CAA-Banner-Colour
Management

Olivia McEvoy outlines the diversity and inclusion issues at play in companies across the island of Ireland. As part of EY’s commitment to building a better working world, the firm conducts an annual survey to benchmark diversity and inclusion activity in organisations across the island of Ireland. The third survey reflects the experience of more than 150 C-suite leaders, human resource directors and diversity and inclusion leads. The respondents were drawn from both indigenous Irish and global organisations of varying sizes across a range of diverse sectors. This article outlines how organisations view and position diversity and inclusion. Smart working It is encouraging to note that appetite for diversity and inclusion remains constant. 100% of businesses say it is vital to business performance, and 82% recognise the impact of diversity of thought on decision and risk excellence. Indeed, there is no shortage of appreciation of the connection with diversity and inclusion and more significant customer and employee engagement, productivity, innovation and creativity, as well as talent acquisition and retention. With 95% of survey respondents aware of the pending Gender Pay Gap legislation, which is scheduled to take effect in 2020, significant numbers (71%) are also embracing a critical means of addressing the gender pay gap: a smart working culture. Smart working is a set of practices that add greater flexibility to work methods through innovative solutions and is measured by the achievement of results regardless of where and how employees perform their work. Flexible location, schedule, hours worked, and shared responsibility are some of the markers of smart working. Some organisations refer to smart working as agile, flexible, new ways of working or modern ways of working. The Gender Pay Gap legislation will also provide welcomed impetus and transparency, albeit 60% of organisations already publicly communicate information about their diversity and inclusion goals and targets. Absence of accountability However, there is still a ‘diversity and inclusion disconnection’ between what organisations are saying and what they are doing in this space. Leadership behaviour is the cornerstone of an inclusive environment and enables a culture of psychological safety, but just over half (53%) take responsibility to call out inappropriate behaviour and language. Leadership accountability is one of the most significant game-changers in achieving meaningful transformation, but a critically low 24% of leaders have diversity and inclusion goals or targets tied to their performance metrics and reward. Measuring the impact of diversity and inclusion on performance is instrumental but a rarity (16%) in organisations. Investment is also inextricably linked to enhanced organisational reputation, decision-making and talent attraction, but a third (31%) of organisations invest nothing and 43% spend less than €25,000. The majority of actual investment is a combination of events (63.8%), networks and network membership fees (52.2% and 40.6% respectively) and sponsorship (30.4%) rather than in the more strategic and systemic changes needed to develop the processes, capability and behaviours required to achieve lasting change. Delivering on diversity With ‘business as usual’ often enough to overwhelm, it is easy to get distracted and presume that if someone else in the organisation is talking about diversity and inclusion, that is enough. Indeed, lots of talk about it leads us to believe that the diversity and inclusion box is being ticked. But box-ticking is not enough. Talking is not enough. We need to adopt a transformational approach that embeds diversity and inclusion as part of our systems, structures and, ultimately, our culture if we want to realise meaningful change; and we must be bold personal agents of that change. As evidenced in the EY Ireland 2019 Diversity & Inclusion Survey report, there is some progress in some areas but regression in others – and certainly nothing like the ‘gear change’ called for in previous years. Rather than make exaggerated claims or aspire to progress, we need to be able to proclaim positive outcomes and actual results and deliver on diversity and inclusion. Everybody in? Olivia McEvoy is Director of Diversity & Inclusion in People Advisory Services at EY Ireland.   EY is launching its fourth annual Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) survey of organisations across the island of Ireland and we would be very grateful for your participation. The survey will remain open until 19 February 19th. Take the survey here: www.surveymonkey.com/r/EYDiversityInclusionSurveyIreland2020

Feb 10, 2020
Ethics and Governance

Barry Robinson explains the obligations placed on private companies arising from the new EU Whistleblower Directive. On 7 October 2019, the EU approved a new Directive on the protection of persons reporting on breaches of European Union Law, also referred to as the Whistleblower Directive. In Ireland, public bodies have had regard to the Protected Disclosures Act 2014, which was amended in June 2018 to incorporate provisions of the EU Protection of Trade Secrets Directive. The current legislation entitles a worker (as defined in the 2014 Act) to report wrongdoing in a public body if there is a reasonable belief of such wrongdoing, and have their identity protected. However, the Whistleblower Directive, which must be adopted into Irish law within two years, will mean that the obligations under the 2014 Act will extend to the private sector as well. The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners’ (ACFE) 2018 Report to the Nations, a global analysis of the costs and effects of occupational fraud, shows that tip-offs or whistleblowing is still the most effective method of detecting occupational fraud, which highlights the importance of this legislation. What will the EU Whistleblower Directive mean for private companies in Ireland? The Directive will make it mandatory for companies with over 50 employees to establish internal reporting channels, both for reporting and follow-up. The Directive allows for companies with between 50 and 249 employees to share resources as regards the receipt of reports and any investigation to be carried out. Who will “reporting persons” be? The 2014 Act currently defines a “worker” who can make a protected disclosure as an employee or a contractor. In the future, under Article 4(1) and 4(2), the Directive will extend the scope of the definition of “reporting persons” to include shareholders, who are not currently included within the 2014 Act. It will also include volunteers and unpaid trainees, and individuals who report on breaches within their knowledge acquired through a work-based relationship, which has since ended. What are the required timeframes for following-up on a disclosure? The Directive will impose timeframes on companies that receive a protected disclosure by creating an obligation to respond to, and follow-up on, the whistleblowers’ reports within three months (with the option to extend this to six months for external channels in duly justified cases). The receipt of a disclosure must be acknowledged within seven days. Will the reporting channels be internal or external? The Directive seeks to encourage disclosures internally in the first instance. The Directive states: “as a principle, therefore, reporting persons should be encouraged to first use internal reporting channels and report to their employer, if such channels are available to them and can reasonably be expected to work”. However, the Directive also allows for external reporting channels. Third parties could be authorised to receive reports of breaches on behalf of legal entities in the private and public sector, provided they offer appropriate guarantees of respect for independence, confidentiality, data protection and secrecy. Such third parties could be external reporting platform providers, external counsel, auditors, trade union representatives or employees’ representatives. Protections against any form of retaliation from employers will be given to persons who report wrongdoing internally and externally. The protections under the Directive will also extend to persons “who make such information available in the public domain, for instance, directly to the public through online platforms or social media, or to the media, elected officials, civil society organisations, trade unions, or professional and business organisations.” Who are “prescribed persons”? The Directive includes provisions in respect of “competent authorities” to whom a disclosure can be made. The Directive states: “in the case of legal entities in the private sector that do not provide for internal reporting channels, reporting persons should be able to report externally to the competent authorities”. Are there any new requirements? The Directive introduces a wide range of new requirements for companies who receive disclosures, which are summarised below: Secure channels for internal reporting. The Directive states that internal reporting shall require “channels for receiving the reports which are designed, established and operated in a secure manner that ensures that the confidentiality of the identity of the reporting person and any third party mentioned in the report is protected, and prevents access thereto by non-authorised staff members”. Dedicated, impartial staff to handle reports. The Directive requires the designation of a neutral person or department competent for following-up on the reports, which may be the same person or department as the one that receives the reports. These dedicated staff members will maintain communication with the reporting person and, where necessary, ask for further information from – and provide feedback to – that reporting person. Diligent follow-up. The Directive requires thorough follow-up and the provision of feedback within three months (which may be extended to six months in duly justified cases). Transfer to another competent authority. The Directive allows for the transfer of a disclosure to another competent authority where the receiving body does not have the competence to deal with the matter. The Directive states that this must happen “within a reasonable time, in a secure manner, and that the reporting person is informed, without delay, of such a transmission”. Reporting the outcome per national law. The Directive states that the receiving body must communicate to the reporting person the result of investigations triggered by the report, in accordance with procedures provided for under national law. Procedures for making a disclosure Article 13 of the Directive sets out the information a competent authority must publish concerning receipts of disclosures. The following information must be published on the competent authority’s website, which must be reviewed and updated every three years: The conditions under which reporting persons qualify for protection; Contact details for the external reporting channels – in particular, the electronic and postal addresses, and the phone numbers for such channels, indicating whether the phone conversations are recorded; Details of how the disclosure will be processed; Details of the timeframes and format for feedback; Details of the confidentiality regime and how personal data will be processed; Details of whether or not a discloser will be held liable for a breach of confidentiality; Remedies and procedures available against retaliation; and Contact details for any other relevant body or information body providing advice to the discloser. Protections against penalisation The 2014 Act makes clear the rights of an individual if an employee is penalised for making a Protected Disclosure. The Directive states: “it should not be possible for employers to rely on individuals’ legal or contractual obligations, such as loyalty clauses in contracts or confidentiality or non-disclosure agreements, so as to preclude reporting, to deny protection or to penalise reporting persons for having reported information on breaches or made a public disclosure providing the information falling within the scope of such clauses and agreements is necessary for revealing the breach. Where those conditions are met, reporting persons should not incur any kind of liability, be it civil, criminal, administrative or employment-related”. Article 20 of the Directive states that reporting persons shall not incur liability of any kind in respect of such a report or public disclosure, provided they had reasonable grounds to believe that the reporting or public disclosure of such information was necessary to reveal a breach under this Directive. What about trade secrets? The 2014 Act was amended in 2018 to incorporate provisions of the EU Provision of Trade Secrets Directive. This required whistleblowers to demonstrate that they acted in “the general public interest” when disclosing commercially sensitive information. The Directive, however, states that where a reporting person can show “reasonable grounds”, they will incur no liability in respect of disclosures including for defamation, breach of copyright, breach of secrecy, breach of data protection rules, disclosure of trade secrets, or for compensation claims based on private, public, or collective labour law. This appears to narrow the burden of proof for reporting persons from acting in the public interest to acting on reasonable grounds. What should companies do? All companies in Ireland should review their obligations under the Whistleblowing Directive and assess their ability to implement internal reporting channels and assign dedicated staff to handle such reports. Companies should undertake planning to identify how reports will be investigated independently, and within the required timeframes of the Directive. While many companies may adopt a “wait and see” approach, companies must act to implement systems and reporting channels per the Directive. Barry Robinson FCA is a Director, Forensic Services, at BDO Ireland.

Feb 10, 2020
Business Law

2019 was unquestionably the year when Ireland entered a new phase of transparency, writes Claire Lord. Companies Front and centre in 2019 was the launch of the Central Register of Beneficial Ownership of Companies and Industrial & Provident Societies, which opened for filings on 29 July. The first filing deadline of 22 November 2019 applied to companies and industrial and provident societies that had been incorporated on or before 22 June 2019. By this deadline, these companies and societies had to file information on their beneficial owners to the central register. Now, every company and industrial and provident society registered in Ireland must file information on their beneficial owners to the central register within five months of becoming incorporated. A beneficial owner is a natural person who ultimately owns or controls the share capital or the voting rights, or has control by any other means. The relevant legislation states that a holding (direct or indirect) of 25% plus one share will be indicative of ownership and control. The information required to be filed to the central register includes name, date of birth, nationality, residential address and PPS number. While companies and societies will be required to submit these details to the central register, the only information available to the public will be a beneficial owner’s name, country of residence, nationality, month and year of birth and nature and extent of ownership and control. Individuals acting on behalf of An Garda Síochána, the Financial Intelligence Unit, the Criminal Assets Bureau, the Revenue Commissioners and other competent authorities will be entitled to access all information submitted to the central register, save for PPS numbers. Trusts Last year, Ireland also transposed into law the requirements under the Fourth Anti-Money Laundering Directive, as amended by the Fifth Anti-Money Laundering Directive (5MLD), concerning the determination of the beneficial ownership of certain types of trusts. These requirements apply to express trusts whose trustees are resident in Ireland, or which are otherwise administered in Ireland. These new requirements oblige trustees of these trusts to create and maintain internal registers of the beneficial ownership of those trusts. A beneficial owner of a trust is a natural person who ultimately owns or controls the trust and/or the natural persons on whose behalf a transaction or activity is conducted. This includes, at least, all of the settlors, the trustees, the protectors (if any), the beneficiaries, or – where the beneficiaries have yet to be determined – the class of persons in whose main interest the trust is set-up or operates, and any other natural person exercising ultimate control over the trust through direct or indirect ownership or by other means. The information required to be maintained on an internal register of the beneficial ownership of a trust includes the name, date of birth, nationality and residential address of each beneficial owner. In addition to obtaining and holding this information, trustees are obliged, on request, to provide the Revenue Commissioners and other competent authorities with access to their internal register. Ireland is required to set-up a central register of beneficial ownership of trusts by 10 March 2020. Partnerships In late 2019, we saw the introduction of regulations that extend the requirement to file financial statements in the Companies Registration Office (CRO) to additional types of partnership. These regulations took effect on 1 January 2020. Before these new regulations took effect, the partnerships that were required to file financial statements in the CRO were partnerships where all of the partners who did not have a limit on their liability were limited companies or their overseas equivalents. The new regulations now require partnerships to file financial statements in the CRO where they are partnerships whose ultimate beneficial owners enjoy the protection of limited liability, including in circumstances where a partner is an unlimited company whose ultimate beneficial owners enjoy the protection of limited liability. Conclusion Much progress was made by legislators during 2019 to bring Ireland in line with the transparency requirements of the EU. While additional compliance requirements can place an initial burden on businesses, regardless of how those businesses are structured, normalising transparency of ownership and ensuring consistent public reporting of financial performance can only strengthen trading and the policing of money laundering.   Claire Lord is a Corporate Partner and Head of Governance and Compliance at Mason Hayes & Curran.

Feb 10, 2020
Tax

Peter Vale and Christopher Crampton outline some expected changes to international taxation in the coming year. 2020 is set to be a busy year for international tax. For Ireland, it’s a key period. While international tax reform to date has been good for the country, the changes being looked at in 2020 pose challenges.   Global tax changes – Pillars One and Two The outcome of meetings in January are key to the OECD’s plans to reach consensus on both the Pillar One and Pillar Two proposals. While the Department of Finance expects the ultimate outcome to be a reduction in Irish corporate tax receipts by up to €2 billion, it’s a very difficult one to call. Pillar One examines a reallocation of profits to market jurisdictions. While this does impact on our corporate tax base, it should not prove fatal on its own. However, recent pronouncements from the US suggest that getting consensus on the Pillar One changes could be difficult. Pillar Two looks at a global minimum effective tax rate and is, perhaps, of more danger to Ireland. A tax rate of 12.5% was suggested by the French Finance Minister in December. While at first glance this would look positive from an Irish perspective, the devil is in the detail.   The most recent OECD draft proposals look at an allocation of profits to individual countries based on a group’s consolidated financial statements. This could provide a distorted result for groups with large intellectual property (IP) migrations to Ireland, in particular, and potentially lead to an effective tax charge significantly lower than 12.5%.  The early months of the year should provide key signals as to the direction of travel on both Pillars, with the outcome critical to the relative attractiveness of our corporate tax regime in the future. We should not rule out the EU taking matters into its own hands, particularly if reaching a consensus looks like being a protracted affair. Transfer pricing Finance Act 2019 saw the introduction of OECD 2017 guidelines into Irish tax legislation. One of the biggest impacts of the guidelines will be more onerous documentation requirements in 2020 for Irish companies, although many will already be maintaining similar documentation on a group-wide basis. At first glance, this might seem to cause disruption for Irish subsidiaries of US multinationals with significant IP in Ireland. While these groups typically have significant substance here, many of the IP functions are carried out outside Ireland; often in the US. Another key change in Finance Act 2019 was the introduction of transfer pricing for Irish small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). While it is expected that the documentation requirements will be more relaxed for SMEs, the extension of transfer pricing will create further administrative requirements on Irish businesses. On the positive side, the extension of transfer pricing to SMEs is subject to Ministerial Order, which we might see later in 2020. Any transfer pricing requirements will apply from that date or later; they should not be retrospective to 1 January 2020. For businesses within the scope of transfer pricing now, more focus from Revenue in 2020 can be expected.   IP migrations 2020 will see the final year of “double Irish” migrations, with 31 December 2020 marking the end for groups with IP currently housed offshore in Irish incorporated non-resident entities. After that date, those entities become regarded as Irish tax resident. While many groups have already moved their IP onshore (much of it to Ireland), a significant number of groups have yet to do so. Hence, we expect many IP migrations to take place in 2020. When an IP migration takes place, the market value of the IP determines the amount of tax allowances available in Ireland. This number is often large, and so we expect to see Revenue examine these IP valuations closely. Interestingly, when these tax allowances expire then, all other things being equal, a significant increase in Ireland’s corporate tax receipts at some point in the future would be expected. However, a lot could happen in the intervening years! Revenue audit focus Aside from the focuses identified above, we don’t expect significant change in the nature of Revenue audit activity in 2020. We expect Revenue’s focus to remain on PAYE and VAT for SMEs, which tend to be the areas of greatest non-compliance.   On the corporation tax side, we have seen Revenue increasingly look for back-up supporting tax losses carried forward, which can prove challenging where the losses were generated some time ago but are being used presently. Businesses should be aware of this when considering document retention policies. Budget 2021 While Budget 2020 has just passed, it’s worth noting that this Budget was based on a more negative outlook than now appears to be materialising. This could mean we finally see more meaningful movement on our high marginal income tax rates later in the year, or possibly a reduction in capital taxes. Of course, a lot can happen between now and then, including a new government, further global tax changes, and six months of known unknowns! And, that’s all without mentioning Brexit. In summary, another year of significant developments on the international tax front looks likely, with the outcome critical for Ireland. Peter Vale FCA is a Tax Partner at Grant Thornton. Christopher Crampton ACA is an Associate Director at Grant Thornton. Brass Tax -- new year, new tax rules by Leontia Doran Since we’re fast approaching a new tax year in the UK (from 6 April 2020), let’s take a look at what is on the horizon for practitioners. IR35 rules From 1 April 2020, the IR35 rules in the public sector are being extended to the private sector with an exemption from the rules only available to “small” businesses. The IR35 legislation is designed to combat avoidance by individuals who are supplying their services to businesses via an intermediary (such as a company) but who would be an employee if the intermediary wasn’t used. Making Tax Digital From 1 April 2020, the UK will join the ranks of France, Italy, Austria, Turkey and Malaysia when it introduces its own digital services tax.  Making Tax Digital (MTD) for VAT continues. Some businesses are now able to apply for an extension to meet the digital links requirement once the one-year soft-landing period ends on either 1 April 2020 or 1 October 2020. However, the criteria to do so is strict, as set out in the updated VAT notice.  Corporation tax The rate of corporation tax is also legislated to fall from 19% to 17% from 1 April 2020. However, the Government has stated that it will remain at 19%. As it’s already on the Statute books, legislation will be needed to reverse this.  And therein lies the rub. The next UK Budget isn’t taking place until 11 March, which means the related Finance Act likely won’t be enacted until several months later. Retrospective legislation is never a good thing. Leontia Doran FCA is UK Taxation Specialist at Chartered Accountants Ireland.

Feb 10, 2020
Tax

As the new UK Government has been formed by the Conservative party with a significant majority, its policies will set the tax agenda for 2020 and the following four years. Claire McGuigan summarises the main proposals. Business taxes In Finance Act 2016, the rate for corporation tax for 2020/21 was set at 17%. As this rate is set in legislation, it is the rate (excluding the UK banking corporation tax surcharge of 8%) that companies must use for their deferred tax calculations. However, during the election campaign, the Conservative party pledged to maintain the rate at 19%. Therefore, once this change is enacted, businesses will need to revisit their deferred tax calculations. The Chancellor is expected to stick to the existing plans to introduce restrictions to payable research and development (R&D) tax credits from April 2020 to reduce the scope for tax avoidance by small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). However, the Conservatives have pledged to increase the value of the R&D expenditure credit (RDEC) for larger companies from 12% to 13% and review the project qualifying criteria to establish if it can be widened to include R&D on cloud computing and data. They also committed to increasing the relief available under the new structures and buildings allowance to 3% a year. Both of these changes are likely to take effect from 1 April 2020. The Conservative party confirmed its commitment to introduce a Digital Services Tax (DST) from April 2020, although it is not clear if there will be enough time to finalise the necessary legislation by then. Also, at the time of writing, the OECD has asked the UK to postpone implementation of this tax to allow for a standard approach to be considered across all countries. During the election campaign, all three main parties promised to review the impact that the IR35/off-payroll labour changes will have on private sector businesses. Given that these changes were longstanding Conservative party policy, it is unlikely that they will be abandoned entirely. However, delaying the changes until 2021 or committing to a ‘post-implementation review’ may feature in the Budget. Similarly, the outcome of the Loan Charge Review is expected. Again, for the Government to abandon this tax enforcement action seems unlikely, but the Chancellor may announce much more flexible payment terms for individuals facing the charge. Finally, for business taxes, the Conservative party manifesto contained a promise not to raise the rate of VAT during the next parliament. Brexit The promise to “get Brexit done” was central to the Conservatives’ election campaign. With a transitional period operating until 1 January 2021, most operational laws and cross-border arrangements will remain in place until that date. During 2020, the new Government will aim to negotiate a post-Brexit trade deal with the EU that will take effect from 1 January 2021. However, some uncertainty will continue: in the election campaign, the Prime Minister promised not to extend the transition period beyond 1 January 2021 so, theoretically, there may still be a ‘no-deal’ Brexit if a trade deal is not agreed. Alternatively, an extension to the transition period may be possible if a post-Brexit deal takes longer to agree. Employer issues Although the Conservative party committed to ending freedom of movement on Brexit day, under the transitional rules, EU citizens would be able to come to the UK to live and work without any formal application process. If those individuals wish to remain in the UK after 31 December 2020, they can apply for “temporary leave to remain” in the UK which, if granted, will allow them to continue living and working in the UK for 36 months from the date it is granted. From 2021 onwards, the Conservatives plan to introduce a points-based immigration system. Despite the national insurance contributions (NIC) changes for individuals, the Conservatives pledged not to increase NIC for employers and, to help small employers, they also plan to increase the NIC employment allowance from £3,000 to £4,000. Employers should prepare for a significant increase in the national minimum wage (NMW) from April 2020. The Conservative party has pledged to increase it in stages to £10.50 over five years – this equates to a 5% increase from April 2020 and each subsequent year of the parliament. Personal taxes During the election campaign, all the main parties proposed changes to capital gains tax, although the Conservative party proposals were the least radical. The Conservative manifesto did pledge to “review and reform” entrepreneurs’ relief (ER). While it is perhaps unlikely that the valuable ER rules will be immediately repealed, there may be some interim changes to the rules announced in the Budget, pending the outcome of a more fundamental review during 2020/21. The Conservatives intend to raise the annual NIC starting threshold for employees to £12,500 over the next parliament, with an immediate increase to £9,500 from April 2020. The rates of NIC will be frozen for the duration of the new parliament. The Prime Minister also made an election commitment not to increase income tax rates during the new parliament. Past political controversy over pension tax relief perhaps influenced politicians not to make specific commitments on the topic during the election campaign. However, because of the impact the annual allowance charge is having on senior NHS clinicians, the Government has already announced temporary measures to ensure that where they take on additional hours, such individuals would not lose out overall. The ‘quick fix’ compensation arrangement announced during the election campaign is unlikely to be sustained for the long-term, and a review of the underlying rule is likely to be announced in the Budget as it can trigger tax charges for many workers in the public sector (and private sector). On tax avoidance, they propose a new package of measures including doubling the maximum prison term to 14 years for individuals convicted of the most serious types of tax fraud and creating a new HMRC Anti-Tax Evasion Unit.   We await the Government’s first budget, scheduled for 11 March 2020, with anticipation. Claire McGuigan is Director, Corporate Tax, at BDO Northern Ireland.

Feb 10, 2020
Careers

Becoming a partner in the firm is often the goal when accountants go into practice, but it’s not a walk in the park. Jackie Banner outlines four key steps on the road to making partner. Making partner is the end goal for many who go into practice. The status, financial compensation, and endorsement of one’s skills and expertise are all obvious draws to progressing to this level. Then there is the opportunity to effectively become a ‘business owner’ with responsibility and influence over how the firm is run. This latter piece sounds simple in theory but requires the right considerations and capabilities to execute.  We can’t gloss over the technical competency that is required to make it to partner. Possessing exceptional domain knowledge in your chosen area of expertise is fundamental to any move upwards. Eagle-eyed attention to detail and a holistic view of the business as a whole are also required to consider yourself technically sound. With a rapidly changing business landscape, the burden of knowledge is significant, and can lead a potential partner to focus too heavily on the technical side alone.  The most common missteps that senior level accountancy professionals make in the race to partner have to do with the investment in their own leadership ability,  relationship management and ability to think like someone who’s running a business or a profit-and-loss account. Here’s how to tackle these key steps to making partner. Invest in your leadership ability Over the last six decades, leadership scholars have conducted more than a thousand studies to determine the definitive characteristics and personality traits of great leaders. Out of all the research, not one unanimous, best practice leadership archetype has emerged. Prevailing opinions on the best leadership styles are replaced as quickly as the latest iPhone. However, there are some common through lines in many of them that you can draw from. Whether it’s Six Sigma, values-led leadership, contingency theory (which in itself says there is no one ideal leadership style), communication methods, humble leadership or any number of other theories and best practices, be sure to establish a combination of leadership qualities that best align with you as a person and as a leader.  Signalling that you have the right level of ambition necessary is also required. This is demonstrated by how you carry yourself, your communication style, and interactions and relationships with colleagues and clients. Combine these with that aforementioned oft-ignored investment in yourself to build your own definitive leadership style.  Vision and strategy The most common piece of feedback we hear from nomination committees or hiring partners about unsuccessful final interviews is that the candidate lacked vision in their pitch. At this level, technical competency is assumed. You will be speaking to peers who are equally, if not more skilled than you. They want a business leader to sit alongside them; someone with a new perspective that can bring energy and excitement that will contribute to business growth.  Presenting a forward-thinking, clear vision that will grow not only your business unit but add to the company is perhaps the most valuable thing you can do to be perceived as someone ready to make partner. In practical terms, that vision should translate to an actionable business plan.  When preparing, think strategically about how you’re going to generate earnings, develop a client pipeline, and hit the figures that justify your being chosen as an equity partner. A partner needs to ascertain what those expected figures are for the firm with which they are interviewing. This means crafting a realistic three-year plan to grow revenues at a level that a partner needs to be commercially viable, which is firm dependent.  Relationship management We all need a sounding board to bounce ideas off of or to go to for advice. Therefore, your network and your professional relationships should be a priority on the road to partner. Partners, no matter what age or level of seniority, should have a mentor.  As Chris Outram discusses in his book, Making Strategy Work, you need ‘co-conspirators’ on whom you rely to give their support when it comes to internal decisions and information-sharing across business units. This extends to stakeholder management both inside and outside your firm.   Putting it all together In an increasingly “what have you done for me lately?” world, contextualising the human side of the job is key. Trust your team to deliver while driving them towards a coherent vision by demonstrating effective leadership and building a sustainable pipeline of business.  Sounds easy when you put it on paper, right? There is no doubt it is a huge challenge to make the leap but having a clear idea of what is required and how it should be presented is the first step on the road to partner.    Top tips on the road to partner 1. Have a plan – Set targets and milestones for yourself to track your progress and professional development. Decide what you want out of your career and then work towards achieving it.    2. Invest in upskilling – Find opportunities to develop your technical and soft skills. Invest in as many areas as are available to you.     3. Specialise your skill set – Practice experience is broad and often provides exposure to a wide range of skills and experience, which is great. However, drill down and become a subject matter expert where possible. Be the go-to person in your network for a particular subspecialty.   4. Be flexible – In any business, targets move, circumstances in your or your clients’ business can change quickly. When unexpected events arise or a strategy or project scope moves, always think of yourself as a support for change and not a barrier.   5. Say “yes” – There will always be an element of a job or a particular client you’d rather steer clear from, but don’t. Always say “yes” when asked to take on something new or different.   6. Define your client portfolio and market opportunity – The more distinct your client portfolio is from your peers or your partners, the more likely you are to become a destination for referrals, hold client relationships, and see significant fee income potential in line with expectations for equity partner level.   7. Find a mentor – Find a peer who you admire and who has made choices you respect. Someone who is willing to be your sounding board and provide advice on how to achieve what you want in your career.  Jackie Banner leads Practice Recruitment for Azon Recruitment Group.

Feb 10, 2020