Articles

Spotlight

Many leaders struggle to adjust and align in knotty situations, but it is possible to lead with clarity in a VUCA world.   We are in a VUCA world: volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. Technologically, economically, politically, environmentally and socially, the sands are shifting beneath our feet. Change is now no longer confined to organisations: it is system wide, interconnected and discontinuous. Wherever we look, leaders are challenged as they struggle to adjust and align to situations of increasing complexity. Navigating in a context such as this requires different skills, attributes and abilities. Through my work as an academic and advisor, I have been fortunate to closely observe and assist organisations facing and managing change in the most extreme environments. From that work, a number of key lessons surface: areas of reflection that will help you and your organisation develop your vision and align to an environment in flux. Mental space The first involves thinking about how you frame your leadership. Leaders are ‘pathfinders’ within organisations. At their best, they articulate a shared vision, understand strategy as a dynamic process, and ‘sense make’ from confusing environments and mixed messages from stakeholders. Having external sounding boards can help leaders untangle conflicting information and allow them perspective amidst frantic activity. An analogy that may be helpful comes from studies of emergency medicine. When a patient is in difficulty, they often have a number of skilled physicians working on them at the same time. But the consultant – the leader – is standing back, often behind and watching. They can’t just look at blood pressure, or respiration, or bleeding – they need to see it all and how it connects. When I work with leaders dealing with extreme volatility, they identify the cultivation of this mental ‘space’ as a way to manage complexity and confusion. Alignment The second is the need to reflect on your organisation and what you think it is currently established to do. This may seem like a strange question but think of it in this context – Harvard academics Heifetz and Linsky have observed that “there is no such thing as a dysfunctional organisation, because every organisation is perfectly aligned to get the results it currently gets”. So, asking what your organisation is actually aligned to do is useful, even if it is sometimes uncomfortable for leaders to identify hidden areas of dysfunction.  Enacted leadership The third is your own conceptualisation of what leadership actually is. We have traditionally tended to see leaders as having some significant attributes that were usually positional (at the top), gender-based (male) and heroic (superhuman). Thankfully, we now recognise that leadership appears at all organisational levels and often looks very different from the stereotype. Recognising enacted leadership when we see it is crucial. Rewarding and protecting those leadership behaviours you want within your organisation is just as vital. Retired US General, Stanley McCrystal, reflects on this in his recent book on iconic leadership. He comments that leaders are just humans surrounded by those who enable and find meaning in their activities. Leadership is all about context and is an organisational process, as well as an individual one. Timing and trust Sometimes timing is everything. One of the things that my research has illustrated is that common guidance on managing change doesn’t work in all contexts. Indeed, when an organisation is under stress, introducing what is often called ‘a sense of urgency’ can be actively unhelpful. Instead, a paced and inductive approach is more useful. I saw this most critically in the newly established Police Service of Northern Ireland, which embarked on radical, rapid change in a highly volatile environment. Ensuring that the organisation had a period to prepare was important, even though it drew criticism at the time. Thinking about how you time and pace big decisions and their implementation allows you to be in a better position for psychological and structural transition to be successful. Leaders often talk about trust and empowerment, but it takes real courage to turn talk into active practice. One leader I spoke to was keen to redistribute authority quite radically down his organisation but admitted that when staff started acting on this and taking decisions, he was momentarily horrified. He realised that he had a choice to make: to roll back into his comfort zone or move ahead and, in doing so, really trust (and back up) staff who were nervous themselves. He chose the latter and reaped the rewards. The ratcheting of risk Resilience is a real buzz word at the moment. We tend to think about it in terms of our own personal ability to recover from setbacks. However, resilience is also an organisational attribute and all leaders need to consider how equipped their organisation and people are to cope with a shock to the system. In my work with leadership teams, I often ask them one question: what three things would need to happen in close succession for your organisation to be in real trouble? When potential threat is conceptualised in this way, it’s much easier (and also scarier) for leaders to see environmental factors that could force them off track or worse, lead to catastrophe. Having identified not just single factors, but the ratcheting of risk, they can then prepare more appropriately. The duty of hope One of the most significant personal challenges for any leader is managing through periods of stress and instability. Continuing to demonstrate positive behaviours in negative environments is difficult to sustain but vital to those who are looking for direction. During the Northern Ireland peace process, senior officials in the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs coined a phrase for periods of difficulty – they saw it as having a ‘duty of hope’. Essentially, this spoke to two aspects of the challenge that faced them: their professional duty and their personal emotional response. As such, it was a powerful and accessible idea to hold on to in the darkest of times. Past and present Shakespeare famously wrote that “the past is prologue” and this is never truer than in an organisation under pressure. Understanding the history and legacy of your organisation will tell you a great deal about why it behaves the way it does. It is possible to identify where the past impacts upon the present just by paying close attention to organisational myths. Think about the stories that your organisation members tell, especially to new people. Who are the heroes in these stories and who are the villains? This will tell you a lot about your culture and assist in managing diverse internal interests and perspectives.  Conclusion Leading in complexity is tough; having time to reflect even when (or especially when) volatility is at its most disruptive is critical. Barack Obama and John McCain were both running for the presidency of the United States of America when the financial crisis hit. McCain suspended his campaign and suggested that the first presidential debate be postponed. Obama refused, commenting that “a president needs to be able to focus on more than one thing, at one time”. It was an inflection point in the campaign and McCain never regained momentum. Obama had hit upon a fundamental truth of managing in extreme turbulence: the need to at least attempt the management of environmental complexity. These lessons – the cultivation of mental space, an awareness of aspects of dysfunction, leadership as a whole organisation process, the timing and sequencing of change implementation, empowerment as an enacted reality, what the past tells you about the present, and personal and organisational resilience – should act as a guide for implementing your vision in challenging times. We are in a VUCA world. Dr Joanne Murphy is a Senior Lecturer and Interim Director at the William J. Clinton Leadership Institute, Queen’s University Management School.

Feb 11, 2019
Spotlight

The apparent ineffectiveness of leadership development programmes is a key concern for organisations worldwide.   $50 billion is spent globally each year on leadership development according to a recent UK Corporate Research Forum (CRF) report entitled Leadership Development – Is It Fit for Purpose? This accounts for almost 40% of the $130 billion which Deloitte estimates is spent annually on global learning and development. US companies alone reportedly spend almost $14 billion annually on leadership development but despite this substantial investment in leadership development, the CRF’s and Deloitte’s latest Global Human Capital Trends reports highlight a growing gap in CEOs’ confidence in the ability of their organisational leadership to build organisations for the future. Executive leadership programmes are therefore being challenged and re-evaluated, particularly in light of more cost-effective and transformative learning technologies now available to organisations. From a business perspective, the obvious questions are: why continue to invest in leadership development? And if we do, is it possible to ensure a return on this investment? At this juncture, it is important to note the difference between leader development, which is directed at an individual level, and leadership development, which is defined as “the expansion of the organisation’s capacity to enact the basic leadership tasks needed for collective work: setting direction, creating alignment, and maintaining commitment”. The philosophy of leadership at UCD Smurfit Executive Development is firmly on the latter, leadership development, based on the view that leadership is a contact sport and requires a more holistic focus. However, the continued level of spend indicates that leadership development programmes remain a priority within organisations. Furthermore, participants’ satisfaction levels with their programmes demonstrate evidence of their positive impact, at least at the individual executive level. The 2017 Financial Times Corporate Learning Pulse Survey reported that 94% of senior executives indicated that undertaking such programmes had improved their business knowledge, competencies and confidence, while 85% acknowledged that the programmes had enhanced their ability to perform more effectively in their roles. So if executives report a positive impact from undertaking leadership programmes, why is this not being leveraged within organisations? If we are to ensure that investment in leadership development yields tangible results, a number of important factors must be addressed at the outset. The re-entry phase is a significant determinant of enhanced performance  The re-entry phase relates to the first 12 months after completing a programme. It is the period when the executive is most likely to demonstrate enhanced performance in terms of actions performed in the executive’s role that result in achieving the organisation’s goals. While enhanced performance is not limited to this period, this re-entry phase is critical because it corresponds with the executive’s return to the organisation as a re-energised, more confident, self-assured individual seeking to make a meaningful contribution beyond her or his role. The likelihood of the executive achieving enhanced performance increases where there is alignment of vision, values and purpose between the executive, those in interconnecting roles, the wider organisation and the environment in which the organisation operates. Successful re-entry is only partly determined by the executive  This is a common misgiving within organisations; particularly where the “fix it” mentality exists and very little regard is given to how the executive will be enabled on her or his return to apply their learnings. It is only common sense that the executive must be enabled to apply her or his learnings on return to the role they occupy. However, it is often the case that significant focus is placed at the outset on the decision to invest in a particular programme, but very little attention is given to how the organisation can support the executive’s return on completion of the programme. Equally, the environment in which the organisation operates plays a key role – particularly in the public sector and civil service – impacting emerging opportunities and, in ideal circumstances, supporting new directions being taken. Alignment of motivations and expectations is crucial  Hidden motivations play a pivotal role in managing the expectations of executives when they complete the programme. This becomes challenging, for example, when the motivations for the programme were unclear at organisation level. Conflicting expectations also occur where little guidance is given to the executive before her or his completion of a programme.  Some organisations, for example, have poor nomination and selection processes, creating resentment for those who are not selected and a sense of confusion for the selected executive who is unsure as to the basis for their selection. At times, organisations fail to communicate adequately during the onboarding phase of the programme – that is, the time in the lead-up to the commencement of the programme. A typical example of this is where an executive may be selected to undertake a leadership development programme as a high-potential employee. If the organisation has not thought clearly about the potential to promote this executive on her or his return, it can lead to immense frustration on the part of the executive and unfortunately, in some cases, a decision to exit the organisation. Pre- and post-programme phases are inextricably linked Successful return to the organisation cannot be disconnected from the pre-entry stage. Therefore, responsibility for this pre-entry stage rests largely with the organisation. The ways in which the programme is conceived, designed, developed and communicated, and the executive selection/nomination process are all key determinants of a successful re-entry phase. Lack of organisational communication in the pre-programme phase with other people working closely with the executive can cause tension on the executive’s return. Where there was a lack of clarity on the executive selection process, feelings of neglect, being forgotten or excluded can emerge at peer level, making it difficult for the executive to be open about their experience. Therefore, the importance of fair process is essential and impacts the level at which the executive can share her or his learnings and insights with peers in particular. Shared understanding of the organisation’s goals is key It may appear obvious that developing leaders requires a change in the habitual way of doing things and putting new thinking into practice within organisations. However, the importance of the role of the organisation in this respect is sometimes underestimated. Where the organisation is culturally open to change and collectively embraces the value of learning, the executive is afforded opportunities beyond her or his role to play a transformative role within the wider organisation. Key to this is that the senior leadership team is invested in the learning opportunity provided by the leadership development programme. Those who work closely with the transformed executive are drawn positively to become part of what he or she aspires to achieve within the organisation’s mission. Positive transformation naturally leads to the search for new purpose  Leadership development programmes play an important role in the transformation process. The transformed executive emerges with an enthusiasm to share her or his learnings in seeking new purpose and meaning beyond themselves. The point at which this opportunity is not provided coincides with frustration on the part of the executive, whose natural inclination is to feel trapped with the desire to become unstuck. This inevitably results in the executive questioning her or his future, which is detrimental to retention of talent. Conclusion Organisations must be mindful of several factors before embarking on a leadership development process. The programme’s starting and end points should not coincide with the actual programme schedule itself; rather, from the design phase right through to facilitating the executive’s return to the organisation and enabling the application of her or his learnings within their teams and the wider structure. Organisations need to understand that the returning executive will have new expectations of what he or she can achieve at a wider organisation level. These expectations have the capacity to play a transformative role within the organisation if the decision-makers are open and have considered this in advance as part of the programme planning. Helen Brophy is a Director at UCD Smurfit Executive Development.

Feb 11, 2019
Spotlight

Despite much public debate, gender inequality persists. It is now time for leaders to make good on their words and act. As a classic armchair tennis fan who engages typically around the grand slam cycle, I couldn’t help but reflect on some of the coverage that followed Andy Murray’s recent emotional announcement of his probable imminent retirement. What was remarkable to me was the almost equal balance between Murray as the ‘tough as teak’ competitor who followed his dream from Dunblane in Scotland to become a multiple grand slam winner and that of Murray as a champion of gender equality. His role in championing female athletes, by forcefully arguing for parity of tennis purses, chiding the authorities at Wimbledon for not playing more women’s matches on centre court and, memorably, for hiring a female coach, Amelie Mauresmo, at the height of his career. Or maybe what is, in fact, remarkable is that such acts or statement of equality appear to be so rare in the sporting arena. The business case In language perhaps more familiar to us as accountants, the business case for gender balance has never been clearer. INSEAD research shows that diverse businesses benefit from higher levels of creativity and innovation, greater customer satisfaction, more informed investment decisions and increased performance. But despite all the talk around gender equality in the workplace, women remain under-represented at all levels of management across all industries. Everyday discrimination continues to be a reality. McKinsey data from 2018 is very stark in this respect. Women have to provide more evidence of their competence than men while having their judgement questioned in their area of expertise. Women are also twice as likely as men to have been mistaken for someone in a more junior position. Being the only woman in the room is still a common experience and, consequently, women are heavily scrutinised and held to higher performance standards. There is no silver bullet that will achieve greater gender diversity. Good intentions are great, but companies must show concrete actions. It is clear from INSEAD’s research that achieving true gender balance requires more than just adding women to your workforce. Companies must increase their total talent pool by actively embracing female return-to-work programmes. Organisations must also acknowledge that there will be varying levels of motivation internally to achieve gender balance. Seeking to engage not just the advocates, but those sitting in the middle is crucial to effective staff engagement. Personal experience All of this might have been something I was vaguely aware of until it became part of my professional life. I am proud of having been part of the diversity and inclusion journey across the Canada Life and Irish Life Groups in Ireland and the UK and, more recently, as part of this Institute’s Diversity & Inclusion Committee. While my initial motivation to step up was probably driven by a personal commitment to ensure a strong leadership voice for LGBTQ+ issues, my learning journey across the wider diversity and inclusion agenda has been profound. We know we are early on our diversity and inclusion journey, but that comes with the advantages of learning from those who are further along the path. Some of the work we are doing in my organisation at a group level include:   The formation of a ‘Women in Leadership Group’ early in 2018 to support and promote existing and aspiring female leaders within the business, running focused development workshops for some of our pipeline of female talent which aims to advance opportunities for women into leadership roles; The overhaul of recruitment policies and practices through a diversity lens; The expansion of maternity and paternity policies to encourage full take-up; and The introduction of unconscious bias training across all management tiers. At board level, diversity is now a key part of the debate related to culture. In my own experience, it drives a much deeper awareness of – and focus on – the people aspect of business strategy. It also drives accountability at executive level; setting targets and measuring progress can be challenging, but it does drive activity. And yet we know we have so much still to do. And sometimes you are pushed into action, as we have seen with legislation across the European Union (EU). In the United Kingdom (UK), the Gender Pay Gap Report was published in April 2018 and momentum has continued around this to address the challenges it highlighted, albeit the data shows the gap only gradually closing between 2012 to 2018 at a national level. Canada Life UK is a signatory to the UK Women in Finance Charter and has committed to having 30% of senior management positions occupied by women by the end of 2020 and 35% of senior management positions occupied by women by the end of 2023. Similar reporting will follow shortly in this country and companies need to prepare for it, but there is an opportunity for some to embrace and lead on the challenge. Turning intentions into reality So, what can leaders do within their own organisations to advance change? Consider some of the actions below: Be a vocal and visible sponsor and advocate for women; Undertake a ‘root and branch’ review of your systems and processes to identify biases; Challenge yourself and your recruitment partners to plan ahead and build a strong pipeline of diverse talent for your business; Invest in the development of your workforce equally with tailored programmes to meet different diverse needs; and Set an objective for senior leaders to keep gender diversity on everyone’s agenda. Good intentions are great, but they are no substitute for on-the-ground activity. As accountants, we are respected voices within our businesses and we have a perspective that can lead or push gender balance as a business priority. With all the momentum around gender diversity, now is the time get off the fence and show your support for this positive wave of change. John McNamara is Managing Director of Canada Life International (Assurance) Ireland and sits on the Institute’s Diversity & Inclusion Committee.

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
Feature Interview

Tadhg Young, State Street’s Global Services Country Manager, reflects on his career, the crisis and his positivity for the future.   When State Street Global Services country manager, Tadhg Young, looks out from the company’s office on Dublin’s Sir John Rogerson’s Quay, he can see the Central Bank headquarters across the river, a growing number of new apartments and commercial developments, and the original IFSC up-river. “We have a growing community here and it’s great to be part of that,” he says. Young has been part of that community for more than two decades, having worked in both Dresdner Bank and Allianz Global Services before joining State Street in 2007. He began his career with PwC in the 1980s and moved into industry to gain wider experience. “I had specialised early and young in tax,” he recalls. “I was just 21 or 22 years of age and I felt that it was too early. I wanted to see what else was out there. I probably took the first job that came up and that was in W&R Jacob, the biscuit manufacturer. I was never going to stay there for long, but I enjoyed it. I left to join Dresdner after just over a year.” After several years with Dresdner and Allianz, he joined IBT Ireland as Head of Trustee, Custody and Middle Office Servicing. That company was acquired by State Street in 2007. “Any person who gets acquired with a company has to go through a period when the new organisation gets to know them,” he notes. “I had the fortunate experience of moving from being a client to a competitor to an employee of State Street within 24 months. We knew each other quite well already so it made the transition quite easy when I joined.” The financial crisis That aspect of the change might have been easy, but the onset of the global financial crisis was about to change everything. “It was a bit different for us here,” he points out. “While almost everyone was preoccupied with the domestic situation, we were preoccupied with the international situation. You learned more than you ever thought you were going to learn. Everything that was tried and trusted had to be questioned – liquidity risk, counter-party risk, everything. All these things we had relied on had to be questioned from the ground up. State Street had a group of risk management experts to manage our way through that, in Ireland and globally. “By 2010, the worst was behind us and we started growing in Ireland again,” he adds. “They were a very intense few years, having to deal with the challenges of the acquisition and the crisis. In hindsight, they were great learning opportunities.” Winning trust Young’s modesty becomes apparent when he is asked to describe his career journey in State Street. “Since 2010, we won a number of significant mandates here in Ireland. I was put in charge of on-boarding one of them, then I got another. I got more and more challenging work to do. I ran a group, then a bigger group, then became COO, then became country manager. It was a question of showing what you are capable of and winning the trust of management and staff.” That matter-of-fact recollection belies the scale of projects he undertook, which included on-boarding the largest exchange traded fund (ETF) platform in Europe at the time. “That was a hugely significant transaction for State Street in Ireland,” he says. “ETFs have different characteristics to other funds. They are traded on the stock market, so the level of precision required for valuations and so on is very high. I got to understand State Street from end-to-end and got exposure to senior management and investment managers.” He quickly shifts the focus back to State Street. “In Ireland, we offer depositary, transfer agency and fund administration services,” he explains. This sees the company hold trillions of dollars worth of assets for clients across the world and value them every day.  “That’s why we have about 2,000 people in Ireland,” he continues. “We do business across every kind of investment product including ETFs, tax transparent funds, hedge funds, alternative funds and so on. Ireland has built an industry here over the past 25 years, which allows investors across the world to invest in products that are domiciled and administered in Ireland but managed globally.” State Street has a 38% share of the global investment funds market here in Ireland. “We service some of the world’s largest and most successful fund managers,” he says. “It’s been very intense and rewarding work. It’s a great way to develop your skills in areas like project management. You also develop inter-personal and technical skills.” But it isn’t all about business. “We have a social purpose as well. A large proportion of our business is servicing people’s retirement savings. That’s very important.” Positive outlook Looking ahead, Tadhg believes State Street is set to continue to grow on the base of the solid platform it has built. “At present, investment funds regulated by the CBI (Central Bank of Ireland) total $2.8 trillion and State Street services over $1.1 trillion of that. I am really convinced that we have the best workforce in the sector in Europe and globally. The team here services complex investment funds as well as anyone on the planet.” He is also positive about Ireland. “It’s fantastic to see how Ireland responded to the crisis,” he says. “I have three children and it’s great to see them grow up in a country with so much to offer compared to the mid-1980s. IBEC has done some fantastic work on projections around housing, education and so on. Social capital is what’s going to drive Ireland and help the country to continue to grow in a reasonable way.” Tadhg is also quite open in his admiration for the Central Bank and the work it is doing. “It goes back to what this business is about – managing other people’s money. That requires regulation. You have to give credit to the Central Bank for developing the sector in the first place. For example, Ireland hosts 54% of the assets held in exchange traded funds across Europe. Internationally, the Central Bank has taken thought leadership positions in many forums and it is widely respected for that. It hasn’t been a passive supervisor. It is very active in the space and is committed to being a forward-thinking regulator. Of course, there will be times when we think regulation might be too constraining but ultimately, these things find equilibrium.” The role of the Central Bank will become even more significant in the wake of Brexit, he believes. “It will be the only English language regulator in Europe. It’s very important to recognise that. The roles that individuals from the CBI have filled in ESMA (European Securities and Markets Authority) and other bodies will also be very important.” On tax, he points out that the 12.5% rate is of secondary importance to the funds industry. “Tax certainty is key,” he contends. “State Street is in Ireland because international investment managers decided to domicile funds here. They didn’t come here for the 12.5% rate; they came here for the ability to passport funds to the EU and globally. We came here to service clients. The investment funds themselves are tax neutral and operate in a tax environment that is clear, transparent and compliant with OECD practice and EU law.” Inclusion and diversity Inclusion and diversity are topics close to Tadhg’s heart and he describes the organisation’s commitment to them as “one of the most attractive parts of working for State Street.” Under the wider banner of global inclusion, State Street offers programmes such as flexible work, which allows five possible options: flexible place (remote working), flex time, compressed schedules, reduced schedules or job-sharing; a global mentoring programme; a wide variety of employee networks and affinity groups; sponsorships of external events and organisations focused on diversity and inclusion; a formal work/life programme to help balance professional life and personal responsibilities; a recognition programme for employees who display best-practice inclusion behaviour; inclusion-focused leadership initiatives, with a 30-member global working group; performance goals focused on inclusion-related behaviour; a Global Employee Engagement Survey; and a ‘Voices of Inclusion’ programme and other opportunities to share feedback. “We don’t want to blow our own trumpet,” he adds. “Lots of companies are doing things. But it’s not about ticking a box. This is something we want to do, not something we think we must do. You have to work really hard at it. It’s a very complex topic. You have to be sensitive about it. If you are well-intentioned and work at it, you will get a better outcome.” Future leaders When asked for his thoughts on leadership, Young’s self-deprecating nature is in evidence once again. “I am not the most self-reflective of people,” he says. “For anyone who wants to be a leader, if you plan things out, you have a better chance of success. You need to grasp opportunities and take an element of risk. Don’t go for perfection; 80% is probably as good as 100% in terms of the information you need to make a decision. Make the decision based on facts, but trust your instincts as well. You also have to explain why you are making decisions; if you have good people, they will come with you. You also have to be self-aware and know what you can’t do.” And he has no concerns about the next generation of leaders in State Street. “I was at a management update with 50 of our vice-presidents recently and I saw five or six people in the room with the ability to do my job in five or six years’ time.” Tadhg Young is Global Services Country Manager at State Street.

Feb 11, 2019
Innovation

Michael J. Walls explains why cyber-security should be a priority for the year ahead. Did you make a New Year’s resolution? I have to admit, I usually don’t bother. As cyber-criminals are utilising increasingly sophisticated techniques, however, digital business owners such as myself need to keep up-to-date with cybersecurity to prevent cyber-criminals hacking sensitive information or falling victim to fraud. Thanks to the advances in cloud computing in recent years, companies and accountancy practices alike have increased their online operations. This comes with many risks and organisations should ensure that robust processes are in place to mitigate the associated risks. There were numerous high-profile cyber-attacks in 2018 involving T-Mobile, Cathay Pacific and MyFitnessPal. These attacks resulted in users’ personal information, including credit card details in some cases, being obtained and exposed to the public. To kick off 2019, I therefore decided to update readers of Accountancy Ireland on the latest cyber-criminal techniques and outline the steps you can take to mitigate the risks to your business. Spear phishing and whaling Chartered Accountants working in a finance function may have encountered an email that appears to be from an organisation’s executive or director requesting a payment. In fact, the email originated from a hacker impersonating the executive or director in question. Hackers have also been spoofing email addresses of employees within organisations to target finance teams with change of bank details requests for payroll purposes. If overlooked, organisations could end up making payments for wages, goods or services to fraudulent bank accounts. So, what should you do? Finance teams should have robust processes and controls in place for change requests relating to bank accounts, and particularly for requests received via email. The simplest and most effective process involves a follow-up call to the supplier or employee in question to verify the change. Should your business fall victim to such a fraud and payment is made to a fraudulent bank account, you should contact your bank immediately to report the transaction and ensure that it is escalated to the bank’s fraud team. This is your best chance of getting the money back, as the bank may be able to freeze the payee’s account before the funds are withdrawn and moved offshore. Credential stuffing In this scenario, log-in credentials obtained from a previously compromised website will be used by hackers in a ‘brute force’ attempt to access a range of other sites or systems. Hackers will automate log-in attempts to various sites using the known log-in credentials and may gain access to your user accounts. If this is a business critical system, the hacker could hold your business to ransom.   So, what should you do? Businesses must ensure that strong password policies that require the use of a unique password for each site or system are in place. To check if your email address has been compromised in a data breach, visit this website:  https://haveibeenpwned.com. If your email address has been subject to a breach, you will see details of the site or sites where your data has been potentially exposed to hackers. If you haven’t already changed your log-in credentials for those sites, you should do so immediately or close the account if it is no longer in use. Invoice fraud Many organisations now send invoices via email but this trend has opened up a whole new field for hackers, who intercept emails containing invoices and change the bank details on the invoice. The invoice is then sent to the customer requesting payment to the new bank account. Customers may then make a payment to the fraudulent account in the false belief that they are paying the invoice correctly. Once the payment has been made, hackers use a money mule (see below) to move the funds offshore. So, what should you do? Ask your customers to verify ‘change of account’ requests by phone or in person, should they ever receive an invoice containing new bank details. Money mules Money mules is a term used to describe innocent victims who have been tricked (or possibly groomed over a long period of time) by fraudsters into laundering stolen or illegal money via their bank account. The money is deposited into the money mule’s account and they must then transfer the money to a foreign account via a financial services company. This is a critical issue for businesses as money mules may become the target of criminal investigation given the fact that they are laundering the proceeds of crime. So, what should you do? As a Chartered Accountant, you should always be mindful of your reporting requirements subject to the relevant anti-money laundering legislation. You should also advise your clients and employees to keep their bank details private unless they are absolutely certain that the details are required for a legitimate purpose. Remain sceptical When it comes to operating a business online and keeping the cyber-criminals at bay, the important thing is to remain sceptical when it comes to emails requesting payment or changes to bank details. Always follow-up with a phone-call and ensure that your customers give you the same courtesy. When it comes to log-in credentials, always have a strong unique password for each service or system you use, especially for business critical systems, and ensure that two-factor authentication is enabled wherever possible.  Top Five Cybersecurity Tips Passwords: It is important to ensure that you have a strong unique password for each online service or system you use. Password managers such as LastPass or 1Password can help generate strong unique passwords and store these in a password vault, so you don’t have to rely on your memory. Two-factor authentication: Nowadays, having a strong password isn’t sufficient to protect sensitive or confidential information, but combining a password with a token that generates a one-time code will provide an extra layer of security. Where a service offers two-factor authentication, this should be enabled. You can then use a SMS text message or Google Authenticator to complete your log-in verification. Lock desktop: Would you leave sensitive documents lying around in the open for anyone to read? Failing to lock the desktop of an unattended laptop or mobile device is a major risk, especially if the device contains sensitive client information. Get in the habit of locking your unattended devices if you want to avoid a potential GDPR breach. Lock the device, or pay the price. Mobile device security: Do you have client information on your mobile device? If so, you should ensure that you have a PIN with more than four digits and that you are able to wipe the device remotely in the event of loss or theft. Privacy screens: If you work in an open plan office with sensitive or client-confidential data, invest in privacy screens to ensure that the data remains confidential. Michael J. Walls is the Founder and CEO of Dappr and the 2018 Young Chartered Star.

Feb 11, 2019
Innovation

How can organisations position themselves to transform a potentially serious business problem into an opportunity? People often ask what white collar crime is, but no single definition of white collar crime exists in Irish law. Indeed, we often hear or see the words “economic crime”, “fraud”, “corporate crime” and “white collar crime” used interchangeably. Taken together, they cover illegal acts committed by an individual or a group of individuals to obtain a financial or professional advantage. Examples include asset misappropriation, bribery and corruption, money laundering, business misconduct fraud, cyber-crime, accounting and tax fraud, false accounting, insider trading, procurement fraud and consumer fraud. Regulatory framework Earlier this year, the Minister for Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan TD, received Cabinet approval for the Criminal Justice (Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing) (Amendment) Bill 2019 in order to comply with Ireland’s obligation to implement the EU Anti-Money Laundering Directive (AMLD) into our legal system before the end of 2019. The Minister stated that it will help with Ireland’s plans to build a “very robust legal framework” to tackle white collar crime, building on other measures recently introduced as part of the Irish Government’s ongoing response to the 2008 financial crisis. These measures included the faster-than-anticipated commencement of the Criminal Justice (Corruption Offences) Act 2018 in July 2018, the publication of a report by the Law Reform Commission in November 2018 on Regulatory Powers and Corporate Offences, and the announcement of the Corporate Enforcement Bill in December 2018. In 2019, we are also likely to see the re-naming of the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) as the Corporate Enforcement Authority and its establishment as an independent statutory agency to investigate increasingly complex breaches of company law. Management beware For readers, perhaps the most significant provision introduced by the Corruption Offences Act was the introduction of criminal liability for corporate bodies and senior management for offences under the Act. A director, manager, secretary or other company officer who consents to the commission of an offence may be guilty of an offence; and the same office holders may also be guilty of an offence if proved that the offence on the part of the company was attributable to any wilful neglect on the office holder’s part. It is worth nothing that it is not necessary for the body corporate to be convicted of the offence in order for the company officer to be prosecuted. Criminal sanctions include, on conviction on indictment, unlimited fines and/or up to 10 years imprisonment. Irish Economic Crime Survey This demonstrates an increased political focus on ensuring that regulatory and enforcement authorities have fit-for-purpose tool-kits at their disposal. And it is easy to understand why. The PwC 2018 Irish Economic Crime Survey found that white collar crime is now a major business issue. Gone are the days when it was viewed as an isolated incident of bad behaviour, a costly nuisance or a mere compliance issue. That’s because the scale and impact of white collar crime has grown so significantly in today’s digitally enabled world. Indeed, managing its threat can now almost be seen as a business in its own right – one that is tech-enabled, innovative, opportunistic and pervasive. Think of it as the biggest competitor you didn’t know you had. So what did the survey tell us? Reported economic crime and fraud in Ireland has increased significantly. Half of Irish respondents in the survey reported that they were victims of economic crime in the last two years, up from one third of respondents in 2016. This rise can be explained not only because more economic crimes are being detected, but also because more fraud and economic crime is happening. The average financial loss suffered by respondents increased from €1.7 million to €3.1 million in the last two years, with 11% of respondents losing in excess of €4 million (3% in 2016). The survey results also indicated that the non-financial costs (reputation, share price, employee morale, as well as business and regulator relationships) are underestimated by Irish companies. Though many organisations still feel that Ireland is not a target for economic crime, these statistics clearly tell another story. It is worrying that nearly one-fifth of Irish respondents admitted to either not knowing how much the economic crime and fraud had cost them, or said the financial loss was immeasurable. Unsurprisingly, cyber-crime has taken over from asset misappropriation as the most prevalent economic crime. In fact, the incidence of cyber-crime (61%) in Ireland was double that experienced by global companies (31%). Within the last two years, over half of Irish respondents have fallen victim to cyber-crime despite an increased level of awareness and more resources being spent on addressing the risks. This is a concern for Ireland’s digital economy and for investors looking at Ireland as a business destination. Role of technology As companies come to view fraud as first and foremost a business problem that could seriously hamper growth, many will continue to make a strategic shift in their approach to technology. Technology opens up major opportunities to tackle fraud more effectively and efficiently, and growing numbers of Irish organisations are using – and finding value in – technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and advanced analytics as part of their efforts to combat and monitor fraud. The first step for any organisation in this strategic shift is to access the end-to-end fraud prevention and detection programme that already exists with a view to increasing automation by utilising emerging technologies. Key activities in this assessment may include: The analysis of key fraud performance metrics and the identification of areas for improvement from a client experience, operational efficiency and risk perspective; The review of documentation, listening to calls and conducting interviews to assess the current fraud programme and to identify opportunities for lower friction, efficiency and risk reduction, including the assessment of policies and procedures; the assessment of technology controls; and performing data analytics and data quality assessments, which utilise a recognised fraud analytics framework; The identification of gaps in the existing fraud prevention and detection processes; The review of emerging technologies (AI, advanced analytics etc.) to ensure they are appropriate to the business and address the identified gaps; and Presenting recommendations to executives/senior management to address the identified gaps. Companies need to ensure that they are business-focused and have a threat-based perspective when assessing and designing the implementation of technology solutions to enhance their fraud prevention and detection controls. Where to from here? It isn’t hard to see how we got here. On the one hand, technology has advanced in leaps and bounds, helping fraudsters become more strategic in their goals and more sophisticated in their methods. On the other, the regulatory regime is becoming far more robust with enforcement intensifying, often in cross-border cooperation. Moreover, in the face of well-publicised corruption and other corporate scandals, public expectations are converging around common standards of transparency and accountability. In this era of unparalleled public scrutiny, today’s organisations face a perfect storm of fraud-related risks – internal, external, regulatory and reputational. Not only has the threat of economic crime intensified in recent years, the rules and expectations of all stakeholders – from regulators and the public to social media and employees – have also changed irrevocably. Today, transparency and adherence to the rule of law are more critical than they have ever been. But our survey indicates that many companies are under-prepared to face fraud and that too few companies are fully aware of the fraud risks they face. Perhaps the value proposition of an up-to-date fraud programme can be hard to quantify, making it sometimes difficult to secure the investments needed. But the opportunity cost – financial, legal, regulatory and reputational – of failing to establish a culture of compliance and transparency is likely to be far greater. So, the important question is not: is your organisation the victim of fraud? Rather, it is: are you aware of how fraud is touching your organisation? Are you fighting it blindfolded, or with eyes wide open? Role of the accounting profession The accounting profession will play a crucial role in this fight against fraud. For professionals in practice, clients will require support in complying with more robust regulatory requirements, embedding anti-fraud operating models, investigating fraud and adopting new analytical tools and technologies in the areas of detection, monitoring and investigation of fraud. Ongoing assurance is also likely to be required to ensure that anti-fraud programmes remain fit for purpose. For those members of our profession in industry, they are likely to be leading or supporting initiatives within their businesses. These initiatives can be expected to include the introduction of appropriate policies and controls, awareness and education programmes, fraud risk assessments and fraud and cyber incident response programmes. They should also involve board-level support and oversight. It will not be a ‘one size fits all’ approach; the complexity and size of a business, and the partners with whom (as well as the locations from which) it conducts its business will influence the approach. In any event, a systematic approach is required, one that removes silos in functions like compliance, ethics, risk management, internal audit, information security and legal; and enables a culture that is more positive, cohesive and resilient. The imperatives are clear: place transparency at the heart of organisations; use it to unite strategy, governance, risk management, information security and compliance; and find yourself better-positioned to transform a potentially serious business problem into an opportunity to emerge stronger and more resilient as an organisation. William O'Brien is a Director in the PwC Forensics team, specialising in forensic technology.

Feb 11, 2019
Ethics and Governance

A new research project has uncovered the extent to which professional accountants are exposed to unethical activity.   The question of ethical or moral awareness of professionals is an important one, given that such awareness opens the door to ethical decision-making. Decisions made by accountants and other professionals are frequently made on a morally blind basis as the decision-maker is not aware that the choice harbours an inherent moral judgement. High standards of integrity are expected of professionals, who are also presumed to apply their specialised knowledge for the public good and to follow a code of ethics. The significance of moral awareness is among the matters that prompted our research into the ethical world of professional accountants in Ireland. In this article, we will discuss the significance and challenges around ethical awareness. We will then describe our research and findings on the subject and conclude with some proposals for optimising ethical awareness, which can subsequently lead to more ethical decisions and actions. What is moral awareness? A morally or ethically aware individual recognises the moral nature of an ethically ambiguous situation, that his/her potential decision or action may conflict with one or more ethical standards or values. An interpretative process by the person to incoming information determines whether they have factored in and recognised the moral values dimension to the dilemma they must address. This is important because moral awareness represents a first step, which ultimately leads to moral action. What leads to ethical awareness? There are various causes of awareness. One is context, the organisational culture in which the individual finds him or herself, with its moral values and reward systems. Another is individual differences. For example, research has found that accountants’ ethical orientation – idealism with a focus on principles, duties, obligations and personal integrity versus relativism, which eschews any absolute moral principles – influences ethical sensitivity in favour of the former. The other factor that promotes ethical awareness is the moral intensity of a given situation. This encompasses the magnitude of consequences from an ethical violation, social consensus on right and wrong, the temporal immediacy of consequences, the probability and proximity of beneficial or especially damaging effects on the public or the victim, and the concentration of effect. Why is moral awareness so difficult to establish? The nature of everyday routine in contemporary business organisations can foster insensitivity to the ethical aspect of decisions. The bureaucratic principle by which modern corporations are organised espouses impersonality in decision-making. It can lead to automaton-like behaviour, devoid of ethical considerations. We have routines of behaviour or scripts to follow in given situations, founded on unquestioned assumptions (for example, a script of how to prepare financial statements so we hardly think about it while doing it). Information inconsistent with the plot of the script may be filtered out (i.e. ethical considerations in the interests of efficiency). Overview of the ethics research Our research was part of a broad project examining ethical awareness, challenges and concerns of professional accountants with a view to creating guiding recommendations in support of ethical practice. Having conducted secondary research as background to steer the primary research, an online survey was completed by 2,137 members of Chartered Accountants Ireland and CPA Ireland in proportion to their membership numbers. This was followed by one-to-one interviews and focus groups to try to understand the thinking behind the survey responses. Online survey In the survey, respondents were asked to evaluate the extent to which they consider the need for ethical conduct in business decisions. Their responses were: 54% stated a “very large extent”; 34% stated a “large extent”; and 12% stated “some or small extent or not at all”. Respondents were asked how frequently, if at all, they observed or encountered particular categories of unethical behaviour (unethical HR practice, undue pressure or influence, dishonesty, bullying and harassment, misrepresentation and/or manipulation of information) in their career. 90% of respondents have “observed or encountered” a range of unethical conduct during their professional career, although this does not mean that they have partaken in such wrongdoing. Rather, it can illustrate circumstances where an individual has clear awareness of what constitutes unethical conduct. Accountants in business generally observe or encounter more unethical conduct than their colleagues in practice. Specifically, accountants in business are twice as likely as accountants in practice to have observed or encountered bullying and harassment. Conversely, 42% of accountants in practice have never observed or encountered bullying/harassment compared with only 23% in business. A partial explanation for this finding may be the fact that almost one third (32%) of respondents within the ‘accountants in practice’ cohort are sole practitioners, 46% of whom have never encountered or observed this behaviour. Further analysis of the online survey shows that at 23%, accountants in business are more likely than accountants in practices with more than 20 partners (11%) to have observed or encountered inappropriate responses to conflicts of interest. An explanation for this difference may be that accountants in practice have a regulatory obligation to formally address conflicts of interests before undertaking audit work with new clients and in reviewing long-standing relationships with existing clients. Accountants in business are more likely to have observed or encountered dishonesty (saying things that are not true). Also, 27% of accountants in practice have never observed or encountered dishonesty, compared with 21% of accountants in business. Again, the explanation may be the greater regulatory oversight over accountants in practice. Accountants in practices with more than 20 partners are one third more likely than accountants in practice generally to have observed or encountered manipulation of information. Such differences may be explained by the fact that accountants in practice, as auditors, are more exposed to clear examples of manipulation – for example, the overstatement of accruals. Furthermore, 32% of accountants in business and 27% of accountants in practice report that they have never encountered or experienced manipulation of information. This phenomenon of never having encountered this type of unethical conduct could be a factor of length of career, given that 51% of respondents’ with five years or less experience report having never experienced or encountered manipulation of information. The survey shows that 32% of accountants in business and 26% of accountants in practice report that they encountered or experienced misrepresentation of information either often or occasionally. Conversely, accountants in business at 29%, and those in practice at 32%, report that they have never encountered this type of misconduct. Again, this could be a factor of length of career as 50% of respondents with five years or less experience report having never experienced or encountered misrepresentation of information. Likewise, accountants in business (43%) are twice as likely as accountants in practice (22%) to have observed or encountered unethical human resources (HR) practice. Of the accountants in practice, 47% have never observed or encountered unethical HR practice, compared with only 23% of accountants in business. Accountants in business are likelier to have observed or encountered unethical HR practice (such as lack of transparency in selection and promotions), since their career and promotional paths may be less formalised or structured when compared with their colleagues in practice.  Interviews and focus groups Focus group participants suggested that there is greater awareness of ethical issues in the accounting profession, perhaps as a reaction to reported high-profile wrongdoing by professional bodies and regulators in the media. However, this is as yet insufficient to guarantee ethical behaviour. One interviewee in practice emphasised that ethics is fundamental, inherently doing the right thing – not just in response to professional regulations. Behaviour should be based on the correct values. This view was echoed in focus groups where there was a belief that behaviour should be based on principles rather than compliance. The concept of culture came up again and again, that ethics needs to be part-and-parcel of the everyday life of an organisation. This is consistent with culture as an antecedent of awareness in the ethics literature. The focus groups stressed that there should be an awareness of the accountant’s obligation to society, especially in larger firms which are involved with public interest entities and many stakeholders. There was general agreement that ethics should be an intrinsic part of organisational culture in both business and practice. In particular, partners in practice have a huge responsibility to do the right thing and lead by example. One interviewee made the point that being a qualified accountant is a very privileged position, as it is difficult to achieve and the examinations are not easy. So, why would you want to jeopardise that with misbehaviour? In similar vein, personal pride and safeguarding one’s own reputation was emphasised in the recently qualified accountants’ focus group. The difference between regulatory compliance and ethics, meaning ‘doing the right thing’, was discussed in focus groups. A particular issue in this regard is tax planning, where participants voiced their unease about highly sophisticated tax avoidance schemes. Accountants in business are more isolated with respect to their professional obligations and ethics than those in practice, where professional duties as an accountant are foremost in their jobs. This is even more apparent in smaller organisations, as larger organisations usually have guidelines or code of ethics. Overall, when questioned in person about the notion of acting in the public interest as part of being a professional, the study participants found it a nebulous concept. When it comes to decision-making, “you act for your client”. The recently qualified accountants we interviewed were of the view that more recently qualified accountants may be more ‘switched on’ about ethics compared to those who have been in the profession longer. They took the view that more experienced professional accountants are more influenced by loyalty and familiarity to the client and this may take precedence in decision-making. They believe that recently qualified accountants are more conscious of accountability for their actions and the consequences of wrongdoing. Enhancing ethical awareness Among the study’s participants, there was a high level of awareness about ethical issues and challenges in business and practice alike. Moreover, conducting this research in itself engaged professional accountants with the essential and relevant subject matter of professional and business ethics. Interview and focus group participants expressed an appetite for more such activity. This suggests that ethics education and training based on real-life issues and dilemmas and in-depth discussions should form a key part of both initial formation and continuing professional development (CPD) of professional accountants to create and advance ethical awareness, embracing principles. Where this is not practical, online discussion groups should be considered. The professional bodies are well-placed to play a significant role in making available such practical supports, training and CPD to their members. Cognisance of moral intensity factors such as magnitude of consequences for society of wrongdoing should form part of the discussion. A more principled ethical orientation of individuals who are relativists can itself be cultivated through such discussions. The challenge for us all is to create more ethically aware organisations. There is an opportunity for professional accountants in business and in practice to take a leadership role in fostering a positive ethical culture in their organisations. Such an approach could produce a virtuous process between culture, awareness and ethical action. Full details of the recent ethics research, which was carried out with the support of Chartered Accountants Ireland Education Trust, is available online from Chartered Accountants Ireland Ethics Resource Centre. To view the report, visit CharteredAccountants.ie/ethics. Dr Eleanor O'Higgins is Adjunct Associate Professor at UCD Smurfit Graduate Business School. Matt Kavanagh is a human resources consultant and part-time lecturer at the Centre for Corporate Governance in UCD.

Feb 11, 2019
Ethics and Governance

While artificial intelligence will certainly play a part, the fundamentals of board management will be familiar.   It is a brisk October morning in 2025 as Julianna, board chair of Oaktree Limited, calls the board meeting to order. Julianna reminds everyone that at 11am precisely, the meeting will commence and Theodore, the artificial intelligence-powered corporate governance assistant, will begin recording the board meeting. The board members are still getting used to the new corporate governance requirement for a virtual assistant to not only record the board meeting, but to analyse the conversation and pick out key debates, challenges and decisions before producing a draft of the meeting for formal signoff at the end of the board meeting. As Julianna looks around the board team, which consists of five women and four men with an average age of 46, she feels very happy about how quickly the two new independent non-executive directors have settled in. It was a pity to lose Padraig and Lucy, but with a new directive stating that all non-executive directors must step down after two three-year terms, she welcomes the new blood coming into the board team. Julianna reminds everyone about the quarterly board evaluation that is due to happen this week and the importance of delivering on the commitment to shareholders of improving the board’s effectiveness and performance score to 90%. Just after 11am, two of the company’s largest shareholders join the live stream of the board meeting and the meeting begins… The board’s responsibility What will the boardroom of the future look like? And what will fundamentally change from today? There is an unprecedented focus globally on boards and how they can evolve to deliver outstanding performance for shareholders and stakeholders. This is to be achieved by embracing the highest levels of ethics and transparency while balancing exceptional levels of challenge, debate and oversight with the board’s capacity to add significant strategic value. From public limited companies to small- and medium-sized enterprises, boards increasingly recognise their responsibility to guide organisations through turbulent waters. Current challenges include significant market disruption stemming from technological and business model change and increasingly unpredictable macroeconomic and geopolitical risks. Progressive board teams are now positioning themselves to thrive in the years ahead with a particular focus on diversity, independence and culture. True diversity in the board team It has been a long and frustrating journey, but we are edging closer to genuine diversity in board teams in terms of gender, age, ethnic background, professional background and thinking styles. The day will come when board chairs will only think of getting the very best talented and diverse board members with a vibrant mix of skillsets, experience and thinking styles. The days of a traditional male-dominated board, selected because of their association to the CEO or board chair, will seem a distant memory. Boards will, as a rule, look for the very best talent to strengthen the team – irrespective of gender, age and professional background. Genuinely independent non-executive directors Shareholders and institutional investors globally are placing a growing emphasis on the number of diverse and highly skilled independent non-executive directors on board teams. Such members bring a mix of deep sector expertise and overall business experience and judgement. Up to now, many boards paid lip service to the critical value that high-calibre independent non-executive directors bring to the table. This has had a negative impact on boards’ performance. Performance culture of board teams Progressive high-performing board teams focus intently on the board’s effectiveness and performance. Utilising the simple principle that if you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it, the best board teams conduct meaningful annual evaluations to ensure that the board – both individually and collectively – is bringing its A-game with every single board member making a valuable contribution. In the UK, large private companies are being encouraged to adopt the public limited company requirement to conduct external board evaluations every three years followed by two internal board evaluations. This trend will likely extend to all serious boards in the years ahead as a means of ensuring that a genuine performance culture is embedded in board teams – irrespective of scale or sector. Shareholders and stakeholders deserve this level of commitment from their board team. Conclusion Shareholders and stakeholders are entrusting their boards with a fundamental responsibility to oversee, protect and enable their organisation to prosper while embracing the highest levels of accountability, ethics and corporate governance. Excellence is not the default position of a board of directors, irrespective of the stature and CVs of board members around the table. Outstanding boards are forged from a high-calibre chair setting the bar very high for board effectiveness and performance; superb and diverse independent non-executive directors bringing outstanding work ethic, challenge, oversight and strategic thinking to the board; a CEO and executive team engaging in an open and accountable manner; and all integrated into a genuine board team with a passionate commitment to excel on behalf of shareholders and stakeholders. The board teams of the future will focus on ensuring that board teams are enabled to excel on behalf of shareholders by delivering outstanding strategic value, embracing best-in-class risk management and adhering to the highest levels of ethical stewardship. Kieran Moynihan is Managing Partner at Board Excellence, which supports boards in Ireland, the UK and mainland Europe.

Dec 03, 2018
Management

Performance reviews are often thought of as an ordeal rather than opportunity. Dr Gerard McMahon outlines the actions to take before, during and after the review to ensure its success. For many people, the performance review process is a pain in the posterior. It is up there with a visit to the dentist in the popularity stakes. However, the wide-scale application of formal performance management or appraisal systems serves to underline an employee’s central role in the pursuit of a wide range of organisational objectives. Though performance management is ultimately an ongoing, every-day process, it normally comes to a head at the periodic review meeting. If approached with due consideration, it can prove to be an uplifting and invaluable experience for all.  Before the meeting Before you step into the meeting, reflect on its purpose. Most want to increase the employee’s motivation levels, to any extent, in the desired direction. Make sure that’s clear for yourself and your employee. It’s worth considering planning a provisional interview structure and strategy to ensure all relevant matters will be dealt with in an appropriate manner.  Set a mutually convenient time – a lot of it – and encourage the employee to prepare for the meeting. It is now common for employees to submit a self-assessment form to their manager prior to the meeting. This practice has considerable merit, as it encourages the employee to reflect on all of the important aspects of their performance and development.  The decision as to what venue to use for such a sensitive meeting is also worth considering. Though the norm is to convene it in the manager’s office, it may be preferable to locate in the employee’s office (if they have one) or to avail of a neutral venue. It helps to ensure that there will be no interruptions, wherever you go. Having agreed the time and venue, the room’s setting or layout should also be prepared. The manner in which a room is laid out conveys certain messages. For example, the manager can choose to avoid placing themselves behind a desk due to its (physical and psychological) ‘barrier’ connotations. You should also avoid sitting at a confrontational angle.  Next, it is important to review the employee’s job description and consider what their job entails in practice. You should also be familiar with the review forms from previous meetings, including the objectives agreed. It will be useful to have concrete examples to support the feedback that you intend to give. When forming an assessment of the employee’s performance, other views may be relevant.  It can also help to check what training/development has or can be provided to the employee.  Finally, the manager should be aware of the objectives of the organisation, department or division objectives for the next period and the potential role of the job-holder. During the meeting Once the meeting commences, it’s important to establish rapport. This entails nothing more complex than breaking the ice with simple questions and quips. After the initial niceties, the review’s objective and proposed agenda can be outlined. The practice of inviting an agenda input gives the employee joint ownership of the process. Of course, the better prepared the manager is, the less likely it is that issues that had not been anticipated will be introduced.  It is advisable to clear the (discreet) note-taking with the employee and to invite them to take notes if they wish.  Start the review by giving appropriate, positive feedback. This is the most important part of the review meeting, so don’t rush it. It is also good to encourage the employee to talk about what positives they think they bring to the role. It is a good idea to get the employee to self-review as much as possible. A good manager should spend up to 85% of the review meeting actively listening, so take your time and don’t be afraid to use silence if and when appropriate. Clarifying and reflecting are also useful techniques for getting the employee to open up and elaborate. It is advisable to avoid arguments and judgement before you’ve heard all of the evidence.  In a similar vein, an effective manager will focus on facts relating to job performance, not personality. This entails reviewing past performance and SMART (i.e. specific, measurable, agreed, realistic and time-bound) objectives, before setting new ones for the coming period.  As with any important meeting, summarise the key points at the end. However, it may prove enlightening to ask the interviewee to summarise first and then to focus on any important omissions. If it hasn’t been done during the meeting, complete the self-assessment form – or make appropriate arrangements with the interviewee for form completion Before closing, the manager should look for feedback on him or herself. Performance management reviews should be a two-way street, and if one is big enough to give feedback, one should be big enough to take it. Conclude the meeting on a positive note. After the meeting The manager and employee should be satisfied that the completed self-assessment review form is a fair and accurate reflection of the meeting. The draft form should be forwarded to the employee for approval, signature or comment on any appropriate revisions. Afterwards, both parties should endeavour to do what they agreed in the meeting and on the form, and make sure to schedule follow-up reviews or agreed actions. Finally, ensure that the employee and other authorised parties secure copies of the signed form or that the designated online computerised facility is appropriately utilised. Dr Gerard McMahon is the Managing Director at Productive Personnel Ltd. Performance review checklist Before Reflect on the meeting’s purpose: to motivate. Agree a mutually convenient time and place. Ask the interviewee to submit the self-assessment form in advance.  Plan a provisional interview structure and strategy.  Check the meeting venue to ensure an appropriate setting and layout.  Ensure that there will be no interruptions. Review the job holder’s job description and consider what the job entails in practice.  Study forms from previous meetings, including the objectives agreed, and look for concrete examples to support your feedback. Others’ views may be relevant.  Check what training or development has and can be provided.  Revisit the department’s objectives and the potential role of the job-holder. During Establish rapport. Confirm the interview’s objective and agree the agenda. Enable note-taking.  Give appropriate, positive feedback and encourage the reviewee to talk about their strengths. Actively listen as you allow the interviewee to self-review and self-prescribe. Take your time and don’t be afraid to use silence when appropriate.  Clarify and reflect to explore key issues. Don’t engage in arguments. Focus on facts relating to job performance, review past performance and SMART (i.e. specific, measurable, agreed, realistic and time-bound) objectives. Set SMART objectives for the coming period.  Ask the interviewee to summarise the meeting and then focus on any important omissions.  Look for feedback on yourself.  After Forward the draft form to the employee for approval and signature. Follow through on what was agreed in the meeting and on the self-assessment review form.  Fill in the diary in regard to follow-up reviews and agreed actions.  Ensure that the interviewee and other authorised parties get copies of the form. 

Dec 03, 2018
Spotlight

As the ‘future of work’ debate continues, leaders can take three practical steps to future-proof their business.   Every week brings new stories about how the world of work is changing. Driven by forces such as advances in technology, global inter-connectedness and growing consumer expectations, new disruptions and innovations are appearing across virtually every business sector at a faster pace than ever before. But surely the world of work has always undergone constant change? Indeed, authors such as Charles Handy have been writing about this ‘new’ world for many years. Haven’t we, as humans, always adapted and continued on our way? The general consensus seems to be that the digitally empowered period we are now moving into, labelled loosely as ‘the future of work’, will undergo as fundamental a transformation as was experienced after the first Industrial Revolution. While robots, automation and millennials continue to grab the headlines, there is a fundamental shift in the very nature and structure of the world of work – a shift that business leaders and policy makers need to address before they get left behind. So what does the ‘future of work’ really mean for those leading organisations today? Making sense of ‘the future of work’ Early adopters point to the need for organisations to be more strategically responsive and adaptable, more organisationally agile and also more comfortable in dealing with constant change. Organisations need to be responsive to fundamental changes in how work can now be delivered and organised, and to the emergence of a new employee and a multi-generational workforce with different (and sometimes not-so-different) expectations regarding work and the workplace. The ability to sense and respond to these challenges will be essential for long-term success. Commonly quoted essentials such as embracing new technology, dealing with continuous change and managing diversity are now accepted as ‘business as usual’ realities rather than anything new. But what should leaders do in the short-term to prepare for this new environment? 1. Set the right strategy Given the wide range of topics, from artificial intelligence and digital technology to gig working and the changing workforce, it can be hard to make sense of the challenges and opportunities at an organisational level. Filtering all the hype from the real and material issues for your own situation is an important first step. To assist in that process, we use a scenario planning tool called SCOPE (Figure 1), which guides leaders through the main considerations specific to them and their business. Different organisational scenarios are tested for the future, from incremental change to major disruption. Standing back to consider key themes – from strategic flexibility to how the organisation’s culture, structure and processes are aligned and the type of workforce it needs for the future – this quick diagnostic helps executives explore the key questions and likely scenarios to help them get a handle on how their business is strategically placed for the future of work. Organisational agility, for example, is a common theme that emerges from any review of strategy in the context of the future of work. Agility is well-established as a critical organisational competency that has helped organisations adapt to complex and rapidly changing business environments. For high-profile cases, just look at what Netflix and Amazon have done with their business models over the last 10 years. The compelling argument is that if business leaders can improve an organisation’s agility and build it into the organisational culture, structure and processes, they will have gone a long way in preparing their organisation for future challenges and opportunities. 2. Evolve your leadership style It may sound obvious, but reflecting on the role and appropriate approach of leaders is also critical in helping the wider organisation thrive in the future of work. Writers such as Lurie and Fisk suggest that the digital economy requires a new kind of leader from before – one who can lead people in a direction that involves an increasingly diverse set of customers, employees and stakeholders. The outlook of digital leaders must also reflect the characteristics of their business environment (i.e. open, fast-paced, connected, non-linear, virtual and technology enabled). These writers and others contend, for example, that organisational leaders must develop agility as a core leadership capability so that they can respond effectively and calmly to the uncertainty and ambiguity of the modern marketplace. As Martin Goldsmith, author of What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, puts it: “Leadership agility is probably the most important competency for leaders to have in today’s rapidly changing world”. But what is an agile leader? Most models of leadership and leadership development today point to a shift in emphasis from traditional ‘command-and-control’ leadership styles to more transformational, ‘servant-based’ and agile leadership approaches.  In their book, Leadership Agility, William Joiner and Stephen Josephs define the natural and progressive development stages of the ‘agile leader’. From the traditional, tactical and problem-solving orientation of the “expert leader” to the more strategic and outcome-oriented “achiever leader” and then the more visionary and facilitative/empowering “catalyst leader”, Joiner and Josephs describe the practical skills of progressively leading in a more agile way. This helps to call out typical leadership development stages through the lens and language of modern agile principles and practices. Self-awareness and clarity of language and behaviour is helpful for any organisation seeking to be more deliberate and mindful in developing such skills and the working culture associated with organisational agility.   These future of work nuances required for leadership today, combined with what we already know about the more age-old and enduring qualities of simply being a good leader of people, will help leaders thrive in the new landscape and will also allow others in their care to do the same. 3. Build your best team  Armed with a sense of the strategic direction required to face the future of work and being aware of the leadership approach required, leaders should also look at who they hire, promote and keep within their future organisation. No leader can succeed alone, so having the right talent at all levels is a critical theme for leaders as their organisations evolve and grow. New business and organisation models challenge many of our assumptions regarding traditional talent strategy and HR management. Many aspects of talent management will themselves require disruption and new thinking. For example, if an organisation is to be re-configured to take advantage of the business and cost benefits of a ‘blended’ mix of suppliers, outsourcing partners, free agents, automation and a core, full-time workforce, it follows that a new work design and workforce planning strategy will be needed to map out the organisation’s short-term and long-term talent needs. Indeed, the management of the non-core workforce will become a highly strategic function and consideration must be given to how the different parts of the organisation will work together to deliver optimum service to the customer. Once the work design and workforce planning aspects are worked through, the rest of the talent life-cycle processes need to kick in and align. For example, recruiting for the right skills also needs to account for likely and possible changes in skills requirements further down the line. Therefore, attracting people with the right attitude and a learning mindset could arguably be as important as their immediate skills. Training and development will need to be continuous and provided through a mix of mobile, online, on-the-job and formal methods that align with changing business needs as well as the different learning styles of a modern workforce on the move. Rewards will be more flexed and individual, with a “consumer standard” employment experience demanded by different generations of employees. Even how we exit employees is changing, with employers seeing their alumni network as a talent pool for the future as well as important social advocates for their organisation when they leave. Meanwhile, the physical (and virtual) workplace is changing to accommodate new ways of engaging staff working and collaboration. Central to this new talent management story is a clear picture of what the organisation’s desired culture must be. There is a risk that some employers will promise the earth to attract sought-after employees only to find that they cannot deliver on their promises as new work models and skill requirements change the employment prospects of employees and their jobs over time. These new talent management realities will present both challenges and opportunities. We therefore need to re-think what we demand from our leaders and front-line managers, and what qualities they need to succeed. These qualities are possibly quite different to what organisations have hired and trained for in the past. Where do we go from here? We may not have all the details about what our organisations will look like tomorrow, but the one thing we can do today is basic scenario planning that considers different prospects for our own organisations ranging from incremental change to radical disruption. We can then set about designing a talent management strategy that puts the right leaders and people in place to deal with the inevitable changes as they continue to emerge and develop. Kevin Empey is Founder of WorkMatters, a consulting firm that helps business leaders prepare for the future of work.

Dec 03, 2018
Spotlight

Why should you care about the future of work? In short, your employability depends on it. There are huge similarities in the approaches being taken to both the future of work and climate change. It’s out there, we know it’s happening; but we are too busy in our daily work to give it sufficient time and thought, thereby limiting our capacity to adapt before it’s too late. Most readers will be familiar with Stephen Covey’s time management quadrant. The future of work is in quadrant two: not urgent, but important. We tend to focus on the urgent to-do list and the reality of meeting deadlines. In this article, I will outline the importance of investing time in your future employability and explain why everyone should care about the future of work. Why should you care? The average life expectancy of a Fortune 500 organisation is just 15 years, so individuals can no longer assume that employment is for life. Business competitors no longer come from within your industry sector; they mostly sprout up and scale at speed to grab huge market share. Airbnb was not started by hoteliers, Uber was not founded within the taxi industry, Netflix was not started within the media industry. This speed of change will catch you unaware if you are busy with your head down. Accountancy firms compete fiercely to hire entry level graduates. However, they will need fewer graduates in the future as an increasing variety of manual tasks become automated. As accountants, you learned your trade as juniors by conducting audits in industry. You got to see and understand how businesses operate in real life. How will graduates get this experience if and when the work is automated? Change is required in the education and integration of accounting graduates into the future world of work. While Ireland is in the midst of an employment boom, we are witnessing the rise of corporate outplacement programmes as finance and accounting roles become automated. These roles, along with administration and middle management, featured consistently in the Harmonics Global Future of Work Study as the top three roles in decline. The work you did in the past is changing rapidly. Almost every organisation is undertaking a lean transformation or robotic process automation project of routine manual-entry tasks to achieve greater scale, speed and cost efficiency. As an example, Revenue’s move to real-time data as part of its PAYE Modernisation programme eliminates the need for the P30, P45 and P60 forms, along with end-of-year returns. Digits on a spreadsheet are easily mapped into software applications, which takes the pain away and simplifies work. PwC recently launched a digital fitness app for employees worldwide to accelerate and upskill the digital knowledge of its people across a range of domains. Digital acumen is now a lifelong endeavour, which needs to be embraced to stay employable. Big data is valuable and business intelligence dashboards offer real-time data on key business metrics. Artificially intelligent machines will provide answers, but our potential in the future of work is in the questions we ask. Think about a calculator – we’ve all used one to do a quick calculation. The next stage was Googling a simple question to get an instant answer. Now, imagine inputting a complex accounting scenario into a computer programme, and back come your options. In this scenario, massive computational power has replaced manual effort. Indeed, computing is increasing in power and reducing in price – in 2023, it is expected that €1,000 will buy you computational power equivalent to that of the human brain. A recent World Economic Forum report estimated that total work tasks in 2018 were 70/30 in favour of humans over machines. This will evolve speedily to 60/40 by 2022. We are not far off equilibrium in terms of the ratio between human and machine tasks in the workplace, and this demands change on our part. Like our organisations, we too have new competitors for our work – smart machines – and we need to learn how to work with them, rather than compete with them, into the future. The smart machines I speak of are software bots that are learning 24/7 and replicating the work we currently do on our computers. The organisational impact The hierarchical organisation chart that once created vertical career ladders in a functional silo no longer makes sense. This is a major challenge for future organisation design. The organisation chart of the future is organic and constantly evolving. Work architecture needs to be broken up like Lego and reconfigured into human and machine pieces. Organisations are neither resourced nor ready for such an eventuality. Like Lego, the work pieces will need be broken down and reconfigured for every new business challenge. This will lead to the demise of rigid functional silos and will require agile and cross-functional networked systems that evolve to meet specific customer needs. What can you do now? You can prepare by letting go of the past – something we, as humans, find very hard to do. We like routine, certainty and security. Accounting roles are transitioning away from day-to-day number crunching to focus more on interpreting data, building financial models aligned to company strategies/initiatives and project-based work with key stakeholders and other departments. I speak about the nine critical human skills needed in my new book, Future Proof Your Career, which will be available soon on Amazon. The future of work will demand lifelong devotion to the development of critical human skills including critical thinking, communication, creativity, consulting, commercial acumen, collaboration and embracing new cultures – all of which will need to be complemented by ever-changing digital skills. It is not only a skillset shift that is required, but a mindset one. If you have a fixed mindset, resist change and are unwilling to upskill, then your job and your future employability is in jeopardy – but this is within your control.  Finally, I invite you to take part in our global future career readiness research project. It is aimed at working professionals to honestly evaluate how future-ready you are. The Future Career Readiness Index is a powerful instrument that allows you to quickly test your future career readiness in five key areas. It takes less than 10 minutes to benchmark yourself against others in your sector and profession. On completion, you will receive a free downloadable Future Career Readiness report to accelerate your future career. You can access the report at www.futurecareerreadiness.com. My parting career advice is this: disrupt yourself before you are disrupted. John Fitzgerald is Managing Director at Harmonics Group and serves on the Board of OI Global Partners.

Dec 03, 2018
Spotlight

Valarie Daunt discusses how the preferences of millennial workers are driving changes in the workplace. When it comes to the attractiveness of a potential employer, the 2018 Deloitte Millennial Survey found that while financial rewards and benefits are the top priority for millennials in Ireland, this is followed by flexibility, a positive organisational structure, opportunities for continuous learning, and well-being programmes and incentives. The changing expectations of our workforces is one of the major forces re-shaping the future nature of work. By 2030, millennials will make up 75% of the workforce. It is therefore time to sit up and take note. So, what trends will we see as a result of these millennial preferences?  From careers to experiences With technological and demographic trends disrupting traditional career paths, organisations need to reconstruct job profiles and career models, and rethink the coaching and development of employees from entry-level staff through to executives. 21st century careers can be viewed as a series of developmental experiences, each offering the opportunity to acquire new skills, perspectives and judgement. In this environment, organisations need to look at alternative ways of upskilling employees to achieve an agile and responsive workforce. Companies leading in this space are finding ways for employees to learn from others as well as providing learning programmes and on-the-job training. Today’s employee seeks responsibility and leadership roles earlier than heretofore, yet many organisations are unprepared for this change. More than one third of Irish respondents to Deloitte’s 2018 Human Capital Trends Survey stated that, in their organisation, career paths generally progress up a traditional hierarchy, with little flexibility to accommodate individual worker interests or desired career paths. More than half (57%) stated that they only occasionally get the opportunity to work on assignments outside their assigned business line or manager and one third stated that their organisations are only somewhat effective at empowering employees to manage their own careers. Given that the wants and needs of today’s workforce are evolving quickly, talent practices need to support employees in developing a suite of adaptable and agile skills that can be deployed across many areas of the organisation. Only 35% of Irish respondents rate their organisations as being ready to build the 21st century career model, despite the fact that 82% rank this as important. Well-being as a strategic priority As the line between work and life blurs, organisations are investing in well-being programmes to drive employee productivity, engagement and retention. However, there is often a significant gap between what companies offer and what employees value and expect. It is no longer enough for organisations to offer traditional benefits and remuneration such as medical assistance programmes and once-a-year reviews. Today, the focus is on providing programmes that not only protect employee health, but actively boost social and emotional well-being. This includes innovative programmes and tools for financial wellness, mental health, healthy diet and exercise, mindfulness, sleep and stress management, as well as changes to culture and leadership behaviours that support these efforts. Expanding well-being programmes to encompass what employees want and value is now essential for organisations to treat their people responsibly – as well as to boost their social capital and project an attractive employer brand. The Human Capital Trends Survey shows that 50% of Irish organisations rate themselves as “ready” or “very ready” to offer holistic well-being programmes while 37% of Irish respondents state that their organisation offers well-being programmes beyond the traditional offerings. From front-line staff right up to executive leadership, there is a consensus that these programmes promote employee productivity and support employee retention. If an organisation wants to keep its most promising talent, it needs to give employees a reason to stay. The hyper-connected workplace Millennials’ preference for a positive organisational structure is interesting, and is no doubt connected to the fact that there are massive changes underway in how we connect. Social media and collaborative communications tools are transforming the world of work. Today, instant messaging tools such as Slack and Trello, which can be tailored for a project team’s use, have introduced new ways of working. They allow ideas to be bounced off colleagues on a regular basis, without having to wait for scheduled team meetings. They can also provide exposure to leaders and experts, which we know appeals to the millennial cohort. In Ireland, as elsewhere, these new technologies and tools are changing how we communicate at work. 68% of Irish respondents to the Human Capital Trends Survey said this is having a positive impact on productivity and 75% envisage increased use of online platforms as a communication channel in the next three to five years. While a majority of respondents rank this trend as “very important”, Irish organisations have displayed a somewhat conservative approach to adopting emerging communication channels and tools, with more than four in 10 either only permitting the use of well-established tools or requiring tools to be carefully reviewed and approved by their IT departments. Only 6% identify emerging tools and promote their use among employees. Organisations will need to adopt a holistic approach, taking into account different working styles and introducing rewards to promote take-up while also ensuring that the workforce is prepared and willing to use these tools. An important aspect of this strategy is to audit the tools in the marketplace and ensure that they are satisfactory from a risk and IT perspective before introducing them into the workplace. Once approved, collaboration tools should be embedded in day-to-day processes where possible, so as to actively promote adoption among the workforce. As social media and collaborative communication tools migrate from personal lives to the workplace, organisations must apply their expertise in team management, goal-setting and employee development to improve performance and promote collaboration. For the hyper-connected workplace to improve productivity, procedures, workspaces and leadership styles will need to be capable of capitalising on the power of these tools while at the same time managing any potential negative impacts. Conclusion There are many drivers of change impacting on the future of work, and the preferences of millennials is just one of these drivers. However, the impact will be great and there are some gaps to be bridged. Irish businesses now need to begin taking stock of the implications of these drivers of change. Valarie Duant is Partner and Head of Human Capital Management at Deloitte.

Dec 03, 2018
Spotlight

Employers face a host of challenges as they seek to future-proof both their people and their businesses. The future of work can be both exciting and worrying depending on your perspective. Will robots, machines and artificial intelligence take all the jobs? Or will they support workers and produce many new jobs while improving working conditions for all workers? The future rarely turns out the way we imagine. In 1899, the head of the US patent office was quoted as saying: “Everything that can be invented has been invented”, so predictions may make us look foolish. However, that should not stop us considering the opportunities and threats for business and how we can future-proof our organisations. Here are three issues businesses should consider as they prepare for the future of work. Workplaces Technology allows us to work from pretty much anywhere in the 24/7 global workplace. Companies are rapidly moving to agile workplaces and hot-desk environments with more flexible working arrangements. The challenge for organisations has little to do with technology capability; the willingness – or lack thereof – of executive and management teams to support employees who work remotely is arguably a more pressing issue. This is a particular challenge for managers who prefer to see their team in person but, more worryingly, reward those in close proximity and ignore those who work remotely. There is also a reluctance to use the gig economy – a market of independent workers available for short-term engagements – within more traditional organisations. Innovation Hyper-growth companies have one thing in common: an innovative culture. Innovation is something organisations can cultivate, but most companies are risk-averse. Innovative employees take risks and break the rules, and they need to be supported while doing so. Without making mistakes, trying out new ideas and working on new disruptions within their own sector, companies will not be able to build new, innovative products and services. To achieve this, you must have the right people in the organisation and provide continuous learning for staff. Many jobs will go and it is critical that employers encourage their staff to be more flexible and self-directed in their learning so that they can contribute to the company’s ongoing success – even if it means moving regularly within the organisation. Such internal moves can be an excellent way for organisations to share information and work in a less siloed manner. Technology overload The final point relates to the dangers technology can pose for employees. The proliferation of smartphones and screens has led to dysfunctional behaviours. Email, a tool that purports to make us more productive has become a huge burden in organisations. Screen and smartphone notifications interrupt staff on a constant basis, giving them very little time to perform deep and meaningful work. We are busier than ever, but probably much less productive. Even the bedroom is now overrun by smartphone technology, which is spawning a multitude of over-tired and under-productive employees. One insurance company is actually paying a bonus to staff who have 30 good nights’ sleep in a row, as it recognises how critical sleep is to performance. Summary Governments will have to tackle work displacement for older generations as automation, digital platforms and other innovations change the world of work. On the plus side, careers we couldn’t even envisage today will soon become reality and this will provide myriad opportunities for those armed with the right skillsets. Our key job is to support the next generation coming into the workplace – those who were born into the internet and smartphone generation. We need to build on their human skills as these will be critical to their future success. Peter Cosgrove is an expert on the future of work and author of Fun Unplugged, a book to engage children without the use of screens.

Dec 03, 2018
Management

When monitoring third-party risks, it is important that entities focus on value creation as well as value protection. Outsourcing is an increasingly a key strategic decision for many businesses, allowing them to focus on core corporate activities. However, when things go wrong in third-party relationships, companies may be exposed to significant reputational, regulatory, strategic and financial risks. There are two notable recent examples of high-profile third-party failures in Ireland: The Central Bank of Ireland imposed fines on financial institutions in relation to the governance and control of outsourced services delivered by third parties; and In 2018, a restaurant chain in the UK was forced to close more than 560 of its 900 outlets as “operational issues” at a new distribution partner left deliveries “incomplete or delayed”. This is estimated to have cost the restaurant chain in question £1 million per day in lost sales. In 2016, the Central Bank of Ireland warned that poor management of third-party relationships is putting banks at risk, citing “very serious failings” in relation to the governance of these arrangements and brandishing some cases as “astonishing”. Specific criticism related to poor management of outsourced arrangements, lack of oversight and a lack of engagement and challenge from boards. Extended enterprises The operational environment of many companies has expanded to include third-party service providers. Taken together, these third parties constitute what we term “the extended enterprise.” We continue to see companies struggle to identify, measure, report and monitor third-party risks within their extended enterprise. This has led to companies being exposed to a variety of risks and failing to maximise the upside of third-party relationships. The challenge for businesses is to formulate an extended enterprise risk management strategy that proactively manages the risks associated with the extended enterprise while also driving performance. In our experience, the answers to this challenge lie in expanding one’s view of third-party risk management to incorporate value creation as well as value protection. For companies to leverage their risk management processes to improve performance, it is critical that they develop an end-to-end approach for sensing risks systematically throughout the extended enterprise so that vulnerabilities can be addressed proactively. We term this approach ‘extended enterprise risk management’ (EERM). Extended enterprise risk management EERM is the practice of anticipating and managing exposures associated with third parties across the full range of operations, as well as optimising the value delivered by third-party relationships. The risk management landscape is often fragmented and decentralised. Many companies have not agreed and documented their risk appetite. They may approach third-party risk management on an ad hoc basis, addressing prominent areas such as cyber risk and regulatory compliance as they arise. Crucially, many companies do not have a broad pan-company view of all current third-party engagements and the associated risks. A common theme that emerges here is a lack of ownership of risks across the company. For example, despite the increasing focus on risk management, some companies still do not have a dedicated risk officer. Additionally, many companies are not appropriately utilising the three lines of defence to manage risk and drive performance across the extended enterprise. The first line of defence is the business unit, which owns the third-party relationship and is accountable for managing associated risks in alignment with policies and procedures. The second line of defence is a centralised governance programme for extended enterprise risk management, which is responsible for establishing and enforcing policies/processes to ensure that third parties are managed consistently by the business. The third line of defence is internal audit, which is charged with administering a robust audit programme aligned to the most critical extended enterprise risks and controls as well as performing independent assessments. In addition to underinvesting in the three lines of defence, many companies focus excessively on quantitative metrics – contract income and expenditure, for example – when engaging a third-party. When assessing third parties, companies should always include appropriate qualitative metrics – vendor quality, technical capabilities, vendor risk profile, control environment, and ability to drive performance, for example. By not having a defined EERM framework in place, many companies are concentrating on firefighting rather than maximising the benefits that can arise from well-managed third-party relationships. Driving value  Companies increasingly need to move toward a holistic approach to EERM that emphasises value creation as well as value protection. This typically involves establishing a systematic and proactive approach to managing risks across the third-party lifecycle and, in so doing, unlocking value and improving business performance. An operating model for implementing and integrating the various components of risk management across the third-party relationship lifecycle forms the foundation of this approach. To be fully effective, such models must be aligned to the company’s overarching risk appetite and risk management framework. The model should link the individual components of risk management to agreed and documented business objectives and the company’s risk registers. Four cornerstone capabilities  Many companies believe they cannot take an end-to-end approach to managing the extended enterprise because securing executive sponsorship and getting people to take ownership can be an uphill battle. Additionally, many businesses think that the task is too vast and they do not have the expertise and resources to build, execute and sustain a comprehensive third-party oversight programme. In our experience, these barriers are more perception than reality. It is neither necessary nor possible to do everything at once. Companies should consider some practical steps to take toward establishing an EERM programme or evolving an existing one. Many companies can get a sense of what those steps might be by considering the extent to which they have developed the following cornerstone capabilities. Strategy and governance This involves the creation of an agile and flexible governance model: Is there a defined and documented strategy and governance model for managing third-party risk? Is there a defined policy to assess third-party requirements prior to entering into relationships? Are third-party risk management activities linked to value drivers agreed and documented? Have you identified, agreed and documented critical key performance indicators (KPIs) for all third-party relationships? Have you agreed and documented how third-party KPIs will be reported and monitored? Are there defined processes in place to identify new and emerging third-party risks?  People This involves managing relationships, compliance and regulations: Is senior management sufficiently invested in EERM? Are the employees charged with responsibility for third-party risk management receiving sufficient and appropriate training? Is there sufficient investment in the three lines of defence to deliver effective monitoring of third-party risks? Are there defined and documented roles for managing third-party risk across the extended enterprise? Process This involves navigating events that shape the extended enterprise: Are there appropriate contracts in place with all third parties? Do monitoring processes allow for the reliable assessment of third-party performance? Does the company react to third-party events or actively seek to prevent them? Are risk management processes standardised across the company and integrated with tools and data? Is sufficient consideration given to how evolving technologies, market trends and disruptive forces present opportunities and challenges to third-party relationships? Technology This involves using data and analytics to make informed decisions: What tools and technologies are employed to make informed decisions about third-party performance? What transactional data are you entitled to access? Does the company’s IT and systems support KPI monitoring, reporting and performance assessment? Factors to consider in assessing your third-party risks   The complexity of the extended enterprise and resource constraints are no longer sufficient reasons to avoid taking an integrated approach to third-party risk management. Wherever your company stands at present in relation to EERM, some practical steps can be taken now to establish an EERM programme or to move your existing risk management model to the next level. The following factors should be considered. Strategy and programme This involves the development of EERM solutions to assess, design and implement a strategically aligned extended enterprise programme. These may include: Conducting an enterprise-wide strategic third-party risk assessment; and Developing the governance and operating model for EERM including KPIs, reporting and monitoring mechanisms. Evaluation and continuous monitoring This involves the selection and application of a suite of solutions to measure third parties and proactively sense and respond to extended enterprise risks and opportunities. These may include: The selection of quantitative and qualitative metrics/KPIs; Third-party risk assessment processes; and Contract compliance mechanisms. Technology enablement This involves the selection and application of technology solutions to transform and continuously enhance EERM. These may include: Systems design and deployment; Data analytics; and Reporting protocols. Conclusion Effective EERM programmes allow companies to align third-party risk management to strategic objectives and deliver enhanced returns on investment by emphasising value creation as well as value protection.  Crucially, there is no ‘one size fits all’ EERM model or programme. Each company faces unique challenges and therefore, EERM programmes tend to be bespoke by nature. Time spent on EERM programme design is rewarded in the longer term. Finally, successful EERM programmes are continuously re-assessed to ensure that the model being applied remains appropriate at all times. Jimmy Crowley is a Senior Manager in Risk Advisory in Deloitte Ireland.

Dec 03, 2018
Regulation

IAASA’s Observations document highlights key topics management, directors and audit committees should consider when preparing and approving 2018 financial statements.   IAASA published its 2018 Observations document, the eleventh such document, last September. The document aims to assist in the production of high-quality financial reports by emphasising some key financial reporting topics to be considered by management, directors and audit committees when preparing, approving and auditing financial statements. IAASA’s Financial Reporting Quality function examines the annual and half-yearly financial statements of equity issuers, debt issuers and closed-end fund issuers to ensure that they are compliant with the relevant financial reporting framework. IAASA’s financial reporting supervision remit is limited to Irish companies trading on the regulated markets of European stock exchanges (issuers). However, the Observations document may be relevant to a broader range of companies when preparing year-end financial statements. The matters included in IAASA’s Observations document derive from a variety of sources including, but not limited to: The risk rating assessment for individual issuers from IAASA’s risk matrix, which is used to select specific reports for examination; The outcome of overviews performed on preliminary announcements and annual/half-yearly financial reports; Topical issues such as supplier funding arrangements, new IFRS guidance and media commentary; Issues identified at the European Enforcers Co-ordination Sessions (EECS), which is organised by the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA). EECS is a forum for European accounting enforcers; Peer issues – matters identified in an entity’s periodic financial report that may be relevant to a wider group of issuers; and Financial reporting issues identified by IAASA’s audit inspection teams. The primary audience for IAASA’s Observations document is the preparers of financial statements. However, it should also help users of those financial statements to understand the significant judgements and estimates made by management in their preparation. Financial reporting environment Entities face unknown economic, political and social threats and uncertainties because of Brexit and heightened protectionist policies, particularly in the USA. The UK is leaving the European Union on 29 March 2019. The details of any Brexit agreement may be clearer by the time entities are finalising their 2018 annual financial reports during the first quarter of 2019. Brexit will affect different entities in different ways and to different extents. Depending on the terms of any Brexit agreement, entities’ ability to conduct business on existing terms may be disrupted (e.g. supply chain, access to the single market, access to the Customs Union, the impact of cross-border and cross-channel trade, and the impact of euro-Sterling exchange rate volatility). Against this ongoing uncertainty, impacted issuers should monitor the likely impact Brexit will have and consider disclosing the financial reporting implications. Some comments on the key topics covered in the Observations document are set out below. Impact of recently issued standards  The quality of disclosures of the impact of new accounting standards effective for the first time in 2018 (IFRS 9 and IFRS 15) in issuers’ 2018 half-yearly reports has been variable. Similarly, the quality of disclosures regarding IFRS 16 (effective 2019) has been mixed. IAS 8 Accounting Policies, Changes in Accounting Estimates and Errors sets out the required disclosures for the initial application of an IFRS [IAS 8.28] and for a new IFRS that is not yet effective [IAS 8.30-31]. The Observations document highlights the requirement to disclose the impact of the initial application of IFRS 9 Financial Instruments. These include the requirements to disclose re-classifications of financial assets and financial liabilities upon initial application of IFRS 9 and a reconciliation of the impairment allowances under IAS 39 Financial Instruments: Recognition and Measurement and under IFRS 9 disaggregated by measurement category [IFRS 7.42I-42S]. IFRS 15 Revenue from Contracts with Customers is effective for accounting periods beginning on or after 1 January 2018. IFRS 15 requires entities to disclose more information about contracts with customers and to disclose disaggregated information about revenue. IAASA indicates that, as the application date of IFRS 16 Leases and IFRS 17 Insurance Contracts nears, entities are required to provide more qualitative and quantitative information about their impact. Significant judgements and sources of estimation uncertainty  IAS 1 Presentation of Financial Statements requires disclosure of significant judgements [IAS 1.122] and sources of estimation uncertainty [IAS 1.125]. IAASA expects entities to: Clearly distinguish these two separate requirements; and Avoid the temptation to provide an extensive list of such items that do not meet the IAS 1 criteria. Complex customer and supplier arrangements and factoring These arrangements can vary greatly from entity to entity, both in terms of their nature and impact. IAASA encourages disclosure of such arrangements and, in particular, the cash flow treatments thereof. Identifiable intangible assets In applying IFRS 3, issuers should consider whether intangible assets should be separately recognised and disclosed on the basis of the separability criterion of IFRS 3 [IFRS 3.B33]. Alternative performance measures Entities’ compliance with ESMA’s Alternative Performance Measures Guidelines has been varied. IAASA reminds entities to endeavour to fully comply with the guidelines and, in particular, to provide explanations where an alternative performance measure is changed or is no longer presented. Consistency of key assumptions IAASA calls on entities to “‘sense check” the consistency between the key assumptions used for the fair value measurement of intangible assets acquired in a business combination with the subsequent intangible asset assumptions used elsewhere in the financial statements. Individual intangible assets Entities with material individual intangible assets should ensure that the disclosure requirements of IAS 38 Intangible Assets, dealing with the disclosure of information about material individual intangible assets, are provided in full [IAS 38.122(b)]. The Observations report can be downloaded at www.iaasa.ie. Maurice Barrett is Senior Financial Reporting Manager in IAASA’s Statutory Reporting Quality Unit.

Dec 03, 2018
Personal Impact

Burnout is a very real problem, but organisations can ease the burden with some simple adjustments.   Stress, pressure and deadlines are part of the everyday workload of managers. But when the common feeling of stress tips over into burnout it can be a serious problem, affecting not just your own health and performance but that of your team and organisation. Some researchers say that as many as 50% of medical professionals and 85% of financial professionals have been affected by burnout. Others say that as few as 7% professionals have been seriously impacted. While researchers may disagree on the numbers, they do agree that burnout is associated with many negative physical and psychological health outcomes such as depression, sleep disturbances, anxiety, and increased alcohol and drug use. Burnout is a psychological syndrome that is characterised by a negative emotional reaction to one’s job as a consequence of extended exposure to a stressful work environment. It produces feelings of inadequacy and alienation, which affects personal and professional relationships. Stressed people think they will feel better if they can get on top of the situation, whereas burnout is associated with the belief that one’s situation will never be rectified. How to spot the signs of burnout Burnt-out colleagues are not difficult to see. Once productive and engaged, the quality of their work will decrease; they will come in late to work; interactions with colleagues will become curt; and they will become prone to illness, thus absenting themselves from the office more frequently.  How to address burnout If companies look at their role in creating workplace stress, which inevitably leads to burnout, there is every chance they can eliminate the factors that lead to burnout. Recent research suggests that there are three steps leaders can take to address burnout in organisations: Reduce excessive collaboration The endless rounds of meetings and conference calls, which aim to include every stakeholder in every decision. Very often, this type of collaboration is required by corporate cultures, yet is far beyond what is required to get the job done. Burnout is also driven by the always-on digital workplace. Switching off a personal device lays the emotional impact at the individual executive’s door rather than with the company’s policy. Call off unnecessary meetings There is huge demand for collaboration in contemporary organisations with little in the way of technology and norms to manage it. Left to their own devices, most employees will manage their time in ways that reduce stress and burnout. Companies could also challenge the assumption that collaboration (two heads are better than one) and meetings are the best way to get things done. Recent research on introverts subverts this assumption and provides alternative methods (such as breaking work tasks into individual, pair and small group tasks) to capture the creativity and talent of all organisational members. Stop overloading the most capable employees The best people in organisations, at every level, are overwhelmed by meetings, emails and interruptions. They then cannot do the job for which they have been hired because they are busy collaborating with other people. Giving people the space and time to do their job may be the most important intervention companies make to address burnout and drive success. It is a win-win for everybody. Dr Annette Clancy is an organisational consultant and also researches organisational behaviour, in particular emotion in organisations.

Dec 03, 2018
Personal Impact

Emotional intelligence and a high trust quotient are important attributes that result in more effective leadership and career success. How can you use your EQ and TQ to further your career in the New Year? A recent Harvard Business Review article, ‘What To Do If Your Career Is Stalled And You Don’t Know Why’, described how many talented executives careers stall or derail because of what they call ‘pandas’ – issues that may be perceived as innocent, but with powerful jaws that deliver a bite. The top three ‘pandas’ are executive presence, communication and peer-level relationships. Often, individuals are blissfully unaware of the existence of an issue that is blocking their progression.  As we consider our career trajectories going into 2019, it is essential that we familiarise ourselves with the story others tell about us. Having a career goal with insufficient self-awareness is like having a destination without a map of the terrain. Key areas to consider in this respect are emotional intelligence (EQ), our trust quotient (TQ) as well as our capacity to lead with agility. These concepts tie in with the most common pandas. EQ, TQ and agility Emotional intelligence relates to a set of competencies which impact how we engage with others (Table 1). There is a clear connection between these competencies and our levels of executive presence, communication skills and ability to build peer relationships.  TQ is a less commonly known dimension. It is a measure of an individual’s personal trustworthiness; a key to building good relationships. Being trustworthy and ethical may be considered a given in a profession such as accounting, however TQ is slightly different. TQ refers to how trustworthy your team, your peers or your clients find you.  Do they find you credible and reliable? Can they feel safe in trusting you with personal, confidential information and how much do we have their interest at heart versus our own interests? The higher our self-orientation, the lower our TQ.  The third element worth considering is leadership agility®. Leadership agility® is our ability to take wise and effective action amid complex, rapidly changing conditions. Many of us are trained to diagnose a situation and come up with the correct answer – that’s what experts are paid for! However, while expertise is highly valuable, sometimes we can rely on it too heavily and end up narrowing our field of vision and misdiagnosing an issue at hand. A black and white approach can lead to rigid thinking and peers, clients or team members may feel that their perspective is not considered or understood. 360 feedback If EQ, TQ and leadership agility® are areas to be navigated before creating a plan to progress your career in 2019, how can you find out what others say about you in relation to these dimensions? The most traditional way of getting such feedback is through a 360-feedback process. There are many 360 tools available in the market and all of them provide different information depending on the angle they take.  Another option worth considering is to identify some trusted individuals who have your best interests at heart and ask them a few questions: What do you consider to be my key strengths that I can use to build my career?  What could hold me back? If I were to pick one or two areas to develop, what should they be? What role/project would be an interesting next move for me, considering my strengths and areas of development? Career criteria Once you have opened up the conversation about your development, discussions about the next steps in your career will inevitably result. It’s a good time to explore what is important to you right now and in the year to come. Such considerations often include financial reward, career progression, flexibility/balance, learning experiences or meaningful work. Whether we prefer clearly defined career goals or to be opportunistic, having clarity regarding the important criteria for our careers is helpful when going into a new year.  In order for us to maximise our effectiveness and continued career success, it is important for us to understand the story others tell about us (including ‘pandas’) and reflect on the important criteria in our career. Once we have built this picture through conversations with others, we can establish the work we need to do to achieve our career aspirations through 2019 and beyond.Leadership Agility® is a registered trademark of ChangeWise. Eadine Hickey is Founder and Director at Resonate Leadership. QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER WHEN PLANNING YOUR CAREER MOVE IN 2019 As you consider your level of EQ and TQ, what do you believe are your strengths and what areas may require development? Is there a risk that you over-use your ‘expert mindset’ in certain situations and would benefit from taking a broader perspective on issues? Who could provide you with very constructive feedback on your strengths and development areas to support you in your career progression? What criteria and values are important to you as you consider your career for 2019 and beyond? Who could be of support to you in achieving your career goals (mentors, coaches, colleagues, friends)?

Dec 03, 2018
Feature Interview

Lucinda Woods ACA, the 2018 winner of the Early Career Accountant of the Year Award, shares her success story. Describe your current role at The Restaurant Group plc. The Restaurant Group plc operates over 500 casual dining restaurants, pubs and concessions across the UK. It employs roughly 15,000 people and is listed on the FTSE with a market capitalisation of around £500 million. I’m lucky to have a very diverse role within the group. I work for the CEO, managing a team that spans group strategy, commercial decision support, customer and market insight, and M&A. The breadth of my role has enabled me to support many strands of the turnaround of our casual dining division, as well as run deals such as the £15 million acquisition of the 11-pub company, Food & Fuel Ltd., and work on business development opportunities in our concessions division, which manages foodservice operations at airports. I also served as Interim Chief Marketing Officer last year, which was a great development opportunity for me, landing outputs on digital, brand strategy and retail marketing operations. Describe your average working week. I get up at 4.30am on Monday to commute to London and I fly back to Dublin on Thursday evening in time to put my son to bed. Fridays are spent catching up on things at home, and the occasional visit to the gym! How did you feel when you were announced as the Early Career Accountant of the Year? Humbled. There was a strong bench of talent nominated for the award so to be called out amongst that was an honour.  What in your view gave you the advantage over your peers? A combination of factors have enabled me to pursue my career ambitions and constantly challenge the boundaries of my comfort zone. From an early age, my parents inspired me to seek out opportunities and my husband has always been very supportive of my career choices and travel commitments. I’ve been very fortunate in terms of the organisations I worked with earlier in my career – KPMG, Investec Corporate Finance and Paddy Power Betfair – as management across all three provided me with tremendous encouragement and support. In addition, I’ve been supported by superb peers and mentors including my boss, who has been generous with his time, always encouraged me to focus on the customer and areas where I can have the most impact, and shown faith in me to do that. I’ve also been lucky to have many talented people work for me, and from whom I have also learned an enormous amount. You have also studied at Harvard. What was that experience like? I was fortunate to do the MBA programme at Harvard Business School. The experience of being surrounded by so many diverse and interesting perspectives was invaluable. I was also taught by many outstanding professors, including Michael Porter and Clay Christensen. What’s next for you? Nappies and sleepless nights! Our family headcount is about to increase with a new baby due in early 2019. Lucinda Woods is Strategy & Business Development Director at The Restaurant Group plc.

Dec 03, 2018
Feature Interview

Ian Mathews, outgoing CFO at Trinity College Dublin, reflects on his career as he prepares for a new challenge in Abu Dhabi.   As curtain calls go, Ian Mathews couldn’t have scripted it better. The Chartered Accountant and outgoing Chief Financial Officer at Trinity College Dublin will leave the university this month having won three major accolades in recent weeks – Finance Team of the Year at the Irish Accountancy Awards; Finance Team of the Year at the British Accountancy Awards; and Best Diversified Asset Investment Fund: Trinity Endowment Fund at the Wealth & Finance Investment Fund Awards. In January, he will take up his new post as Vice-Chancellor of Administrative and Financial Affairs at Abu Dhabi University. Ian describes it as “purely fortuitous” that the university won three accolades as he prepares to leave the stage, but it is an arguably just reward for a man who led Trinity’s Financial Services Division out of 3 College Green and integrated 60 finance professionals into the day-to-day operation of the university. “It all started in 2007 when my predecessor and I proactively commissioned an external review,” he said. “The findings were clear, but tough to swallow. We had a great team but we weren’t great on customer service, we didn’t focus on our stakeholders and we said ‘no’ a lot.” Reaching out With the financial crisis just around the corner, the team would be forced to say ‘no’ even more in the years that followed but Ian was determined to bring the finance function closer to the action and make the team more accessible to the university’s 1,800 full-time and 4,000 part-time staff.  “We knew we were good accountants, but we needed to translate that into something of value for our non-finance colleagues. So we recruited a Services Liaison Officer to help us reach out to the different areas of the university,” he said. “We introduced an outreach programme within the Financial Services Team to help the different departments get to know each other and we brought them in groups to the main campus to attend lectures. The whole idea was to build empathy with our colleagues and help us understand where they might be coming from when they have a finance-related issue.” Systems development Today, the Financial Services Division is recognised as an integral part of the university’s operational structure and this is due in large part to Ian’s vision for a more open, approachable and understanding finance function. Such organisational development initiatives were followed some years later by the introduction of a new real-time procurement and reporting system. According to Ian, the university “had no visibility on what it owed or purchased. While we were able to pull accounts together, we had no real strategic data.” In one instance, it took the university three weeks to respond to a relatively straightforward parliamentary question about the university’s taxi expenditure. The university is now on the front foot when it comes to data-led intelligence. Its real-time accounting system allows staff to access the university’s procurement system on their smartphones and make orders around the clock. “We secured €13 million in savings over five years by streamlining our procurement and focusing on value. Where we once had 60 travel agents serving the university, we now have one. Where 10 years ago one department was buying a ream of paper for €8 and another was making the same purchase for €2, everything is now aggregated and we know that we’re getting the best value possible.” Setting these processes and systems up is one thing. It’s another thing entirely to shift the culture of an organisation as large as Trinity College Dublin. Luckily for Ian, he has always been blessed with the power of persuasion. “I have a capacity to listen and build relationships, and this has certainly been an advantage. I also try to lead by example because if you can do that, you will inspire people and create the basis for a workplace that is built on loyalty, integrity, commitment and hard work.” His accessible style was also an asset in his negotiations with the university’s Students Union. Over the years, Ian made a point of meeting the incoming officer group to establish a clear line of communication. “I’m quite people-oriented and I like to keep lines of communication open,” he said. “I fully respect the mandate of the Students Union to fight for more resources and fee certainty. I only ask that if they want to raise a question at a meeting, that they speak to me first. That way, they still have their say at the meeting but they will have the added benefit of a considered, informed response. We won’t always agree, but I’ve heard past presidents of the Union saying that the first thing you do when taking office is talk to Finance. We’re now part of the solution, not the problem, and that’s a great credit to the team.” Strategic investment In the midst of rebuilding his division’s culture and reputation within the wider university, Ian also led Trinity College into uncharted territories. “When I took over as CFO, Trinity College had never borrowed in its 400-year history,” he said. “Our first loan was drawn down in 2010, a second in 2015 and the university has just secured a further 30-year €100 million loan from the European Investment Bank to fund the soon-to-be built E3 Institute (Engineering, Environment and Emerging Technologies), which will develop the knowledge, technologies and aptitudes needed to design and shape the planet’s natural capital. The loan will also fund a refurbishment of the arts block, an expansion of the law school, and new student accommodation at Trinity Hall in Dartry.” The next act Over the past 24 years, Ian has played a central role in the rejuvenation of Trinity College Dublin. Now the university has its sights firmly set on the future, the time has come for a new challenge – one that came in the form of an unsolicited email. “I was asked to put myself forward by an agency in Dubai and it was an operations role as opposed to pure finance. If I waited another five years, my options would be restricted and the time was right from a family perspective,” he said. “Trinity has been great but now, the future excites me in a new way. If you don’t take these opportunities when they arise, you might live to regret it.” So with three awards in the bag and a string of investments at work, which will no doubt benefit the university for generations to come, the curtain comes down on a sterling career in Trinity College Dublin. But the university hasn’t heard the last of him. “I recently facilitated a visit by Abu Dhabi University to Trinity to talk about the potential for collaboration in the area of health sciences,” he said. “I’ll maintain my links with the university because that’s just me, it’s who I am. Two decades of corporate knowledge isn’t going to disappear overnight and if anyone needs to talk, they’ll only have to pick up the phone. I’ll be happy to help.” He might be leaving Trinity’s stage, but don’t bet against an encore.

Dec 02, 2018

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