Member Profile

Pauline Madden ACA works in a fact-paced environment, but always finds time to fundraise for a cause close to her heart. What do you most enjoy about your role? I am the Financial Controller at Valeo Foods and as my role is a very varied one, no two days are the same. I also work with a great bunch of people. What particular aspect of training has stood you in good stead? I trained at PwC and the audit skills I gained there have been invaluable. This, coupled with the experience I gained from working in several industries in finance roles, has given me a very focused commercial outlook. I have also had some excellent mentors throughout my career, who have helped me develop both personally and professionally. Who is your role model, and why? I don’t really have any one role model, but I do admire anyone who leads by example, believes in themselves and overcomes the obstacles that life throws at them. What gives you the greatest sense of satisfaction? Completing the goals I set for myself. One of your goals recently had a charitable motive. Tell us about that. My proudest moments include completing a trek to Mount Everest base camp, a 32-county challenge run in Ireland and the New York Marathon three times. All of this was done to help raise funds for children with a congenital heart defect (CHD). How did you get involved with CHD and ‘Team ANNAtude’? It’s all to do with Annabelle and Abbigael, who are twin daughters of a college friend, Anita O’Donnell, and her partner Mark. The girls were born six weeks premature with Abbigael showing no ill effects and coming home at eight days old. Annabel, however, was born with a CHD called ‘tricuspid atresia’, where the tricuspid valve in the right side of the heart has not formed. This is a potentially fatal heart defect and can only be treated by multiple open-heart surgeries. Annabel spent her first 10 months in the neonatal intensive care unit at New York Presbyterian Hospital and left after having four open heart surgeries. She suffered multiple heart failures, cardiac arrest, addiction to pain medications, intensive care unit delirium, gastrointestinal issues and various developmental delays. Thankfully, Annabel is now a happy five-year-old, going to school with her sister and enjoying life. Almost everyone knows someone born with a CHD, and I’m very proud to be able to raise awareness and funds for such a great cause.

Feb 11, 2019
Communications

Welcome to the February edition of Accountancy Ireland. This is the first edition in 2019, a year which could be momentous in terms of framing a new relationship between Ireland, the UK and the EU. Fittingly, this edition will bring a particular focus on the issue of leadership, a key factor if the changing relationship between these islands is to be managed successfully.  Brexit draws near At the time of writing, the UK and EU appear to be reaching the endgame in terms of withdrawal. There is little evidence that the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, which would avoid a hard Brexit, will be agreed. We can only hope that all will be clear before 29 March. What is certain is that our members, as business leaders and financial advisers, will be at the forefront of dealing with new trading obligations. Preparations As an Institute, we must ensure that our members, their firms and their clients are ready to meet the challenge of Brexit. Be assured that as the specifics unfold, we will offer support, detailed information and resources to help members deal with the new arrangements, whatever they may be. Please note that the Institute, in partnership with ICAEW, has developed a free customs guide, Taking the Lead: Chartered Accountants and Brexit, which is available on our website. The UK Government has also released a partnership pack, which covers information on how to prepare for changes at the UK border in the event of a no-deal Brexit. We are also engaging with the relevant regulatory bodies, the FRC and IAASA, to ensure continued cross-border recognition of members’ qualifications and auditing rights across the island of Ireland after Brexit. Call for delay on VAT Deal or no deal, after the UK leaves the EU, Irish traders will have to pay VAT upfront on imports from the UK. This, in addition to new customs duties, could mean a stark cash flow burden for business.    Given that over €30 billion of goods are exchanged between the two jurisdictions every year, this major change will cause significant upheaval to every business involved in imports. The Consultative Committee of Accountancy Bodies Ireland (CCAB-I) is calling for the introduction of rules to allow Irish traders extra time to pay the VAT due on goods arriving from the UK. The postponed method of accounting for import VAT would mean that Irish importers would not have to pay VAT until several weeks later. Your professional development For many, New Year’s resolutions may have already come and gone, but for Chartered Accountants, personal and professional development remains a constant. Members should be aware that our Professional Development brochures (for both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland) are available to download at our website. This year’s new courses and specialist qualifications are ready to book. We have endeavoured to bring together a varied programme of high-quality content designed to help our members fully develop their career. Barry Dempsey Chief Executive  

Feb 11, 2019
Comment

Populism seems to have taken hold across the world, but can it sustain itself outside of the spread of social media? There has been apparent chaos in so many democratic institutions recently – from the US government shutdown to a dysfunctional Parliament in Westminster to the violent protests of the Gilets Jaunes in France against fuel tax hikes. You could be forgiven for thinking that somewhere along the way, the traditional political parties which usually comprise the backbone of elected governments had stopped listening to their citizens. Instead of the conventional ideologies of left- and right-wing politics, populism seems to have taken hold instead. The core idea of populism is that there is a ruling elite which, in some way, is separated from the concerns of, for want of a better expression, “ordinary people”. It is neither necessarily “left-wing” nor “right wing”, but rather “my wing and not your wing”. It seems to me that this is a barren philosophy with little in it ultimately for anyone other than its most strident adherents. Perhaps of more interest is not the rise of populism, but the circumstances in which it is coming to the fore.  Over the centuries, ruling elites of all types have often been suspicious of any spread of knowledge or better communications among those whom they rule. Scholars distrusted the printing press, clergy showed hostility towards church services being conducted in the vernacular. Government of all types have long cherished the belief that the popular message should be disregarded. But in this era of mass communication, the popular message refuses to be disregarded. Among the consequences is the emergence of populist leadership – Trump in America, Bolsanaro in Brazil, Duerte in the Philippines and so on. In Europe, we have seen the rise of the German AfD, UKIP, Orban in Hungary, the flurry of support for Marine Le Pen in France and the extent to which Italy’s Five Star movement now holds sway. It does not seem to matter that their political messages have little by way of long-term viability.  What remains to be seen is whether the messages of populist thinking, often spread through the convenience of social media, will have the same enduring impact as political thinking developed from the grind of committee meetings, election campaigns and town hall rallies. These require serious effort over an extended period of time by the promoters of the political ideologies and commitment and stamina from those who support them. For example, the US civil rights movement was not born out of a social media hashtag campaign. It has endured since the 1950s and is still of relevance and has much still to achieve. In 70 years’ time, will we be saying the same thing about the Gilets Jaunes? Even if social media can help win over hearts and minds, it may not be sufficiently powerful to retain them. UKIP has already faded out of mainstream politics because it has nothing more to say. The French National Front has rebranded itself as the National Rally. Populism in its current incarnation only survives as long as it can keep communicating effectively.  Yet, there is little sign of any re-evaluation of the liberal, conservative, environmental or socialist values which have long informed the policies of traditional politics as a way to address populism. Unless political parties of every hue reassess the policies they use to attract support and win power, we will all be stuck within a cycle of short-term fixes and protectionism – border fences, trade wars and backstops – until all the populist ideas eventually run out of steam. That reassessment should start by political leaders tuning in to the messages from their own elected representatives, and tuning out the messages from the quangos, the special advisers and the spin doctors. Dr Brian Keegan is Director of Public Policy and Taxation at Chartered Accountants Ireland.

Feb 11, 2019
Comment

The only way to have a successful business is to have a successful product, and investment in change is crucial.  The economy, stupid” was a famous campaign mantra that helped elect Bill Clinton as the US President in 1992. In the business world, this could be stated as, “The product, stupid”. A viable product or service is what dictates the success of a business, not the sophisticated financial management, the ‘who’s who’ board of directors, the prestigious PR, nor even having classy auditors and lawyers. As an aside, but related, HQ flagpoles, unrecognisable sculptures in the lobby, advertisements boasting of industry awards, titled parking spaces for management, sponsoring of unrelated prestige events (such as the chairperson’s hobby like opera, horse racing, or arty stuff) are all signs of trouble to come through lack of direction. It was reported that the directors of Enron, the failed US conglomerate, spent a board meeting discussing the interior colours of a new corporate jet. No product development in any of this. The mantra for business success has never changed, though often unrecognised. Anecdotal evidence from experienced people suggests that a business, even a run-of-the-mill business, should consciously devote specific expenditure equivalent to perhaps 5% of annual sales keeping close to customers and researching the marketplace. This in order to determine quickly and on a continual basis how the product or service can be improved, enhanced or replaced. In other words, spending focused money to stay in business. The business world moves fast; often very fast. There is hardly a product or service that has a life – without significant change – of more than five years. Obsolescence, technological improvement, environmental concerns, regulatory or legislative demands, changes in consumer or industry habits or a new competing or replacement development – all of these elements are moving at a bewildering pace. Unexpected developments or competition can show up almost overnight in some sectors. Fast, international transport and communication means competition from across the world. Much of the change is driven by the application of technology. For example, emails supplanting physical mail, high street retail undermined by e-commerce, cameras made obsolete by smartphones, e-books, internet banking; the list is long. Each change further ripples out to underlying suppliers. For example, printing, previously a very major industry, is a hidden casualty of change. Printed directories, cheque books, paper currency, postage stamps, catalogues, magazines, newspapers, airline tickets, diaries etc. are almost obsolete. Conversely, on the other side, retail e-commerce has generated increased demand for packaging. However, this, too, is an industry pressured to change by environmental concerns on waste and use of plastic. Change can be categorised as evolution or revolution. Evolution is where the underlying product or service is largely constant as to purpose but changes presentation, usage or direction. For example milk is milk, but the end product on the supermarket shelf constantly changes in variety, packaging, food regulatory standards, and so on. Similarly, a truck as simple transport for goods is nevertheless evolving through tracking technology, emission controls, regulatory changes, fuel efficiencies and now electric or hybrid trucks on the horizon. Constant investment in change is always the keynote. Revolution is where an existing product or service is supplanted or seriously threatened by a new development or way of doing business. Even a simple process such as hiring a taxi or delivering restaurant food has been revolutionised, while services such as Airbnb poses a threat to aspects of the hotel industry as well as distorting residential lettings in cities.  ‘Disruption’ has entered the lexicon of business, almost invariably associated with technology. Disruption may be defined as an intrusion, usually unexpected, that impacts on a sector’s way of doing business; or indeed becomes the entire displacement of a product or service. The due diligence when buying or selling a business now keeps a wary eye on vulnerability through disruption. The leading reason for business failure is an inability to anticipate and address change. Foremost in this is the product or service. The renowned accountant, Laurence Crowley, greatly experienced in business failures and reconstructions, told me that signs of imminent failure – through not addressing change – are always there but not recognised in time.  Directors should watch out for flagpoles and sponsored opera as evidence of losing direction. More importantly, as a simple test, ask yourself when was the last time the executive management made a detailed presentation to the directors as to anticipating and planning the future of the business products or services? In today’s world, financial figures alone don’t tell you the story. Des Peelo is author of The Valuation of Businesses and Shares, 2nd edition, published by Chartered Accountants Ireland.

Feb 11, 2019
Comment

They say nothing is more important than your health, and organisations should make their staff’s well-being a top priority in 2019. Something that has risen in priority for both individuals and employers in recent years is the importance of looking after our own and our colleagues’ mental health. I have put that at the top of my agenda for 2019 and it is an area that is particularly close to my heart. Through my voluntary role on the board of local charity, Action Mental Health,  I’ve gained an insight into some of the important aspects of this subject matter. Separating work and leisure time is essential, making sure we have time to relax and correctly manage our workloads will keep us healthy, help us maintain focus and, ultimately, make us more productive. Technology is frequently the “solution” for efficiency in work; communicating with ease, remote working, software tools to up productivity to name a few. However, technology is not without its pitfalls. We now live in a world where it is virtually impossible to switch off from work. We carry work around with us all day, every day in our smart phones and devices. We are in danger of missing out on life experiences if we’re always listening for that ping and hastily catching up on work emails or texts during what should be our down time.  Here are a few work disciplines that I try to keep in mind to help me manage my day. They don’t always work, but they do help me to prioritise. Don’t respond to every email immediately. Balancing what is urgent with what is important saves me a lot of time and stress, and often means my responses are more considered. Ask others for help with tasks. Delegating is something I’ve had to force myself to do, but it has so many benefits.   Put regular meetings with yourself in your diary. You can use this time as you wish. It may be to phone clients, read emails, do research, or write a letter or two. However you use it is up to you, but it will be a very productive period in your week. Network. Getting to know people, the challenges they face, the solutions they employ, the key drivers in another sector, all of these things make us smarter and, I would argue, make life and work more interesting.  Know your strengths. Let someone else do the other tasks! Praise your team. It’s a nice thing to do as well as being the most powerful motivator any employer has at their disposal. While it’s important for staff to be aware of their mental health, it’s even more important that they have their company’s support. What can you do as an employer to help all of your staff stay happy and healthy? Encourage growth. There is likely to be a wealth of talent in your organisation. Don’t be afraid to recognise and encourage it. Be flexible. If people want to adjust the structures around them in terms of how, when or where they work, do your best to let them.   Be caring. Nothing helps grow a company’s most valuable asset more than demonstrating genuine care to every person who makes the company what it is.   Develop your people. When employees see that they are developing personally and the company wants them to become more valuable members of the team, their effectiveness and loyalty will only increase.   Recognise the importance of staff health and well-being. Aim to have a wellness week that will include a series of health checks, events, educational talks and health supports. This offering gives staff the benefit of having online access to a GP and mental health assistance when they or their families need it. Angela Craigan is a Partner with Harbinson Mulholland Accountancy and Business Advisory Firm.

Feb 11, 2019
Comment

Establishing the ODCE as a stand-alone agency has taken some time, but its independence is required and welcome.  On 23 May 2017, the trial in the case of the DPP v Sean FitzPatrick, one of the most complex and largest investigations in the history of the Irish State, ended when Judge John Aylmer directed the acquittal of the defendant on all charges. In that case, Judge Aylmer advised that his decision to direct the jury to acquit the defendant arose out of concerns with the investigative process undertaken by the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE). As a consequence, the Director of Corporate Enforcement made a number of changes to the office to address the issues highlighted by Judge Aylmer. These included adding a team of forensic accountants, a digital forensics specialist and a digital forensics laboratory to the ODCE. In addition, ODCE staff are now provided with specialised training in the Garda Training College to assist them with, among other things, statement taking and preparing files for the Director of Public Prosecution and members of An Garda Siochána are assigned to the ODCE to lead all criminal prosecutions. Notwithstanding the introduction of these positive changes, and in light of the Government’s commitment to further strengthen Ireland’s regulatory framework for the conduct of business and to combat white collar crime, further deliberation was given by the Government as to whether the ODCE could be provided with greater State support to assist it in carrying out its statutory functions.  Establishing the Corporate Enforcement Authority Against this backdrop, in November 2017, the Government published a package of measures to enhance Ireland’s corporate, economic and regulatory framework. One of these measures was to establish the ODCE as an independent agency better equipped to investigate and prosecute increasingly complex breaches of company law. On 4 December 2018, Heather Humphreys T.D., the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, announced that Cabinet had approved the establishment of this agency and further announced that the agency would be called the Corporate Enforcement Authority. On that day, Minister Humphries, in affirming the commitment of Government to supporting Ireland’s enterprise base and preserving its competitiveness, confirmed that she had allocated an additional €1 million to the ODCE in her 2019 budget to support the establishment of the ODCE as a stand-alone agency. Legislation is needed to effect this change and Government proposes to achieve this through enactment of the Companies (Corporate Enforcement Authority) Bill 2018.  The General Scheme of this Bill has been published. It proposes to give the Corporate Enforcement Authority the same functions and powers that the Director of Corporate Enforcement has but, in addition, to add flexibility so that it can structure itself to meet the demands of its extensive remit and appoint its own staff so as to preserve its independence. The Scheme also proposes to give the Corporate Enforcement Authority new investigative tools, most notably new search and entry powers to enhance the Authority’s ability to gather evidence that is held electronically. The existing regime The ODCE was established on foot of a recommendation from the 1998 Report of the Working Group on Company Law Compliance and Enforcement. At that time, the principal matter of non-compliance that was required to be addressed was a culture of failures by companies and their officers to meet their obligations in respect of the filing of annual returns. The fact that 90% of companies are now compliant with filing their annual returns on time is clear evidence that the ODCE has succeeded in addressing the defaults. While the Director is expressed to be independent in the performance or their functions, they are politically accountable which is evidenced by the fact that they are a civil servant, they can be removed by the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation at any time (albeit for stated reasons) and required to submit annual reports to the Minister. The welcome changes We now live in a time when, not only is there a greater awareness of the need to prosecute serious company law breaches but the nature of those breaches is becoming more complex. Therefore, our corporate watchdog needs to be equipped to deal with the challenges in encouraging greater compliance with company law and to thoroughly investigate suspected breaches of that law.  The Government’s commitment to the establishment of the Corporate Enforcement Authority and to ensuring that it will operate in line with international best practice must, therefore, be welcomed.   Claire Lord is a Corporate Partner and Head of Governance and Compliance at Mason Hayes & Curran.

Feb 11, 2019