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Practice and Business Improvement

We are delighted to announce that the deadline for the PAA competition has been extended to accommodate a number of requests received.  The competition will now close at close of business next Monday 17th July 2017.  No further extensions will be offered.  Many thanks to all those who have already entered – entry is easy just email a link to your annual report to: or attach them in PDF. If you'd like to be considered for our CSR award include pdf/links to your CSR reporting as well. We also accept hardcopies – but make sure three hardcopies arrive in our offices at Chartered Accountants House, Pearse Street by close of business on Monday. Don’t forget to include your contact details. We are particularly looking forward to your entry this year as it is the 40th year of the Awards and so this year is a very special one to win. Is your company’s annual report that winner? We have several prizes and will be publishing a short list so there will be lots of recognition for anyone with a worthy annual report. Also this year we are also introducing the “Best Digital Reporting Award” to celebrate the most user friendly electronic application for annual reporting on the web. So as well as potentially winning our overall prize for the best annual report, you could win our prize for: ·       Best Social Responsibility Reporting Award, or ·       Best Branding, Communication & Marketing Award, or ·       Best Digital Reporting Award. Every reporting entity is welcome to enter the awards from the largest listed company to the smallest not-for-profit entity – we have eight separate categories of awards based on size and whether listed or not. We're looking at annual reports in respect of financial years ended on or before 31 March 2017. Full details of the awards are available on our website or contact our offices by telephone.      Remember if you aren't in, you can’t win!  So don’t delay, email your annual report to us now!

Jul 04, 2017
Practice and Business Improvement

My first conference...ever Looking ahead to this years Chartered Accountants Ireland annual conference on Disruption on 12 May 2017, I cast my mind back to my first ever conference. Several years ago I attended an education conference with my then employer. The room was small, stuffy and crowded and my brain had switched off before I even left the house that morning. I was going under duress, with my logic being that if I could fuel up on free coffee at the start I might just last the day without wanting to stick sharp objects in my eyes out of sheer boredom. This was all going to be for the experts, the educations geeks. There were about six speakers during the day across various topics and despite my misgivings, I was really captivated by all of them. Looking back now, it makes sense. What a conference should be First of all, the organisers need to cover the full spectrum of their industry and to find the best available people to represent their areas meaning you’re likely to hear from experts, not wafflers. Secondly, the people being approached likely have form with these things, ergo are pretty confident, good speakers and engaging to listen to. And finally, the format won’t let them steal the show and drone on for hours. There is little room for egos here: everyone gets the same allotted time and the person ultimately in charge is the techie at the back of the room who really doesn’t care and will quite happily turn off your microphone after the 40-or-so minutes are up. It is the responsibility of the speaker to fit in their best bits in a manageable concentration time and give us the highlights and headlines. It is perfectly pitched to people like me! My first Chartered Accountants conference Having then learned to not judge a book by its cover, I went along to the Chartered Accountants Ireland annual conference last year thinking it might have a few interesting bits and pieces but that most of it would not be of interest to me. I am not an accountant and in fact never took so much as a Business Studies class at school so what could I possibly be interested in from an accountant, never mind a hotel full of them? I was somewhat comforted by the fact that there were keynote speakers from other industries such as economics, sport, entertainment who I knew would at least spin a few good yarns and maybe even pose for a snap – the selfie being the new autograph. I was not disappointed on either count. As staff, we are assigned to rooms to be time police to the speaker and to deal with any operational issues of the session. It was so well organised that really nothing went wrong in terms of anything I could do: the equipment all worked, there were enough chairs in the room, the speakers had water, the attendees could all see and hear. I hope I didn’t offend any speaker too much with my now near-perfect “wrap-it-up” sign language while pointing frantically at the clock. Engage with the content Some of my colleagues were in the technical rooms and at the start I smiled at them pityingly, but actually most of these sessions were packed to the rafters and really very interesting. The rule held true that it can be fascinating to hear someone at the top of their game speak enthusiastically about their area of interest and expertise. The passion is contagious and it is so much easier to learn when we’re engaged. For myself, I sat in on a talk from a founding member of a distillery (himself not an accountant) and learned so much about marketing, business, exports…and perhaps most importantly if I were in business, what mistakes were made and what challenges were overcome. I am not a fan of “celeb culture”, but the talk Niall Breslin gave on his trials and tribulations with mental health was inspiring in every sense. The whole room was hanging on his every word. So much to learn The key thing I took from everything I saw and from every person I met was that the information is entirely transferable. Ideas about marketing a product or service, about reaching into new markets, dealing with state bodies for support, problem solving…all of these are applicable to every person, product, service and sector. It was all about putting your best foot forward and going for success. There was such a lovely supportive atmosphere that oozed around all the rooms. People were interested in what other people were doing, how they might help each other. There seemed to be a lot of people reconnecting from having known each other in previous workplaces, training, education or socially not to mention making new connections. What's coming up in May 2017 This year as I look over the schedule, I see plenty that looks really interesting. The theme is disruption and who hasn’t faced that?! I see technical sessions here that will be relevant to industry, practice, managers and employees. I see business advice sessions that will guide on harnessing and prevention of disruption within technology, teams and systems. There are leadership sessions about career management, personal development, company development and even our physical health.  All relevant and all so helpful to know. Don't assume anything My one piece of parting advice comes from Oscar Wilde via one of my primary school teachers: “When you assume, you make an ass out of you and me”. Don’t assume anything. Don’t assume you’ll be bored, don’t assume it’s not going to be relevant and don’t assume there’s nothing in this for you. Prove yourself wrong. The Chartered Accountants Ireland annual conference takes place on 12 May 2017 in the Radisson Blu, Galway and is open now for booking.

Apr 12, 2017

While diversity is the buzzword of today, it will soon be replaced by inclusion. Dawn Leane explains how both diversity and inclusion can be integrated in organisations of all sizes. It is virtually impossible to write an article on workplace diversity without referencing equality and inclusion. If diversity is the current hot topic in the workplace, then equality was its predecessor and inclusion will be its successor.   In a workplace context, equality is often associated with compliance. It suggests that as a society, we must legislate for our differences and sanction transgressions. The term “equality” is synonymous with the nine grounds on which discrimination is outlawed.   Diversity is a different concept. It is about valuing our differences, and it has a broader frame of reference than equality, including matters such as personality, cognitive style, education and socio-economic status.   Inclusion, while closely related, is still a different concept. The Society for Human Resources Management defines inclusion as “the achievement of a work environment in which all individuals are treated fairly and respectfully, have equal access to opportunities and resources, and can contribute fully to the organisation’s success”. It is the deliberate act of welcoming diversity and creating an environment where all different kinds of people can thrive and succeed.   But diversity is the buzzword of the moment. Employers have progressed from complying with equality legislation to recognising that a diverse workforce brings many benefits: innovation; balanced decision-making; reduced group-think; retention of key staff; and improved risk management among others.   Perhaps unsurprisingly, the technology sector is leading the way in creating workplaces that are genuinely diverse. While Apple contends that “the most innovative company must also be the most diverse”, Intel declares that “innovation begins with inclusion”. It’s easy to see how the technology sector readily benefits from diversity but other areas, including the professions, are also embracing the fact that diversity is good for business.   Nonetheless success rates for diversity initiatives are still low. A report published in January by the ESRI highlights the fact that the unemployment rate for the Travelling community is 82%. None of the community is employed in a profession and just 3% are employed in managerial or technical roles compared to 28% of the general population.   In March, the Central Bank of Ireland published a report which analysed the gender breakdown of applications for pre-approval as part of the fitness and probity regime. Of the pre-approval applications received by the Central Bank since 2012, over 80% have been from male applicants.   Why is it that so many diversity initiatives fail to deliver the desired outcomes? One reason is that many organisations take a ‘top down’ approach to diversity initiatives. While tone at the top is crucial to ensuring success, the top down approach can often manifest as policies and procedures that attempt to redress balance rather than encouraging a change in attitude.   A recent Harvard Business Review article outlined the negative impact of such policies, claiming that they are often counter-productive. The article suggests that the reason most diversity programs aren’t increasing diversity is because organisations are still utilising the same approaches that they have always used and relying on diversity training, hiring tests, performance ratings and grievance systems to support the diversity agenda.   Creating a diverse and inclusive workplace can mean changing the culture of an organisation. The best results are achieved when the focus is less on control and more on challenging existing attitudes, providing supports and encouraging accountability to ensure that good practice becomes embedded in the organisation. The following outlines specific initiatives that are delivering results. Accountability This is the most fundamental change an organisation can make. Without it, the other initiatives can fail to have any impact. It’s the old maxim – what gets measured gets done. For many organisations, publicly committing to diversity and publishing results – whether positive or negative – is driving change. Apple is among a number of organisations that publishes its hiring trends, highlighting areas such as representation among ethnicities and pay equity. While Intel also publishes its hiring rates, exit rates, promotion rates and pay equity, it goes a step further and ties a portion of its executives’ pay to achieving the organisation’s diversity goals. Education versus diversity training Organisations continue to provide diversity training, although it has been proved that such training doesn’t make people discard their biases – at best, it ensures that they are compliant. No-one is immune to unconscious bias; it is a manifestation of our life experiences. However, it often leads the best and brightest to feel unwelcome and not part of the success of the organisation. Rather than diversity training, progressive organisations such as Adobe are delivering enhanced awareness programmes to help eliminate hidden biases. These programmes cover topics such as how to identify bias, strategies and tactics for better decision-making, and how to speak up. Individualised development Most women say a clear path to career progression is important at work and, in response, organisations are now developing personalised, modular development plans to foster future leaders and improve gender diversity in leadership roles. Sponsorships Organisations are evolving beyond mentoring programmes towards sponsorship as a means to help level the playing field for under-represented groups. Sponsors serve a different purpose to mentors or coaching – they advocate for the advancement of people in the workplace, championing their work and potential with other senior leaders, helping them to secure optimal work allocation and opportunities to be more visible. Sponsorship is of particular help to women in the workplace and many relationships focus on women helping other women to gain profile at work. Returnships Returnships are a relatively recent development. Essentially, it is a professional internship designed specifically for people, most often women, returning after an extended career break. The position is relatively short-term, usually six months or so, and it allows the returner to refresh their existing skills and experience while deciding whether they want to return permanently to such a role. Returnships provide the returner with an opportunity to build their confidence and gain recent experience for their CV, while employers benefit from gaining access to the skills of experienced professionals. Inter-generational networks While many organisations were fearful of the impact millennials would have in the workplace, the more forward-thinking embraced the change and developed programmes to integrate existing and new generations. Such programmes include reciprocal mentoring, where younger people partner with longer serving ones to achieve specific business objectives. Generally, the younger person teaches the older person about the power of technology to drive business results while the longer serving person shares their experience and organisational capital. Over time, millennials will become a demographic bridge between Generation X and subsequent, more diverse generations at work. The ability of millennials to advocate and become accepted will be key to the successful transition from diversity to inclusiveness. Accessibility Trinity College Dublin established the first third-level programme for people with an intellectual disability in Ireland. The Trinity Centre for People with Intellectual Disabilities provides access to education and ultimately to the workplace to people who previously would have been excluded from both. Employers such as Bank of Ireland have recognised the contribution that can be made by those from such marginalised groups. Promoting family-friendly policies Most fathers in the workplace belong to a generation of men who place more value on work-life balance and taking time off with their children. Yet most family-friendly policies tend to be aimed at women and it is usually women who end up leaving the workforce to care for children or ageing parents. President and CEO of New America, Anne-Marie Slaughter, and Facebook COO, Sheryl Sandberg, agree that, in order to support women’s progression in the workplace, men must be allowed to take more responsibility at home. Organisations are beginning to encourage male employees to avail of family-friendly practices by “normalising” such practice. In the US, Facebook offers four months of paid leave to both male and female employees. Its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, made a very public statement by taking two months’ paternity leave when his daughter was born. Conclusion The key to creating a diverse workplace is really quite simple. The starting point is to look beyond compliance and do what is right, rather than what is required. The role of senior management is to set the tone, to educate people and empower them to act; to make them accountable and trust them to do the right thing. Then, pay real attention to the results.   Intel’s Chief Diversity Officer, Danielle Brown, suggests that, “For diversity and inclusion work to really be successful and really break through, it absolutely can’t be an initiative that is buried in HR. Diversity and inclusion absolutely has to be an integral part of culture and part of everything that we do.”   With the implementation of such positive initiatives and future generations shifting attitudes and expectations, workplaces are being reshaped to become not just diverse but inclusive, closing the circle so that the term ‘equality’ reclaims its real meaning – the state of being equal, especially in status, rights or opportunities.ty and inclusion can be integrated in organisations of all sizes.  Dawn Leane is Director of People and Resources at Chartered Accountants Ireland.

Apr 01, 2017
Practice and Business Improvement

As the Irish economy stabilises, we are likely to see renewed interest in mergers and acquisitions. David Holland shares some advice on how to prepare your company for a successful sale.   The last six to seven years were very difficult for many business owners. Revenues and profits and where growth was achieved it was at a low level. With recovery now underway, many business owners are beginning to explore options for a potential sale of their business. The decision to sell may have been deferred by the recession until such time as business valuations improved.   The improvement in the economic environment, coupled with a general feeling that valuations are at improved but still realistic levels is likely to result in increased M&A activity in 2015. In addition, the improved availability of credit from banks and alternate lenders, as well as the continued availability of equity capital has created a market more favourable for acquisitions.   The pool of potential acquirers has also grown significantly as international companies seek strategic acquisitions of, and investments in Irish businesses which have the potential for scalability and growth. This is particularly evident in the technology sector. Preparing for a sale While activity and opportunities are beginning to appear in the market, individuals considering a sale must take the time to plan carefully on order to ensure a successful outcome. The process of selling a business can be complex and in most cases it takes longer now than in the boom years. This is principally due to potential acquirers taking time to properly research acquisition opportunities, to prepare a strong business case for an acquisition, and to undertake more thorough due diligence. The requirements of banks and alternate lenders for the approval of acquisition related finance are also more rigorous than they were historically and complying with these requirements can take some time.   Business owners are often unfamiliar with the sale process and unaware of available opportunities and this sometimes leads them to sell to the first acquirer who approaches them, sometimes for a lower value than could be achieved with proper preparation and research.   To increase your chances of successfully completing a sale, it is important to choose the right buyer to maximise value. Prepare to be patient and invest time in planning. Once you have made the decision to sell, the following six actions will improve your chances of achieving a successful outcome. Engage professional advisors Hiring a professional financial and legal advice is important to ensure that the sales process runs smoothly, achieves the best result for you and that the necessary sales agreements and documentation are correctly prepared. Research An open auction is not necessarily the best route for a sale. Work with your advisor to research the most suitable potential acquirers. Be mindful that the most suitable acquirer for your business may already be well known to you, as they are currently working with you to manage the business. There are an increasing number of management teams looking at management buyouts (MBOs) as well as experienced senior executives seeking management buy-in (MBI) opportunities. Support of management It is important to ensure that your management team supports your plan and is invested in the sale and the preparation efforts. They must be working with you to maximise the outcome from the process, particularly where they are likely to remain with the business post-sale. Be ready for the sale process to occupy a significant amount of their time, distracting them from running the business. Engaging with your senior management team early and addressing their queries and concerns honestly helps ensure a successful outcome. Value of the business At the outset of the sale process, it is important to know the market value of your business. In simple terms, how would a potential acquirer view and value your business? Business owners may have an inflated view of the value of their business compared to what the market might attach to it. Use your advisors to help you understand the market perception of your business and to research sale transactions in your industry sector which may impact the valuation of your business. It is essential to understand the basis on which businesses in your sector are valued, and where the basis used to determine the sales value for your business differs, to be able to explain clearly the reasons for that difference. Depending on your circumstances and the urgency to sell, you may also wish to determine a value below which you will not sell the business. Sales documents As part of the sales process your advisor will assist you with the preparation of a ‘Teaser’ document for initial approaches to potential acquirers and an ‘Information Memorandum’ which will be provided to potential acquirers who express an interest in acquiring your business. Remember that these are sales documents and must convey the right messages about your business and demonstrate its value. Preparation for due diligence/grooming The acquirer’s due diligence review is a critical element in the sale process. At a minimum, due diligence will cover commercial, financial, taxation and legal matters. Depending on the type of business, due diligence may also include reviews of technical and environmental issues. In most cases potential acquirers will engage professional advisors to perform due diligence, however, in most cases acquirers will also directly review information pertaining to the business, particularly the commercial and market/industry aspects. This may result in some duplication of review work, which although frustrating at times is part of the process.   Sellers must also perform sell-side due diligence in order to address possible acquirer issues and to improve the chance of completing the sale. This is an additional cost for a seller but it is important because due diligence by acquirers in the current market is more intensive than in the past and acquirer-identified issues can place a seller in a defensive negotiating position on price and sale terms.   In the absence of undertaking sell-side due diligence, your advisor will provide guidance on the information an acquirer will need to be provided with for their due diligence, and assist you with the necessary preparation. Typically, due diligence by the acquirer and their advisors involves a number of discussions with you and your management team. Accordingly, management will need to be briefed in advance about the types of questions that they are likely to be asked.   Your auditor and tax advisor will also need to be informed of the potential sale as the potential acquirer will want to review the contents of the audit and tax compliance files.   Any cosmetic issues identified in the due diligence preparations should be corrected so as to ensure that a polished picture is presented to the potential acquirers. Conclusion Many business owners view their company as part of their family and sometimes the business even carries their name. They want their business to be in the right hands moving forward, while obtaining maximum value from the sale. By investing sufficient time to plan and prepare for a sale you stand the best chance of completing the sale successfully, and achieving the value being sought for your business.    David Holland, FCA is a Senior Manager (Corporate Finance) with RSM Farrell Grant Sparks.

Mar 29, 2017
Practice and Business Improvement

I have sat in several meetings surrounded by people with laptops diligently typing in everything that’s said. I have to admit I tried it once and I didn’t like it. I felt disconnected from my fellow meeting goers and I’m not entirely sure I remember what exactly I was typing in methodically anyway. Now I’m not saying that laptops don’t work. Yes they are very efficient and save you typing up notes later. And for some people they work a treat. But if you’re like me and prefer the traditional pen and paper, then what I’m about to say might be of interest to you. What’s the point? Why do we take notes in meetings? Is it because not taking notes make us look uninterested? Or is it the fear of forgetting important information that we might need to recall at a later date? I think it’s a mixture of both. Have you ever been in a meeting where someone doesn’t take any notes? Do you think they must have amazing ability to memorise everything or are you secretly thinking that they couldn’t care less about what is going on? The reality is that meeting notes keep everyone on track and remind them of what needs to be done and what their role in completing the tasks are. They are a reference point which saves confusion or disagreement down the track. Some people bring a staff member who is not involved in the meeting conversation and ask them to take notes which allow them to focus on the conversation and can be assured of good quality meeting notes. But many of us do not have that luxury. We often attend meetings and have to take our own notes in order to advance in our work. How many times have you looked at your notes and while they made perfect sense at the time, you can’t make head nor tail of what you meant a day or a week later? Many of us get worked up about scribbling everything down only to realise after the meeting that we have missed some pertinent points. So what do you want your notes to convey? Be concise Your notes are a narrative about something that has happened or will happen. They should be an accurate representation of what went on at the meeting.  They should not contain unnecessary details that don’t benefit anyone. For example, if there is a delay in a solicitor issuing a letter because he has been on holidays, no one needs to know that he has been to Mauritius with his wife and four children and his flight was delayed on the way there. Be sensible with what you record. By the time you finish writing that he had a great time in the sun, you might have missed something critical.  Write the important points first: Where and when did the meeting take place? What was the purpose of the meeting? Who chaired or led the meeting? Who attended the meeting? Who attended the meeting is often one that goes astray. Make a note when you sit down or check off their names on your attendee list – no matter how much you think you will remember; there is always a possibility that you will forget one or two names. Look at the agenda The agenda is always a good starting point when making notes. Make sure you make a record of what was discussed under each agenda item and cross them off as you go along. This ensures that you have covered everything and makes typing up your notes later much easier.    Structure Think about what you want your notes to convey. Are you making a list of discussion points where bullet points would be effective or are you developing a work action plan where a work-flow chart might work best? If you’re listing tasks and assigning people to those tasks, drawing a rough table might help. Do not record the notes verbatim. The notes should give an outline of what happened rather than a document of who said what. You need to focus on understanding what is being said. There will be situations where you are in a meeting and you cannot follow what is going on. This is when note taking becomes critical. You will need to look back on these notes and try to understand what was being said. We have all been there. Panic sets in during the meeting when things become too technical. Keep calm and write down keywords. With further understanding of the topic after the meeting, you will be able to join the dots. Learn Shorthand Meetings may go on for hours and you won’t physically be able to jot every single word down. Learn to shorten words or sentences but ensure that you understand your own shorthand. Use symbols of drawings if necessary. You will learn as you go along. After the meeting While you might feel like pulling on your jacket and making a swift exit out of the building following the meeting, you are probably better off logging onto your computer and typing up your notes.  The sooner you finalise the notes, the better. If you leave it too long, you may forget important items that you heard but didn’t write down or the less sense the minutes make. Proofread with care Others must understand your notes and must be able to rely on them. Don’t ruin your credibility by having spelling mistakes or incomplete sentences. Don’t forget to distribute the final note to attendees, not forgetting you might need to get them approved by the chair of the meeting first. Make sure you save a copy or print a copy on file for future records and remember these notes may be relied upon a long time down the line. Hopefully the above is helpful. Remember; keep it brief and simple, if you can’t understand what you are writing you can ensure no one else will! About the author: Cróna Brady Cróna is a Chartered Accountant and Associate of the Irish Taxation Institute who has spent over 10 years working in tax consulting in Big 4 and Top 10 firms. She spent a number of years working as a financial accountant in the not-for-profit sector in Australia. She is currently the Tax Manager in Chartered Accountants Ireland. Cróna is a tutor for the Chartered Tax Consultant course and Diploma in Taxation for the past few years. In her spare time, Crona loves to run, travel, read and plays the odd game of bridge. 

Nov 02, 2016
Financial Reporting

Following the publication of FRS 100 to 102 on 22 November 2012 and 14 March 2013, Chartered Accountants Ireland joined with the Financial Reporting Council (FRC) to launch the new standards at an event held in Chartered Accountants House on 30 September. The event, chaired by CAI Accounting Committee chairman, Terry O'Rourke, opened with a short address by CAI President, Brendan Lenihan, in which he welcomed the publication of the standards and committed the Institute to assisting with their implementation in this country. The President's address was followed by a presentation by Melanie McLaren, Executive Director, Codes & Standards, FRC and Jenny Carter, Project Director responsible for UK and Irish GAAP. Their presentation covered the development of the standards during a series of consultations over the past ten years, implementation issues and the work that remains to be done by the FRC on Irish and UK GAAP, such as the completion of FRS 103 on insurance, the update of the SORPs, a consultation on the future of the FRSSE and updating FRS 101 for changes in IFRS.  Fiona Hackett and Úna Curtis, both members of the CAI Accounting Committee, then presented some background to the project and on specific implications of FRS 101 and FRS 102.   The presentation slides are available to download by clicking here.

Oct 01, 2013

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