the-Bottom-line-Banner-MARCH-2021
News

The recently published code of practice on the right to disconnect is now in effect. While failure to follow the Code isn’t an offence, it can be used as evidence in court. What do employers and employees need to know? Aoife Newton explains. On 1 April 2021, the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) published a new Code of Practice for Employers and Employees on the Right to Disconnect. It was developed following a request by An Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Leo Varadkar T.D., as part of a government programme to support and facilitate remote working. The Code provides guidance on best practice on the right to disconnect and applies to all employment forms, including those working remotely. Failure of an employer to follow the Code is not an offence. However, the Code is admissible in evidence in proceedings before the civil courts, the Labour Court, or the WRC. The Code was introduced with immediate effect. The new Right to Disconnect There are three key elements to the Code: the right of an employee to not have to routinely perform work outside their normal working hours; the right not to be penalised for refusing to attend to work matters outside of normal working hours; the duty to respect another person’s right to disconnect (for example, by not routinely emailing or calling outside normal working hours). Implementing the new Code The main objective of the Code is the creation of a workplace culture in which employees feel they can disconnect from work and work-related devices. The Code encourages employers to: develop a Right to Disconnect policy by actively engaging with employees (and trade unions), reflecting the business’s unique needs and employees. A sample outline policy is provided in the Code to assist employers in drafting their own policy; ensure that such a policy is ‘equality proofed’ to make sure that there are no unintended negative consequences for any particular employees who may have unique responsibilities (for example, caring responsibilities or those with a disability who may need to avail of more flexibility); refer to the Right to Disconnect policy in employment contracts and cross-reference this with the employer’s Dignity at Work, E-Communications, Data Protection and Confidentiality policies. The Right to Disconnect policy should also be discussed during an employee’s induction process; provide managers with training and support on the right to disconnect so that they can demonstrate a clear commitment to the policy through leadership and being active role models; provide training and support for employees to reinforce the appropriate behaviours around disconnecting from work outside normal working hours; hold annual reviews to examine the effectiveness of the Right to Disconnect policy within the organisation (if applicable, in consultation with trade unions); consider using email footers and pop-up messages to remind employees, clients and customers that there is no requirement to reply to emails out of hours, and an answer should not be expected. It is noted that there are situations where flexibility will be required and that there are occasional legitimate situations where it may be necessary for there to be contact outside of normal working hours. A Right to Disconnect policy should provide clear guidance around expectations of normal working hours and outline any exceptions. Existing legal obligations on employers The Code is to complement existing legislation and it provides guidance and clarification on the current statutory obligations of employers, including an employer’s obligation to: provide detailed information to employees on their hours of work (including overtime); ensure that employees are informed of what their normal working hours (daily and weekly) are reasonably expected to be; ensure that employees take rest periods in accordance with Working Time legislation; ensure a safe workplace, including reviewing risk assessments and safety statements in accordance with Health and Safety legislation; refrain from penalising an employee for acting in compliance with any relevant provision or performing any duty, or exercising any right under Health and Safety legislation. Existing legal obligations on employees Although there is a significant focus on employers’ obligations, there is also an emphasis on employees’ responsibility. Employees are expected to protect their health, safety and welfare, as well as that of their co-workers. Employees should manage their own working time and fully cooperate with any mechanisms their employer has to track working time, including when working remotely. Employees are also asked to be aware of the right of their clients, colleagues and all other people to disconnect by not routinely making work-related contact outside of normal working hours. The Code encourages employees to take responsibility for their own work-related wellbeing, including ensuring that they take their statutory rest periods and notify their employer when they have not availed of a statutory rest period to which they were entitled. Going forward Employers should consider undertaking a review of their working time policies and contract clauses and consider implementing a Right to Disconnect policy that addresses issues surrounding the right to disconnect through awareness and training, where required. Aoife Newton is the Head of Employment and Immigration Services at KPMG.

Apr 09, 2021
News

Automation of functions has undoubtedly made our lives easier, but what about our people and interpersonal skills? Dearbhla Gallagher outlines four essential skills for greater work and leadership success. In an era of rapidly evolving technology where more work activities have become automated, people and interpersonal skills may be moving down the priority list for some businesses. In the accounting sector, which has traditionally measured success by numeric metrics, the importance of people skills can also be overlooked. While technical ability remains a prerequisite of the job, today’s professional accountants need to acquire a broader range of skills that go far beyond traditional accounting tasks if they are to succeed. The four key skills Strong communication skills are essential for the modern professional accountant. Breaking down highly technical language and conveying complex information in simple terms is part and parcel of the job. Consider the audience – those who are not as numbers-savvy will lack the ability to understand and decipher the data the way accounting and finance professionals can. But communication is much more than sharing information; it is also about active listening – listening to your clients, peers, and employees. Poor communication can lead to serious misunderstandings that result in mistrust between employers, employees and even clients. Adaptability and flexibility are crucial to success. Both things and people change all the time. The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the need to be adaptable and flexible to meet head-on the ever-changing environment in which we operate. Professional accountants who can adapt will be better equipped to anticipate future changes to serve their clients in a world that is being turned upside down by the pandemic. Influencing skills are more than just the ability to communicate. Solid influencing skills enable a leader to get buy-in to their ideas and plans without the need to steamroll their way through the opposition. The ability to influence people, their behaviour, and their decision-making is a key skill for a professional accountant. It allows for the building of trust-based relationships with colleagues and clients, which lead to positive results. Emotional intelligence is another critical skill that enables an individual to manage their own emotions, and the emotions of others, in the workplace. Fostering strong business relationships with colleagues and clients is central to building trust and a better rapport with people. Numeracy skills will only take you so far; cultivating emotional intelligence will ultimately enhance your leadership skills. Professional accountants have a remarkable ability to look closely at details while simultaneously thinking more strategically in a way that escapes many other professionals. This dual ability is a valued leadership trait. Effective leaders can, and do, shape the future of the industry they work in. As accountants advance in their careers, they need to develop their people skills to become even more effective leaders, better motivate employees, and boost morale among employees, thereby creating an engaged workforce. And an engaged workforce is one your clients will want to work with. Dearbhla Gallagher is the Learning & Development Manager at Baker Tilly.

Apr 09, 2021
News

Although Government supports are currently keeping businesses afloat, business owners question how they will move forward in the absence of these lifelines. Sarah-Jane O’Keeffe examines what business owners can do now to secure their future. With the introduction and rollout of the vaccines, those living in Ireland now have a degree of hope. As such, the recovery of the economic landscape post-COVID-19 is front of mind. We are now asking two critical questions: what does the future of business look like? how will we transition post-pandemic to the next normal? ‘Hybrid’ working We have become accustomed to new ways of working, and a full return to the office looks unlikely for certain industries. It seems that hybrid work models are here to stay for the foreseeable future, allowing employees to split their time working between the office and home where possible. Business owners will be aware of this demand for new and innovative flexible working arrangements and will react accordingly. This may involve maintaining office locations but downsizing commercial property. The possible downsizing of office space and exiting of leases must be considered sooner than later, as potential conflict may arise between landlords and tenants. Business supports Undoubtedly, Government supports are keeping distressed industries like hospitality, non-essential retail, and aviation in business during COVID-19 lockdowns. However, business owners have questions and concerns, with some wondering what will become of their business when these supports cease. Understandably, a reasonable level of uncertainty exists, with many business owners worried that the demand for their products or services in a post-pandemic world will be insufficient to service the level of debt that has accumulated since operations were halted. Directors of these businesses should take proactive steps to engage with experts and be aware of their director duties and the restructuring options available to them, such as examinership and the new Summary Rescue Process. The basis of this newly proposed legislation is to help small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) restructure in the face of difficulty, providing access to a cheaper corporate restructuring tool that will give them the best chance of survival. The primary focus of the examinership legislation regime is rehabilitation and job preservation. While Government supports for business are due to finish on 30 June 2021, they will likely be extended while COVID-19 restrictions remain. However, when they eventually end, businesses – particularly within the hospitality industry – will need the public’s support to help them get back on their feet. With international travel off the cards for the foreseeable future, these businesses will rely on the domestic market. The hospitality industry is a vital element of the economy, and the public will play a central role in ensuring that it thrives again. Act now Companies must think about the future and potential issues now as opposed to later when Government supports cease. Companies should seek the relevant restructuring advice and consider possible options now. Also, they must consider lease commitments and perform stress tests on the company’s finances in the current climate and whether it has a reasonable prospect of survival post-pandemic. A restructuring expert, and indeed the examinership process, can guide companies on these issues. Sarah-Jane O’Keeffe is a Senior Manager at Baker Tilly, a contributor to the recently published book A Practical Guide to Examinership, and Ireland’s first female Examiner.

Apr 09, 2021
Sustainability

Dee Moran, Professional Accountancy Leader at Chartered Accountants Ireland, speaks to Accounting for Sustainability’s Jessica Fries about the role Chartered Accountants can play in mitigating the worst impacts of the climate change crisis and making sustainable business synonymous with business as usual. Dee Moran (DM): Can you briefly explain the economic risk facing the business community regarding sustainability and the climate crisis? Jessica Fries (JF): Since Accounting for Sustainability (A4S) was first established in 2004, we have seen an increasing awareness of environmental and social risks and just how important they are from an economic, financial and business perspective. In the last couple of years, in particular, we have seen a significant shift in tracking these issues. The World Economic Forum publishes a global risk report each year. Environmental and social risks feature consistently in the top 10, which underlines just how focused businesses are on those risks. In response to those trends, we also see more businesses taking action and more investors and regulators focusing on identifying the risks and possible responses. This time last year, when the pandemic started to hit, people were concerned that environmental and other sustainable business issues would be forgotten due to the urgent need to respond to the human and economic crisis and the pandemic’s impact on wellbeing and livelihoods. If anything, however, the understanding of climate and the climate crisis has continued to grow. This year, COP26 – the major UN climate conference – will be hosted by the UK in Glasgow in November. This will be a vital meeting. Over five years ago, in 2015, at the Paris COP, governments around the world committed to keeping the average increase in global temperatures to well below two degrees with the ambition to limit warming to 1.5 degrees. Science tells us that this is needed to mitigate the worst impacts of the climate crisis and maintain a habitable world. A key part of the agreement was a ‘ratchet’ mechanism with governments committing to set increasingly ambitious targets every five years, recognising that the initial commitments made at the time of the Paris agreement were not sufficient. COP26 is the conference at which these updated commitments will be made. Of course, in addition to the human impact, the economic consequences of failing to act at the pace and scale demanded by the science are enormous; the Economist Intelligence Unit has estimated that the direct costs by mid-century will be $7.9 trillion.  As well as a continued focus on climate, the pandemic also reinforced business responsibility in relation to social issues and the need to think about how businesses support communities and employees. These issues are interconnected, so you cannot look at either the climate crisis or the COVID-19 pandemic in isolation. The pandemic has also forced everyone in the world to pause, reflect on the kind of recovery we want, and ask whether we can create a more equitable, more resilient, and more sustainable world. On that note, businesses are thinking about the kind of shift there might be and how they can be best positioned to respond. Accountants have played a vital role in helping their organisations navigate challenging conditions thus far, of course, but there is also a massive opportunity for accountants to help shape a sustainable future. DM: It is widely acknowledged that if we are to avoid the worst impacts of the climate crisis, global greenhouse gas emissions need to halve by 2030 and reach net-zero by mid-century. You alluded to it there, but how can the finance community drive efforts as we work towards that goal? JF: Your question highlights the dramatic nature of the transition needed to achieve those goals. Accountants are at the heart of the organisation in terms of measuring, tracking, setting targets, and planning the necessary investment. To that end, they analyse the external risks and identify the information their organisations need to assess the impact of the transition on their business. More and more organisations are also setting what are called science-based targets, which, as you say, are needed to avoid the worst impacts of the climate crisis. Accountants can help set those goals, but also embed them throughout the whole organisation. Accountants also direct flows of money and financing, and investors are increasingly interested in these issues. This is a significant opportunity to access different sources of funding with the growing interest in environmental, social and governance (ESG) investing which, at the moment, is critical for some businesses.  The other thing that we see is accountants’ ability to influence others, including engaging new employees. We often hear about the newer generations of accountants having a clear sense of purpose, and that is true – but it is equally true throughout the whole organisation. This provides a dual opportunity for accountants to play to the finance team’s skillset and that softer cultural engagement, which is an essential driver of business success. From large companies to small accountancy practitioners, climate change will affect us all. There is, therefore, a role for everyone to play. It doesn’t have to be something individuals think about in terms of home life alone; we can also have a powerful impact through our professional lives. DM: The Irish Minister for Finance, Paschal Donohoe TD, added his support to the TCFD (Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures) last November. What should accountants expect in the future in terms of sustainability reporting? And how can they help their organisations prepare? JF: TCFD is gaining global momentum. It started as an industry-led group endorsed by the regulatory community. As a result, it has always had a regulatory hue, but it was very much investors, companies, and other key representatives coming together to create a framework. We are now several years into its adoption, and we can see a shift to mandatory reporting. A4S has done quite a lot of work globally with organisations to apply its principles in practice, and they find a few areas particularly challenging – one of which is scenario analysis. But this is an area of significant interest to investors. It links back to the kind of targets companies need to set, whether that is a net-zero target or a science-based target. In the build-up to COP26, you will see more and more organisations making that kind of commitment. You will also see investors come together to focus on what companies are reporting and the concept of a transition plan – does the business have a credible strategy to respond to the change in the global economy as we transition from fossil fuel use and work to halve global emissions by 2030? We also know that businesses have to account for the physical impacts arising from climate change, such as flooding. We can already see changing patterns and the impact this is having on business. Building resilience into any response while trying to reduce the risk is therefore crucial. This all fits into the broader reporting landscape where regulators and standard setters are now asking for improved reporting on climate-related issues. Most recently, the IFRS Foundation announced its intention to establish a sustainability standards board, providing a potential ‘home’ for the TCFD as part of a recognised standard setter. So there is much momentum – not just in terms of what should be reported on from a climate perspective and convergence with the TCFD framework, but also how that plays into the broader sustainability reporting landscape. Companies need to think this through, and accountants can help their companies whether they are within the organisation or providing that advice as a third-party. And finally, because sustainability reporting is becoming increasingly mandatory and there is a focus on the robustness of the information needed to support investors in their decisions, assurance comes into play. Therefore, accountancy firms must consider how to adapt assurance services to assure climate and other sustainability information. Sustainability reporting is important, but the impact of sustainability trends on financial reporting is also key. The heads of the accounting bodies are collaborating to reinforce this point, but it can often get lost in the discussion around sustainability standards: auditors and accountants in business should already be thinking about the impact of climate risk on the financial statements. More sustainability-related information might go in the front half of the annual report but if you look at the existing requirements under financial reporting, organisations should consider how some of these issues impact the financial statements. That is another critical area to consider – and one that few organisations have started to analyse in the kind of depth that will be demanded in the next few years. DM: On that point, do you think the accountancy profession is sufficiently equipped with the skills necessary to ensure that their businesses are sustainable and to report on those issues? JF: There is undoubtedly a considerable capacity gap. One of the significant challenges we all face is how all professions can upskill to respond to this massive task. When we set up the Accounting Bodies Network in 2008, that was one of the five principles – how do you embed sustainability into professional training and education? We are starting to see the tools, techniques, and approaches become embedded into syllabi, but most professionals did their qualification quite a long time ago. Continuous professional development (CPD) therefore needs to be an acute focus. Reporting is one of those important areas, but many finance professionals spend the majority of their time looking at other areas such as management accounting, supporting the strategic planning process, capital investment decisions, preparing management information, raising finance, engaging with the capital markets and many other areas. We have developed an A4S Essential Guide series that covers all these accountancy and finance areas in a very practical way and is free to access for all from our website, www.accountingforsustainability.org. Last year we launched the A4S Academy, which is our way of helping finance professionals dig deeper into the issues and equip themselves with the necessary skills. DM: Certainly, the guidance and data that A4S has produced have been really useful for Chartered Accountants Ireland’s membership. To follow on from that point, we will likely be grappling with the impact of COVID-19 for years to come. For those working in finance, how can we better address environmental and social risks, both now and into the future? JF: We have done research over the past year to understand the role finance has played in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and how the different parts of the finance system can work together to start building a better future. Three themes came through from our work with the accounting community, the first of which I already discussed – setting ambitious targets. The second area is accountability through reporting. Again, I touched on that earlier in the discussion, and it plays to the heart of what accountants can do to support their organisations. And finally, there is the theme of collaboration – how do we come together across different sectors and different stakeholder groups to innovate and find solutions? Throughout the pandemic, we have witnessed some fantastic and inspiring examples of organisations thinking creatively to find solutions to pandemic-related challenges. That same kind of thinking and collaboration will be vital in our fight against climate change. DM: Technology-enabled communication platforms are a game-changer in this context, aren’t they? JF: Absolutely. I am sure most of us are keen to return to some form of human interaction and in-person events, but that ability to connect globally is here to stay. It provides some exciting opportunities for the future. As we look ahead to COP26, we will focus on bringing finance teams to that conference in a virtual way and delivering insights and messages from the summit back to the finance community. Accountants and finance professionals around the world can play a significant role in tackling climate change. We will need to consider how we mobilise that commitment to action and support accountants in what will be a vital year in terms of having a chance of achieving those ambitious global targets in the decade ahead. DM: With COP26 due to take place in Glasgow in November of this year, do you see it as a ‘make or break’ moment in the fight against climate change? JF: Absolutely. Time is running out, and a decade is an incredibly short amount of time. To halve the emissions globally over the next decade, we need to see action every year. COP26 is just one event, but the focus is not solely on governments coming together to ratchet up their commitments. It is also a call to action to every other corner of the economy, and we can all contribute by making a vocal, visible commitment. Our role is to enable governments to take the kind of action needed, which provides the context within which businesses and individuals can take action. DM: And what are your hopes for the COP26 summit? JF: I hope that we see a commitment to action from all parts of the global community. Of course, thinking of the work that A4S does, I would particularly like to see accountants worldwide commit to playing a role in accelerating that transition to a net-zero economy. I would also love for all of your members to signal their commitment, sign up, raise the ambition and – most importantly – take tangible action. Look out for more ways to get involved in the coming month. It’s one thing to commit, but it’s quite another thing to act. What we need to focus on now is action. DM: Finally, you led a workshop at the 20th World Congress of Accountants entitled “Can accountants save the world?” Over two years have passed since then, so what is your answer to that question today? JF: Yes, I think they can. I hope that the discussion we’ve had today will convince accountants that they have a critically important role in turning climate change around and, ultimately, saving the world.  

Apr 01, 2021
Careers

Julia Rowan answers your management, leadership, and team development questions. Q. I did really well at the beginning of the lockdown, but it’s beginning to feel like a struggle. We worked hard before, but COVID-19 has added at least 15% to our workload. I’m trying to remain positive and upbeat with my team, but I feel I’m running on empty. There is so much in this short question – the pressure to be positive, the desire to mind your team. And I appreciate how important it is to be positive, but what kind of positive? Leaders often want, with great intention, to protect their teams – from negativity, from too much work, from politics. The problem is that the leader then takes on the dual burden of protecting and being positive. That’s exhausting. You manage a team of adults. Trust yourself to be real with them. You don’t want to be relentlessly negative (‘everything is awful’), but unrealistic positivity (‘everything is awesome’) is not doing anyone any favours. You can be positively realistic (‘it’s harder with COVID-19, let’s talk about how we cope with that’). Not having to pretend will allow you to show up more authentically, and that gives permission to others to be authentic. I generally find that when teams are allowed the space to express how difficult things are, they find solutions and ways forward. Not having to pretend releases creativity. By being realistic, you have not stopped supporting the team – you are supporting them in a more useful way. I’m a huge fan of journalling to become aware of our drivers and then put them to good use. Positivity, perfectionism, and people-pleasing are drivers I come across all the time. Becoming more conscious of them helps us to channel them more usefully. Q. An experienced member of my team continually asks for direction. The quality of their work is good, but I have to spend a lot of time briefing them, checking, and so on. I’m not sure how to address this or whether I should just let sleeping dogs lie. My first response to this question is to ask whether your team member’s need stems from their ‘will’ (confidence, motivation) or their ‘skill’ (ability). You tell me that the quality of their work is good, so my guess is that their skill is okay, and the issue is confidence. There is also the possibility that they are simply in the habit of asking you. The next time this person asks you for input about a task, engage in a different kind of conversation and provide a different kind of support. Ask questions that allow them to access their knowledge and experience and build on their strengths and achievements. If there is a genuine lack of confidence, be sure to reassure and give positive feedback. You need to prepare for this because on a busy day, it’s very easy to get bounced back into the usual way of doing things. Write out some good questions in advance. I often advise leaders to respond carefully when asked a ‘How do I…?’ question and reflect on what the person asking the question truly needs: is it advice, confidence, or permission? Julia Rowan is Principal Consultant at Performance Matters, a leadership and team development consultancy. To send a question to Julia, email julia@performancematters.ie   

Mar 26, 2021
Management

Barrie O’Connell considers how Ireland can achieve continued success in international financial services after three decades of momentous growth. As a semi-senior auditing investments and subscriptions in the offices of Chemical Bank on Lower Abbey Street in the late 1990s, I knew little of the influence international financial services (IFS) would have on my career as a Chartered Accountant. Ireland has built a thriving IFS industry over the last three decades. This success can be measured using several metrics, some of which are outlined in Table 1. So, what are the factors behind this success? In my view, Ireland’s strategic approach and talent have been the two key enablers. Chartered Accountants have played – and will continue to play – a key role when it comes to talent. The ‘Ireland for Finance’ strategy In 2019, the Government of Ireland launched the Ireland for Finance 2025 strategy. The strategy was developed by the Department of Finance, with input from a range of stakeholders, and is part of the current Programme for Government. It contains four pillars: Operating environment; Technology and innovation; Talent; and Communications and promotion. The Ireland for Finance 2025 strategy is aligned with other key Government strategies, including the National Development Plan and the National Digital Strategy. A refresh of the strategy will likely be undertaken after the COVID-19 pandemic to account for the permanent impact on the future of work, the changing operating environment, and the intense competition from other IFS investment locations. Each year, the Department of Finance also publishes an action plan and an update on actions. This allows each action to be measured and provides accountability, as each action has an owner. The IFS team within the Department of Finance plays a significant role in supporting the strategy’s implementation. There is also a dedicated Minister of State for IFS at the Department of Finance, which ensures continuing focus on the sector. Coincidentally, the current Minister, Sean Fleming TD, is a Chartered Accountant. Operating environment Ireland has enjoyed great success as an IFS location for a long time. With new entrants relocating here due to Brexit, there is the prospect of more to come. This will remain the case while there is uncertainty around UK firms’ ability to achieve financial services equivalence and, thus, access to EU markets post-Brexit. However, the environment for IFS is increasingly competitive. Industry participants continually face pressure to optimise their business by delivering new and innovative products and exploiting process and location efficiencies. They must deliver on these issues while serving their customers’ needs and ensuring the global financial system’s continued stability. The industry is more technology-intensive than ever, and artificial intelligence (AI) and automation present both opportunities and challenges for Ireland. We must continue to position ourselves as a location that is open to providing an innovative, supportive, and dynamic environment for companies that seek to leverage our expertise and history in technology and financial services. After COVID-19, other countries will redouble their efforts to attract investment. As IFS is a mobile sector, Ireland must be agile and adapt quickly to the new environment. The IFS sector has been remarkably resilient over the last year, and I am impressed by how the sector adapted to remote working and continued to deliver for customers. This resilience is a key differentiator, and the collective ability to solve issues gives Ireland credibility and trust in a global marketplace – something that is noted internationally. Track record The IDA and Enterprise Ireland have both contributed to the development of the country’s IFS industry. I am continually impressed by the IDA’s work with overseas companies and Enterprise Ireland’s work to create opportunities for indigenous companies to operate successfully from Ireland. Indeed, these organisations are the envy of many other countries globally. Irish Funds is another excellent example. It works relentlessly at an international level to promote Ireland as a funds location, and the quality of the content at its events is compelling and demonstrates some of the best qualities of ‘Team Ireland’. Meanwhile, the European Financial Forum, usually hosted in Dublin Castle, was hosted virtually this year. It is another superb showcase of what Ireland offers in IFS to companies operating globally and is supported by an effective regulatory environment with a fully independent Financial Services Regulator. The development of the “IFS Ireland” brand has been a crucial first step in building an integrated offering across different sectors. We must now market Ireland with consistency and in new and innovative ways.  The secret sauce Ireland’s key asset is its people and talent. Ireland has a well-educated, highly-skilled, flexible, internationally diverse and multilingual workforce. Our demographics are favourable, with 33% of the population less than 25 years old and over 50% of those between 30-34 holding a third-level qualification. Chartered Accountants’ skills and attributes are a good fit for this sector, and I am aware of so many Chartered Accountants Ireland members who have cultivated successful careers in IFS – not just in Dublin, but throughout Ireland. The executive and senior management teams in IFS in Ireland, many of them Chartered Accountants, are a vital ingredient in our competitive advantage. They advocate with head office, look to develop and grow the offering based in Ireland, and are prepared to manage global operations from Ireland – and often exceed expectations when they do. Many have very senior global roles in large IFS organisations, and we don’t always acknowledge them and their relentless focus on expanding their organisation’s footprint in Ireland enough. For example, the recently announced acquisition of GECAS by AerCap, headquartered in Dublin, is a fantastic transaction that demonstrates Ireland’s position as a world leader in aviation finance. Caution needed Now is the time for Ireland to redouble its efforts. Some commentators suggest that the future of work will alter the relationship between talent and location, but I am inclined to challenge this hypothesis. In my view, where the executive and senior management teams are based will continue to be a key consideration for an organisation’s location. With accelerating disruption and digital transformation impacting the IFS sector, Ireland must be aware and adapt accordingly. In the coming years, protecting existing jobs may well be as important as growing the number of those employed in the sector. Ireland must therefore invest in education and training to ensure that workers stay relevant and productive and harness the strengths of Ireland’s technology sector to position Ireland as a leader in technology-based financial services and platform development. Chartered Accountants Ireland’s FAE elective in Financial Services is a welcome development in this regard. Action Plan 2021 The IFS Action Plan 2021, which is available to download at www.gov.ie, outlines several priorities in this regard, including sustainable finance and fintech. These areas have huge growth potential and present an opportunity for Ireland to take a leadership position globally. Sustainable finance and environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria are strategically important to all companies. It is fitting that the Minister highlighted both as critical areas of focus for 2021 and beyond. Ireland’s recently enacted Investment Limited Partnership (ILP) legislation was an objective in the action plan for several years and has the potential to deliver significant growth in the private equity area. The Central Bank of Ireland also issued a stakeholder engagement consultation in recent weeks, and this will be a key focus for the 2021 action plan. Cause for optimism IFS is a vital element of Ireland’s overall economic strategy. Like all strategies, the strategy for IFS must be continually reviewed and adapted as the world evolves. Given our talent, flexibility, and drive, there is much cause for optimism while resisting complacency. It is incredible to see what started in the IFSC now present in every corner of Ireland, from Killorglin to Letterkenny. Yes, IFS in Ireland will need to change, adapt and continue to improve. But for newly qualified and experienced Chartered Accountants alike, the opportunities in IFS are almost limitless. Go and explore them for yourself. Barrie O’Connell is Partner in KPMG and Chartered Accountants Ireland’s representative on the Ireland for Finance Strategy 2025 Industry Advisory Group.  

Mar 26, 2021