Management

As a mum of three and International Treasurer for Intel Corporation with direct reports around the globe, Naomi Holland FCA is responsible for a lot of moving parts. In this article, she explains her management style, her strategy for continuing delivery of excellence, and observations from her non-executive experience. When Naomi Holland took a career break in 2008 to focus on raising her young family, she had already made a big impact at Intel. The PwC-trained Chartered Accountant had joined the organisation’s Finance Department in 1996 before rising to the position of Treasurer for Intel Corporation’s EMEA business. Seven years later, Naomi re-joined the multinational as International Treasurer with responsibility for all treasury-related activity outside the US – a move that was both challenging and rewarding. “Like all full-time working parents, it’s difficult to maintain balance between work and family but I was fortunate in that my ‘return to work’ challenge was greatly reduced given I was re-joining Intel as opposed to a new organisation,” she said. “Strong homecare structures and military-style organisation and planning skills are of paramount importance, as are strong management skills at work,” she said.  Naomi’s current role involves the investment of Intel’s surplus cash, foreign exchange risk management, treasury operations, regulatory compliance, structured financing and supporting the business more generally. This requires a great deal of international travel and working within different time zones, but she is thankful for the flexibility the role offers her – despite its many demands. Naomi is also hopeful that progress on increasing female participation in the workforce generally will continue into the future. “This demands access to quality, affordable childcare and flexible working arrangements. Both Government and employers have crucial roles to play in the provision of these.” Doing less with less Flexibility is a central theme of Naomi’s role. A current mantra in Intel’s treasury department is to do ‘less with less’ by re-engineering, streamlining and, importantly, eliminating activities to balance value creation with resource and cost realities. “This requires us to consider increasing our risk appetite in certain areas,” she said. “We also maintain our focus on supporting Intel’s growth strategy more generally but notably in emerging markets, where it has substantial manufacturing and R&D facilities in China, Malaysia, Vietnam and India. These operating and regulatory environments continue to evolve and always have the potential to surprise as they react to changes in economic and political events – both locally and globally. Then a separate and more immediate focus of mine is working through the implications of recent US tax reform,” she adds. Management style Managing teams in China, India, Israel and the Netherlands while supporting Intel’s business strategy takes a lot of co-ordination, but Naomi’s clear management style leaves no room for misunderstanding. First, she ensures that Intel’s international treasury organisation operates as a single team and reflects Intel’s overarching business strategy. “I value structured engagement and clear, timely communication,” she says. “This applies to engagements with my team, the Treasurer, and my internal and external business partners, customers and suppliers. It’s also of huge importance to me that I set the right tone for the organisation, which I describe as continuing delivery of excellence with an awareness that people are my best asset. Then, it’s about leading from the front, providing facetime – which I prioritise over other forms of communication – where appropriate, encouraging my directors to engage me in challenges early, remaining adaptable, re-evaluating priorities and right-sizing resources as required.” Boardroom observations Naomi has extensive board experience both in her capacity as a senior executive and in various non-executive director roles. Based on her experience, there are a number of items which she views as key to enabling board success. “First, increased globalisation means successful boards must fully comprehend evolving trends and challenges within their organisation’s ecosystem. This includes global political, regulatory and industry-focused issues. The board’s strategic goals should reflect these and, of course, a flexible approach to re-evaluating these goals must be maintained at all times. “Second, it’s now imperative that boards are structured to capitalise on the augmented value created by ensuring appropriate diversity within its membership. And third, a board’s ability to manage the overall communications challenge is vital. It needs to be timely, effective, honest and balanced,” adds Naomi. “We operate in a world of open, frequent, complex and often unintended communication. While we have always understood this as it applies to our personal lives, it’s imperative that we apply this principle to our corporate lives.” Naomi Holland FCA is the International Treasurer for Intel Corporation. This article was originally published in Vision, the e-zine for members in business. Download your copy now.

Feb 19, 2018
Personal Impact

Soft-ex CEO, Ian Sparling FCA, explains his proactive approach to innovation as a non-tech guy leading a tech company. Innovation looms large in Ian Sparling’s lexicon. The Soft-ex CEO is a firm believer in the absolute need for constant innovation not just for a company’s success, but for its very survival. “I look at who our competitors were 10 years ago and I can’t see any of them now. They have either died, morphed into something else or were acquired,” he says. 10 years ago, Soft-ex was predominantly selling on-premises software applications to customers. “Now, over 75% of our revenue is from software as a service (SaaS) and we are selling directly to telcos rather than selling enterprise solutions through channel partners,” adds Sparling. “We now have a completely different business model and if we had stuck to the original model, we would be dead.” Closer to the coalface Sparling took a traditional route to Chartered Accountancy, qualifying with a B.Comm from University College Dublin in 1987. He followed that with the UCD Diploma in Professional Accounting before training and qualifying with PwC in Dublin and Hong Kong. On his return to Ireland in 1993, Sparling joined the Tony O’Reilly-led Fitzwilton Group as Group Financial Controller. “It was a very exciting and high profile place to be,” he recalls. “As a Plc it had an annual turnover of €1 billion, was heavily focused on M&A and I was fortunate to have worked at Group level in the midst of the action.” Having spent his entire career to that point either in practice or at corporate headquarters level, Sparling felt the need to get closer to the coalface and gain a different and more direct type of business experience. “The opportunity in Soft-ex came up and I really liked it. I had no idea about, or experience of, the software business and this was a great place to start learning about it.” Crisis management That was 2001 and three international venture capital investors had just come on board. The company had offices in seven countries and was “quite buzzy at the time”, as Sparling recalls. “Then a whole range of things went wrong in the business, as they did for a whole range of businesses in the early 2000s. It became a massive rebuild and restructuring job. It took us until 2006 to stabilise the business.” That was the year when Sparling became CEO, having joined as CFO in 2003. He describes the dozen years since as a “rollercoaster of innovation. I refer to innovation in its broadest definition – a software company might see it as technological, but I don’t. I see it as taking a holistic view of the whole business.” “My grandfather used to say: ‘to live is to change, to live long is to change often’. As a small, internationally-trading company that builds sophisticated and complex software platforms for telcos, we need to constantly innovate across all aspects of our business. If you fail to innovate and differentiate you will, over time, wither away.” Sources of inspiration That innovation has manifested itself both in the evolution of the business and in the solution set itself. “We look at what our customers want,” says Sparling. “But we have to be mindful that they can lead you in the wrong direction. “We continually look at what our competitors are doing, both near-side and those outside our broad industry sector, and we marry this with our own market vision,” he adds. “We adopt the overlap as the baseline for our strategic planning. But we have to be careful because a small company, with limited resources, can’t afford to get it wrong too often.” In 2014, Sparling sold the business to a US group and this has presented a range of potential opportunities to further grow and develop.  “While our focus for growth is very much on the US market, we are also constrained by the specialised nature of our offering and the narrow global addressable market, i.e. telcos. As a result we are now integrating our solution set with our parent company’s portfolio offering in a bid to open opportunities within the large enterprise space. It’s a somewhat risky and an unproven model but if we get it right, we will substantially change the profile of our revenue model.” The lack of growth by acquisition has frustrated Sparling, and this continues to be on his agenda, “I’m optimistic that within the next 18 months, there will be progress on this front,” he concludes. Ian Sparkling FCA is the CEO of Soft-ex. This article was originally published in Vision, the e-zine for members in business. Download your copy now.

Feb 19, 2018
News

We live in a digital age and our methods of communication are constantly evolving. However, this doesn’t mean that good writing skills are no longer necessary. High standards of writing, including grammar and etiquette, are as important as ever. Whether it’s a quick email or a formal business letter, paying attention to your written communication can pay dividends in the business world. It is important to remember that the people you are communicating with will form an opinion of you from your writing. If your writing style is sloppy and unfocused, they may assume that your thinking is the same. If you fail to convince them that you care about what you’re saying, they won’t care either. Here are a few tips on how to communicate your message clearly and effectively: Know your audience: before you start writing, ask yourself why you are sending this communication and who you are sending it to. This will guide you both in what you say and how you say it. Be clear about what you're communicating: state the issue you're addressing clearly and what action you want the recipient to take. Adopt a professional and pleasant tone; don't undermine your efforts by using a hostile or inappropriate voice. Avoid using negative language and, if you're sending an email, be sure to use a clear, direct subject line. Get to the point quickly: most people are under time pressure and don’t have the spare time to read long communications. With long texts, emails and memos, there is a danger that the recipient will lose focus, skim the communication and fail to respond. Look professional: always use a professional email address (firstname.surname@company.com or similar), so the recipient knows exactly who the email is from. Beware of using email addresses that include nicknames that would be inappropriate in a professional setting. That college email address may have seemed fun at the time, but isn’t going to go down well in a professional environment. Using active verbs: passive verbs can make your writing laborious. Instead of saying “The meeting was organised by myself”, say “I organised the meeting”. Using basic sentence structure featuring a subject, verb and object allows the recipient to read and comprehend quickly. Keep it short: use short, declarative sentences and never use a long word (or words) when a short one will do. For instance, there is no need to write the phrase "as a consequence of" when a simple "because" works just as well.   Avoid using too much jargon: using plain language is much more appealing and allows you to express yourself more clearly. So, less of “blue sky thinking” or “touching base offline” corporate speak; stick to using straightforward language.  Text abbreviations are best avoided: while it’s fine to use LOL and BTW in personal communications, it’s never appropriate to use them in a professional context. As well as appearing unprofessional, the recipient may get confused by them, which can detract from the reason for writing. Similarly, emoticons/emojis should not be used either. Sending a smiley face to a client can appear immature and won’t reflect well on you. Proof-read: always read over what you’ve written and be ruthless about self-editing. If you don’t need a word, cut it. Think twice before hitting ‘reply all’: no one wants to read emails from a dozen people that have nothing to do with them. Ask yourself whether all the recipients need to receive the email and edit as appropriate. Be cautious with humour: humour can easily get lost in translation without the right tone, verbal delivery or context. Jokes should be avoided in professional exchanges unless you know the recipient very well (and they know you). What you think is funny may not seem as funny to someone else, and your delivery is open to interpretation. Assume that others will see what you write: don’t include anything in your communications that could impact negatively on you. A throwaway comment about a boss or a client may be just that, but they may not find it as humorous. Finally, while we live in a fast-moving digital age, don’t underestimate the importance of a well-written letter or note. The traditional business letter, hand-written and presented on company letterhead or good quality paper, will always create a positive impression, and that’s good business. Orla Brosnan is the CEO of Etiquette School of Ireland.

Feb 19, 2018
News

While some critics may say that Dublin office space is in oversupply, Marie Hunt, head of research for CBRE, says this cycle's mantra is ‘commit and we will build it’ rather than ‘if you build it, they will come’. Despite the volume of office construction that is underway in Dublin and the amount of grey space coming available as office occupiers move to new premises, prime office accommodation will continue to be scarce in the capital during 2018. This, in turn, will see some occupiers committing to schemes that are still in the process of being constructed, particularly those that are nearing completion.  CBRE manage a very comprehensive database tracking every office scheme in the planning process by stage of construction. Our research shows that just over 200,000m2 of new office stock was delivered in Dublin last year and more than 80% of that was fully let by year end. This was in a year when more than 331,000m2 of office lettings occurred in the capital. While there is potentially more than 240,000m2 due for delivery in 2018, almost 40% of this stock is already pre-let with negotiations ongoing on the remainder. This looks sensible.  When commentators, such as Denis O’Brien in Davos, are referring to the potential for oversupply in the office sector, I assume they are considering all office schemes that are in the planning process as opposed to those that are under construction.  While many schemes have successfully obtained planning, many of these schemes have yet to secure funding, and with funding for speculative development continuing to prove elusive, there is a significant discrepancy between what is planned and what is already on site. Rather than speculatively building office stock in the hope that occupiers (Brexit-related or not!) will transpire, office development in Dublin is quite controlled. The mantra in this cycle is more akin to ‘commit and we will build it’ as opposed to ‘if you build it, they will come’ which has been the case in previous cycles.  The reality is that many of the cranes that are visible on the Dublin horizon are on a myriad of different public and private projects, not all of which are providing offices. Just because there are 80 cranes visible, does not mean there are 80 office buildings under construction. We expect occupancy by the technology and financial services sectors to dominate again in 2018 with an increasing proportion of Dublin leasing activity likely to occur in the suburbs of the city as occupiers move some functions of their business to more cost-effective locations. As the year progresses, a growing number of Brexit-related mandates are expected to solidify, with occupiers who have been exploring options, now committing to specific buildings. In addition to well-publicised moves that are directly attributable to Brexit, we expect to see a large shadow-Brexit effect with companies who are concerned about future permit and visa requirements in the UK choosing to increase their workforce in other European capitals such as Dublin instead. In a nutshell, I firmly believe that the volume of construction that is currently underway in the Dublin office market is sensible considering the volume of demand that is in evidence, with several large mandates to be fulfilled. (However, this does need to be monitored closely.) The demand pipeline as we enter 2018 is particularly healthy and stable. In addition to accommodating continued foreign direct investment, there are several sizeable expansion requirements to be fulfilled over the course of the next 12 months. Another strong year of take-up activity in the Dublin office market is expected in 2018 although it remains to be seen if last year’s record performance can be replicated. In any event, the continued strength of this sector of the occupier market will continue to copperfasten investor demand for office properties in the Irish market in 2018. Marie Hunt is the executive director and head of research at CBRE.

Feb 19, 2018
News

Eoin O’Shea takes a look at the EU’s stark notices to the private sector for a no-deal Brexit scenario. Since January, the European Commission has published a number of “notice to stakeholders” documents to remind the private sector how Brexit will affect regulated industries in the event of a no-deal, hard Brexit. The EU recognises that “preparing for the withdrawal is not just a matter for EU and national authorities but also for private parties.” The notices, while listing directives and regulations and including a lot of legal language, also contain coherent sentences written in plain English. 20 Notices have been issued already (and are available on the European Commission’s website). The Notices cover diverse areas such as public procurement, financial services, aviation, trademarks, training of seafarers, food, medicines, industrial goods, medical devices, etc. The following represents a snapshot of some of the complications and implications for EU/UK businesses if the regulatory umbilical cord between the UK and EU severed without a usable replacement: In order to stay flying throughout the EU, a UK-licensed air carrier will need to have its principal place of business in the EU. The business must be owned and controlled by EU majorities and airlines will have to move their HQ from the UK to the EU, and will be required to exercise the business’ principal financial functions and operational control. EU countries will no longer be required to recognise the limited liability nature of UK companies throughout the EU. According to a notice on EU company law, UK companies “may not have a legal standing in the EU and shareholders might be personally liable for the debts of the company.” A number of special products – for example, medical devices – will be required to hold EU certificates of conformity in order to be available for sale in the EU. Any certificates awarded by a UK certification authority will need to be transferred to the EU, or reapplied for using a certification body in the EU, so that the products may continue to be sold in the EU post-hard Brexit. Anyone who transports live animals in the EU is required to have an EU transporter authorisation. Transporter authorisation issued by a UK authority will not be recognised in the EU post-hard Brexit. UK transporters will need to reapply for such an authorisation in one of the remaining EU countries and they will also need to apply for new approvals for each of their vehicles. For a drug to be marketed in the EU, it will need to get “marketing authorisation” first. The marketing authorisation holder must be based in and regulated (for certain purposes) by an entity based in the EU. Post-hard Brexit, UK-based drugs manufacturers will need to move their authorisation to an EU entity and amend arrangements so that certain regulatory functions connected to the drugs can be be performed in the EU instead. A broadly similar regime operates in respect of animal feed products. EU-based manufacturers will be unable to count UK-origin components as EU-origin components for the purposes of calculating, overall, whether the final product contains enough EU-origin components to qualify as an EU-product. In other words, if it is not an EU-origin product, it may be unable to benefit for preferential customs treatment when it is exported from the EU. Irish exporters using a lot of UK-origin components in their goods will need to keep watch. Auditors licensed by the UK authorities will be unable to carry out statutory audits in the remaining EU countries – they will need to apply to become “third-country auditors” in an EU member state in order that their audit reports can have legal standing. Other notices from the EU contain stark messages in fields including food law, credit rating agencies, insurance, banking etc. and continues to issue more “Notices to stakeholders” on a regular basis. The above demonstrates two things. First, unravelling the current law to suit the post-Brexit situation will be difficult, and phase two of the Brexit talks will be a complicated and time consuming matter. Second, these notices show that a transitional arrangement is an imperative – both for the UK and the rest of the EU. Eoin O’Shea FCA is a practising barrister, specialising in commercial and tax law.

Feb 19, 2018
News

According to the Central Statistics Office (CSO), preliminary figures for 2017 show that exports totalled €122,139 million, the highest annual total on record. This is an increase of €2,846 million (2%) over 2016. The preliminary trade surplus for 2017 was €45,250 million. The largest increase was in exports of Medical and pharmaceutical products which increased by €5,232 million (+17%) to €35,410 million in 2017 compared with 2016.  Exports of Food and live animals increased by €1,257 million (+12%) to €11,354 million. Imports increase in 2017 Imports in 2017 also grew to a record level, increasing by €2,758 million (4%) to €76,889 million compared with 2016. Imports of chemicals and related products increased by €2,460 million (16%) to €17,423 million in 2017 compared with 2016. Imports of mineral fuels, lubricants and related materials increased by €903 million (24%) to €4,679 million over the same period. However, Imports of other transport equipment, including aircraft decreased by €1,505 million (-9%) to €14,961 million in 2017. Imports of road vehicles also decreased by €265 million (-7%) to €3,511 million. For more information, see the CSO website.

Feb 16, 2018

Is the website not looking right / working right for you? You might need a browser update. Browser support