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Despite external uncertainties, 57% of Irish CEOs are positive about the growth prospects for Ireland's economy in the year ahead. However, 25% felt unfavourable about the prospects for the Irish economy, up from 17% in 2017. When it comes to their own businesses, they are more confident: 84% anticipate revenue growth in the year ahead, of which 35% expect ‘strong growth’. This level of ‘strong growth’ is at its highest in the 13-year history of the survey. 63% expect to increase headcount, up from 49% two years ago, while 96% of multinational CEOs based in Ireland surveyed stated that they will increase or maintain their investment in Ireland, up from 91% in 2017. These are some of the key findings from PwC's 2019 Irish CEO survey. Faced with new realities, the survey highlights that Irish business leaders, like their global counterparts, are focusing on the areas under their control to drive growth. For example, organic growth (70%) is the premier driver of growth, followed by the development of new products or services (58%) and operational efficiencies (54%). Just 16% of Irish respondents stated that they plan to collaborate with entrepreneurs or start-ups (versus 32% globally) and just one in five will seek a new merger or acquisition (against 37% globally). Similarly, when it comes to the threats holding back growth, the top challenges are key business issues rather than economic or policy issues outside the control of the business leaders. For example, the availability of key skills (84%) and cyber threats (79%) are the top concerns, even surpassing geopolitical risks (76%) and uncertain economic growth (67%). Irish CEOs are also more concerned about real estate costs, inadequate basic infrastructure and the future of the eurozone than their global counterparts. Speaking at the launch of the survey, Feargal O’Rourke, Managing Partner at PwC Ireland, said: "Despite a dampening mood on the future outlook for our economy compared to two years ago, the survey shows that many Irish CEOs are cautiously optimistic about the future growth potential for their businesses. They continue to focus on having sustainable growth strategies to ensure they remain fit for growth while managing the downside risks." He added: "The survey highlights that the skills challenge is at an all-time high in the history of the survey. Having a pipeline of relevant skills for a digital world is one of the greatest priorities for businesses. Businesses also need to think beyond today to fully grasp the opportunities that emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence, can deliver. "Clearly, as reflected in the high concerns about geopolitical risks, Brexit is a key disruptor. With the ongoing developments in the UK, businesses still lack clarity on Brexit and the risk of a disorderly exit on 29 March has increased. Irish businesses need to intensify their no-deal contingency planning." Source: PwC Ireland 18/02/2019

Feb 19, 2019
News

The European Commission has stepped up its 'no-deal' outreach to EU businesses in the area of customs and indirect taxation such as VAT, given the risk that the United Kingdom may leave the EU on 30 March this year without a deal. The outreach campaign is part of the Commission's ongoing efforts to prepare for the UK's exit of the European Union without a deal, in line with the European Council (Article 50) conclusions of December 2018, calling for intensified preparedness work for all scenarios. This campaign should help to inform businesses that want to continue trading with the UK after 30 March on what they need to do to ensure as smooth a transition as possible. Preparing for the UK becoming a non-EU country is of paramount importance if significant disruption for EU business is to be avoided. Pierre Moscovici, Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation and Customs, said: "With the risk of a no-deal Brexit increasing as we get closer to March 29, the European Commission and national customs authorities are working hard to be ready to introduce checks and controls on goods flowing between the EU and the UK. This is key to protecting our consumers and our internal market. A lot depends on the ability of businesses trading with the UK to get up to speed with the customs rules that will apply on day one in case of no deal. There is no time to lose and we are here to help with the information campaign." Last week's launch aims to raise awareness among the EU's business community, especially SMEs. In order to prepare for a 'no-deal' scenario and to continue trading with the UK, these businesses should: Assess whether they have the necessary technical and human capacity to deal with customs procedures and rules (e.g. on 'preferential rules of origin'); Consider obtaining various customs authorisations and registrations in order to facilitate their trading activity if the UK is part of their supply chain; and Get in touch with their national customs authority to see what other steps can be taken to prepare. A range of material has been made available to businesses, including a simple five-step checklist, providing an overview of the steps that need to be taken. The campaign material is available in all EU languages. While the overall impact of a 'no-deal' scenario cannot be mitigated, this campaign should complement national efforts to inform EU businesses and help to reach out to affected businesses in the EU27 member states. Preparatory work, supported by the Commission, is also underway in member states to ensure that national customs infrastructure and logistics are ready to deal with a no-deal scenario. Source: European Commission 18/02/2019

Feb 19, 2019
News

The digital revolution is transforming economies, business models and the lives of all citizens. It is dramatically impacting every aspect of economies, including the tax base and governments' ability to raise revenues. Addressing the tax challenges posed by the digital economy is a global tax policy priority, and of great importance for the global accountancy profession. IFAC CEO, Kevin Dancey, recently published an article outlining three imperatives for taxing the digital economy, in which he stresses the need for global collaboration on policy development and a focus on developing tax policy which enhances trust in tax systems. The full article can be accessed here. To address the challenges posed by the digital economy, the OECD has published a public consultation on the topic, which will be open for comment until Friday 1 March 2019. The OECD proposals go beyond a focus on strictly digital companies and are likely to have practical implications for all businesses with cross-border operations. As such, this work will be widely impactful – and it is moving very quickly. IFAC encourages you to view the OECD consultation and to add your voice to the global conversation by 1 March 2019. Source: The International Federation of Accountants.

Feb 18, 2019
News

It's no longer enough to offer staff healthcare cover when it comes to their wellbeing. Businesses have to step up if they want a happy, healthy and productive workforce. With Ireland reaching almost full employment and your competitors offering tempting opportunities to recruit your staff, it is more important than ever to ensure your company offers more than just a pay cheque at the end of the week. A lot of companies offer health insurance cover and this is a fantastic initiative but companies who have a real culture of wellbeing go well beyond this step. Improved workplace well being can lead to sustained improvements within the office, including increased creativity, improved employee loyalty, higher productivity and better overall customer satisfaction. In light of this information, many employers are now concentrating on workplace wellbeing initiatives. So, how do you promote a culture of wellbeing in the workplace? Culture Committee To ensure you successfully introduce a wellbeing initiative within your workplace, you must ensure there is a well thought out plan in place with a group of people responsible for its succession. To ensure you have the right people behind this, you should advise staff that you are putting together a new committee to solely focus on employee wellbeing and engagement. Ideally, committee membership would be voluntary. The committee should be made up of a minimum of two people at any time. There should be a time-frame on the sitting of any members, such as six months. The committee will be tasked with coming up with new initiatives and organising different activities throughout their term to ensure a culture of wellbeing is being fostered. Information According to the findings by the Nutrition and Health Foundation (NHF), many of Ireland's workers want to become healthier and would like to see their employers playing a role in this. This could be as simple as providing information on general wellness ideas such as group walks after work, charity events like Darkness into Light, nutritional educational talks or articles, or following Operation Transformation. These can be done as team events or you could, where possible, allow some element of this to be included in the employees’ working hours. The key when starting off is to ensure the activity is realistic and achievable. You can always add new and bigger initiatives once you have mastered the smaller, more practical ones. Communication Encourage the committee to meet with employees regularly on a one-to-one basis and have regular group brainstorming sessions. The committee members need to make the other employees feel part of the process by listening to their needs and suggestions. If you feel employees would not be forthcoming with ideas, a good way to access unfiltered information and ideas would be through a staff survey where the results are anonymous. Following the above points will result in creating a real culture that promotes employee wellbeing. Caroline McEnery is the Managing Director of The HR Suite and HR and Employment Law Expert. Caroline is a former member of the Low Pay Commission and is also an adjudicator in the Work Place Relations Commission.

Feb 16, 2019
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Not every cloud storage provider is cut from the same cloth, so there are some things you should consider before putting the business's most valuable asset in their hands – data. Carmel Owens explains. There are several considerations when selecting a cloud storage provider; however, you should always start with the most important question: how important is your data to your business? Product security Data security is paramount, as is an understanding of any compliance obligations. Start with getting a clear understanding of the responsibility of each entity and how the provider meets those responsibilities, including the location of decryption keys, two-factor authentications, role-based access controls, encryption in transit and at rest, as well as platform-level protection such as distributed denial-of-service (DDOS) attack and intrusion detection system/intrusion prevention system (IPS/IDS). Providers should offer monitoring and visibility for all data interactions with cloud storage/backup. Data location should be considered if there are compliance obligations that require data sovereignty. Vendor pedigree The wide array of start-up cloud storage and backup providers on the market helps widen the choice for customers, however, consideration should be given as to the risks of those without a proven pedigree in providing these services. What happens if these companies fail? Does the provider have good customer service, standards and certifications, and can they provide evidence of these? Can the provider offer customer references, white papers, reference architectures, etc.? Does the provider offer migration services and service road maps? Service exit A key driver for adopting the cloud is the agility it offers, but that should extend not only to onboarding but also to exiting the service. Organisations should be wary of the possibility of vendor lock-in and whether the service inhibits the ability to move data to a different location, service or provider. Functional product features Consideration should be given to the functional features that you need, such as: archive; object, block and file storage; file-sharing and synchronisation; file-versioning; simple object access protocol (SOAP) abd representational state transfer (REST); and support for various access requirements (public or private connectivity). To achieve this, a detailed understanding of your requirements is required. The more mature providers out there will be able to assist in assessing your business needs and provide an overview of these functional requirements. Non-functional product features Consideration should be given to the functional features that you need. Having the ability to measure the service you are receiving through a variety of criteria allows you to make informed decisions about the quality of the service, such as availability, scalability, performance, manageability, integration, professional resources and, of course, cost. Technical and architectural expertise The provider needs to be able to implement a solution that meets your environmental and data needs. One major example is having the right solution for your organisation’s volume of data: enterprise-scale backup must account for hundreds of terabytes of data, whereas small- to medium-sized business data volumes are typically below 10TB. Similarly, backing up from multiple sites versus one large site is going to be different. One thing to consider when choosing a provider is designing the network to make sure you have reliable connectivity and bandwidth for backups to be completed successfully within your backup windows. Meet your business and cost requirements The solution should match your business requirements: Is the backup going to be used only for data/file restores or for recovery in the event of a disaster? Does your provider have the expertise to recover your business from that data? What are the recovery time objectives achievable for recovering from that backed up data? Does your business require the ability to restore locally in addition to storing data remotely in the cloud? Can your provider offer the flexibility and scalability of the public cloud for long term data retention? Are you looking for fully managed backups (since you don’t have the skills internally) or for self-service backups?  Carmel Owens is the Ireland Country Manager at Sungard AS.

Feb 16, 2019
News

The traditional role of the CFO is evolving at a rapid pace. If you want to succeed as a CFO going forward, you have to adopt and embrace the technological innovations and changes happening around you, says Xiomara Sanchez. The role of finance is changing. Transactions will be touchless as automation, cognitive and analytics reach deeper into finance operations, self-service will become the norm, and new service-delivery models will emerge with a talent mix of robots and humans. The amplified intelligence leveraged from internal and external data will strengthen the role of the CFO, but only if technology is leveraged to truly optimise it. While the traditional CFO’s role focuses on operational activities of compliance, control, cost reduction and getting the numbers right, many CFOs are now facing the next challenge of evolving finance further as a value-providing function that supplies business insights and drives decision-making support. Digital is leading the transformation of Finance and the CFO is in the driver’s seat. As Deloitte outlined in a recent report, Finance in a digital world, digital presents a multitude of new opportunities that will allow the CFO to explore and utilise larger data sets of information, to process it effectively and efficiently, and leverage it to drive insight and decision-making. New tools New challenges require new tools. Here’s the top seven technologies that can help the CFO deliver on this new role: Process robotics: which enables the automation of transaction processing. ‘Bots’ perform recurring activities more efficiently with less risk of errors while reducing the cost of manual and routine processes. Cognitive computing: advancements in machine learning, natural language generation, and speech recognition have broadened opportunities for automation to reduce costs and improve accuracy on simple and complex transactions. In-memory computing: allows you to access large volumes of consolidated data with increased processing power to enhance the visibility of information through efficient processes. Cloud computing: provides greater flexibility and scalability resulting in shortened close cycles, reduction to reconciliations and data entry through a single platform. Visualisation: the innovative use of interactive technology helps generate user-friendly dashboards, allowing users to explore large, high-density data sets through self-service reporting. Advanced analytics: tackle the crunch questions by sourcing greater volumes of data and performing more rigorous pattern recognition and predictions using data science. Blockchain: a digital distributed ledger where transactions are verified by all participants, securely stored on a network of distributed and connected nodes. This increases transparency and the speed of exchange between entities while reducing the number of intermediaries. The pace of digital is putting new pressures on finance to adapt. Digital disruption is a given, but how do you get started? Smart CFOs are investing in fully robotised and automated transactional processes and controls, the stepping-stones to enable the next big shift. This change will empower the CFO to focus on making the decisions that maximise business and customer impact, while embedding finance as a key business partner who is prepared for the fourth industrial revolution. Xiomara Sanchez is a Senior Manager in Deloitte’s Finance Transformation team.

Feb 16, 2019