challenging, but most important, aspect of their membership. David W Duffy – is the founder of The Governance Company and author of A Practical Guide for Company Directors published by Chartered Accountants Ireland.

May 18, 2018
News

Traditional fixed income markets face a number of challenges over the coming year. With the potential returns from the highest quality bonds in the developed world and the fact a competitor asset class appears - again - to be offering superior returns, there are a few reasons to be wary of the bond market. Inflation and interest rates starting to rise Inflation is creeping higher and higher. For the last decade, deflation or disinflation was the dominant theme. Now, as the economic recovery has spread to so many core countries, energy and metal prices are lifting again, and the numerous pools of spare skilled labour across the world are reducing in number and size. Each small increase in inflation expectation causes a bigger increase in bond yields and falls in bond prices. Buying inflation-linked bonds, designed to protect from rising levels of inflation, may not be the answer as prices are also affected by supply/demand factors and the level of nominal yields. What one gains on predicting rising inflation might be smaller than the losses from rising conventional yields. Also, policy rates are starting to move up, pulling yields higher across much of the developed world, led by North America. After years of interest cuts, most central banks have reached a nadir. Bond markets will lose the tailwind that they have enjoyed, off and on, for over 30 years. An end to QE The extraordinary purchases that central banks adopted are slowing, have stopped or are being reversed. US Treasuries have sold off, partly due to one of the biggest buyers turning into a seller. The prospect of reduced buying by the European Central Bank (ECB) has driven European government bond yields higher; the ECB’s quantitative easing (QE) programme was huge in respect to net bond issuance, and vast relative to the size of the US QE plan in that regard. To add to that, the level of yields for high quality bonds is not at all high. Many trillions worth of bonds still offer negative yields to maturity. Even with positive yields, the quantum is rarely high compared to the last five decades. There is little or no margin of safety in these assets. Given that bonds have a terminal price, holding bonds with a negative yield to maturity is a guarantee to lose money in nominal terms, to lose more if there is inflation and lose yet more if there is a default. One common answer to all four of the above concerns is to buy short bonds (go short duration, in market speak) or buy funds that do short duration. Shorting bonds (selling bonds with the right to buy them back in the future) whose yield is negative might be a far cheaper exercise than ever before and, where yield curves are flat, there is little extra cost. The equities challenge Finally, there is the number one competitor to bonds: equities. 2017 saw equities beat bonds again, by nearly 20% in total return terms in the US, and for the sixth year in a row. German bonds were the laggard, starting as the most unattractive yields and finishing there too; yet the DAX made over 12% in local terms. In principal emerging markets, buoyed by generally stronger currencies, many bond sectors did well but equities mostly did better. The growth outlook for the next few quarters is remarkable, and is sufficiently robust to help lift corporate earnings in most industries despite rising wages and raw material costs. Dividend yields still look great compared with bond yields from the same quality company. Tim Haywood is an Investment Director Business-Unit Head for fixed income at GAM Investments. This article was first published on www.thefmreport.ie This article is the personal opinion of the author.

May 17, 2018
News

According to the ESRI, current levels of underemployment are now close to those of the pre-crisis period. With the unemployment rate forecast to average 5.4% this year, the war for talent is once again being fought by most organisations. However, there is a largely untapped pool of talent that offers more open-minded employers a competitive edge; 71% of people with disabilities in Ireland are not currently employed and there is little focus on people with disabilities in the workforce. The following five ‘As’ are a useful guide to employers with little experience in this area. Attitude Employing people with disabilities is not a CSR activity; people with disabilities want equality of opportunity, not tokenism.  As the late Stephen Hawking said, “Work gives you meaning and purpose and life is empty without it”. Roisin Keogh, CEO of the Irish Wheelchair Association, cites their position as one of the top 1000 companies in Ireland as proof that employing a high proportion of people with disabilities is compatible with running a successful business. Consider also the success of Paul McNeive, a double amputee and former-managing director of Hamilton Osborne King, a business worth €50 million.  Application However, most organisations fall at the first hurdle. Conventional recruitment procedures are often impossible to navigate. Online forms and recruitment software - ironically credited with making more equitable decisions - frequently disadvantage or exclude people with a disability. To encourage the widest possible pool of applicants, consider the process from a number of perspectives – for example, neuro-diverse, visually or hearing-impaired candidates – and adjust your application process accordingly. Accommodation  Organisations often state that they are ‘an equal opportunities employer’ as an indicator that they open to receiving applications from people with disabilities. However, all employers are obliged by law to be equal opportunities employers.  A more positive indicator would be to state that the organisation is committed to accommodating the needs of people with disabilities and inviting applicants to advise if they have any particular requirements at each stage of the process.  A further step would be to nominate one suitably qualified person as a point of contact for applicants with disabilities.  Acquired disability Approximately 85% of working age people with a disability have acquired it. Therefore, most organisations will have to address the issue of how to retain employees who find themselves in this difficult situation.  Many employees fear disclosing a disability to their employers. In particular, they are concerned about losing their job, limiting their potential for promotion or being stigmatised.  One positive action employers can take is to develop a policy on disclosing disability at work. The policy should address issues such as how to disclose, what information will be recorded, what it will be used for and who will have access to it. The policy should also contain positive intent in respect of making any necessary modifications or accommodations to allow the employee continue in their role. Ask  Employers often report that they don’t know how to address the issue of disability in the workplace. Some are worried about using the correct terminology, others are concerned by the potential cost of making modifications to the work environment. In fact, there are numerous resources available to potential employers – they only have to ask. A good starting point can be recruiting an employee on a work placement scheme. There are also peer networks of employers who advocate for the inclusion of people with disabilities in the workplace. Resources include My Access Hub, The Irish Wheelchair Association, AsIAm, Arthritis Ireland Fit for Work, WAM (Willing Able Mentoring) and TCPID.    Dawn Leane is Principal Consultant at LeaneLeaders. 

May 14, 2018
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Whether it be an Irish Summer, or an uncharacteristically warm one, workwear is always a trickier topic as the temperatures rise and we feel under pressure to change up our look from our winter staples. This includes adding brighter colours and exploring new tailoring trends, which can cause just as much panic as potential. To help with this dress code dilemma, here are my top tips for embracing summer style while staying professional: Compromise on colour, not fabric: Summer is all about lighter, brighter colours. This does not mean the same as lighter fabrics, and can be a sticking point for office wear. Silks and cottons are a yes; linen and chiffon, a no. Linens crease and chiffon requires an under-layer to make it office appropriate. Stick to weighted fabrics that sit well (we don’t have the temperatures to necessitate otherwise) including silks, polyblends, light wool and tailored cotton. Keep your fit formal: summer traditionally means lightweight and carefree. This works for casual wear, but not for office attire. Ensure the pieces you choose remain tailored. The change in seasons does not necessitate a loss of fit. Consider your purpose: similar to winter, consider the role and purpose of the clothes you purchase and subsequently wear. You want purchases that are classic, trans-seasonal and versatile. It is not cost effective to buy an outfit that only works when the temperatures top 20 degrees. Trans-seasonal pieces tend to be separates that can be worked together to form the basis of multiple looks. Decide on your base neutral: this is the colour that forms the basis of your workwear wardrobe. In winter, for most people, it’s black. As the summer approaches, many switch to navy or light grey. Consider how well this colour will go with the clothes you already own, and ensure that shoes, accessories, bags and shirts mix and blend well with the predominant colour of your summer work wardrobe. Update your accessories: this is the most cost effective way to update your workwear. Whether it’s investing in some statement necklaces in bright tones, or expanding your tie collection to refresh existing suits, paying attention to pops of colour in your daily look allows winter basics and suits to transition nicely to the spring/summer season. Should you show more skin? In a word, no. Summer office dressing simply means brighter colours in lighter (not lightweight) fabrics. Bare legs may replace tights when skirts fall to the knee or below; if higher when seated, stick with tan tights. Warm offices can necessitate sleeveless silk tops and rolled up sleeves, however, it may be helpful to bring a jacket for meetings, which can be removed shortly upon commencing, but should be worn for arrival. Are summer suits worth the investment? This links back to my first tip. Summer suits are often reduced in sales and can seem like a bargain. Unless you are travelling to Europe for work during the summer months, there is little need for a lightweight suit. They tend to crease and require delicate handling in the cleaners. If investing for the new season, choose a navy tone and consider a shirt in a high thread count, accompanied by a colour pop tie. Shoes: This can be covered off in one general statement: toes should not be visible in an office environment! Similarly, canvas shoes are too casual, as are any styles that are not anchored to the feet (non-fitted mules, sandals, etc). Laura Jordan is a style, brand consultant and founder of www.StyleSavvy.ie.

May 14, 2018
News

Recent reports have made Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies sound like the holy grail of investments, even if risky. Emmet Kelly explains what it takes to get into investing in this new digital gold, and how to prepare yourself for the highs and lows. Entrepreneur and life coach Tony Robbins says investing in cryptocurrencies (digital currencies operating independently of a central bank) is like going to Vegas: it’s fun but you are likely to lose. Cryptocurrency values are not based on the same economic drivers as traditional investing, so one needs to be careful. Do not assume you can translate your stock trading experience into trading in cryptocurrencies. Why cryptocurrencies? There are thousands of cryptocurrencies, but rather than refer to the blockchain technology which underpins a particular cryptocurrency, I am going to be referring to currencies like Bitcoin, Litecoin, Ripple and Ethereum.  Why would people invest in cryptocurrency? Anonymity was the initial driver which invited vice into the arena. Others felt they could avoid taxes on capital gains. Idealists pointed to the universal access of cryptocurrencies, providing banking for the unbanked. Cryptocurrencies can and do protect against fraud, and there are huge efficiencies with shoppers buying across distances with a single currency. However, uninsured billions have been stolen, and more billions have been lost by people forgetting the password to their crypto wallet. Before you start, though, there are some things you need to know about investing in cryptocurrencies for the first time.   Growth potential As with most investments, knowing whether cryptocurrency is a good investment or not depends on your outlook on the growth potential of that cryptocurrency. Past growth is no indicator of future performance when it comes to an investment like this, and you should be prepared to lose 50% or more on day one. As with all new investments, it is important to invest only a small amount (3% is about the maximum) of your portfolio in cryptocurrency if you want to dip your toe in. Just because an investment seems more solid than others does not mean you should invest more. Do your homework Research your coin yourself – don’t believe the hype on blogs and forums. The management team behind a coin does not indicate the security of your investment. Get advice from others who have invested in the type of coin you are interested in and what their experience has been like. Cryptocurrency exchanges While cryptocurrency exchanges, like Coinbase, Changelly, Binance, CEX.io, Kraken or Geminii, will transform your euro into your cryptocurrency of choice for trading, watch out for high fees, deposit ceilings, speed (slow banking or bitcoin processing) and integrity (support and regulation). For safety, always deal with at least two backup coin exchanges in case there are issues with one and, of course, always pay your taxes. Don’t chase the peak Just like in Vegas, only put in what you can afford to lose. Less profit is always better than a big loss, so never chase the peak of your coin. Be sure to use stop/loss rules to avoid the volatility of peaks and troughs and never borrow to invest. Put any profits made to good use by reinvesting in safer options – retrieving your initial principal should be a top priority. It is important to note that if you invest in currencies that are outside the law, you are probably investing in criminal activities like money laundering and could be held accountable. Tony Robbins was only being funny, of course. You are more likely to maintain some of the value of your investment in cryptocurrency with a far greater chance of getting a good return than you would be by investing in slots or blackjack. It might be a gamble, but why not buy a small amount of a coin you think has the potential to win big? This article is personal opinion of the author.

May 14, 2018