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your best chance of getting the money back, as the bank may be able to freeze the payee’s account before the funds are withdrawn and moved offshore.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
Business law

Orla McGahan writes: 1. Join a network “If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.” There are 1,730 Chartered firms in practice in Ireland. Of that, around 950 are sole practitioners; and yet, there are only 40 listed networks. Even with an average of ten members per network, there are a lot of people out there going it alone. Don’t isolate yourself. The benefits of being part of a network are copious: A case study group – for those times when a case needs to be talked out.  A forum to benchmark – to benchmark fees, charge out rates, overheads, staff salaries, and so on, can be invaluable. Consider joining a network outside your geographical or competitive area if necessary.  Knowledge sharing – share experiences on dealing with Revenue, CRO and other areas. For that moment when you are just having a blank, being able to run it by a trusted colleague. Referrals – often within a network various members specialise in varying fields, industries or disciplines. This can lead to additional work through referrals. CPD and training – organising training by network offers more flexibility to custom make the course, attendees, and location, while gaining cost reductions. 2. Don’t underestimate the value of your work I was lucky enough to be shown early in my practice life (by a client!) that the value of your work is not the time it took to put together the relevant documents and submit them to the appropriate authority. But rather, and more importantly, your fee should reflect the time, effort, knowledge and experience you have gained over the years which gives you the technical and practical knowhow. For a lot of practitioners, our work revolves around solving problems or doing work our clients do not have the time, knowledge, skill or experience to do. Make sure the price you put on your work adequately reflects value to both you and your client. 3. Stock control - record your time How often do we criticize clients for inadequate stock control and yet how many of us, particularly partners, do not record our time? We sell time. Fact. And yet quite often we have no control over it. There are many good CRM packages available to practitioners offering time recording systems with simple reporting facilities. Invest in one and use it. It will pay for itself, and then some. Find the discipline to record your time, every day. 4. Organise your time and stick to it! As the saying goes – “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” If I were to pick one thing that will make a difference, it’s time management. This is crucial to creating and maintaining an easy (easier) practice life. Plan, systemise where possible, and stay on top of The annual return and compliance review - do this when it comes in or as it falls due; Anti-money laundering compliance; Engagement letters; Practice housekeeping – A Chartered Accountant I know, who runs a very successful practice, has developed the habit of spending the first hour of his day, every day, without fail, to practice housekeeping. And his success is testament that it works; CPD and your CPD record; Staff mentoring records. 5. Embrace technology and update your software regularly Efficiencies leading to higher profitability and better cash-flow can be achieved with regular investment in software and technology. Incorporate this cost as an ongoing overhead. 6. Value your staff I’m sure this is not the first time you have been told this, but your staff are your most valuable asset. “We are only ever as good as the people around us”. Invest in your staff. The cost of losing an experienced staff member goes far beyond the financial cost. Added to that, a new staff member will take at least six months to become comfortable and familiar with the position. The cost of this should never be underestimated. Invest in training, talk to your staff openly and regularly (maybe over a nice lunch) about the things that make a difference to their enjoyment of the position, and it’s not always about salary. Particularly in the current environment, taking care of your staff should be a high priority. 7. Self-care In the words of Stephen Covey (The 7 habits of highly effective people) – “sharpen the saw”. Take care of yourself, your health, your mental health and your private life. As a practitioner, the pressure to develop, to stay up to date technically, meet deadlines, manage staff, and still live your life can sometimes be overwhelming, not to mention managing the expectations of clients. We carry a huge responsibility. So take time out regularly and routinely to take care of yourself. 8. Get involved in your Institute For some members “The Institute” may seem like an anonymous entity from which they can feel somewhat disconnected. But the Institute has many more facets than members realise and offers many valuable services. In addition to the staff, many member volunteers are lobbying and working away for the interests of its members. Volunteers are always required in many areas. The benefit of involvement and having an active role is that you can help shape and change the world in which you work, influence policy and changes in legislation, education, membership and many other areas. And as an added bonus, involvement gives you a sense of belonging to the Institute of which you are a member. 9. Agree fees upfront and in writing When you make this routine a habit, it is second only to time recording in revolutionising your practice, your fee recovery and your cash flow. It focuses your mind in identifying exactly what service is required, what the client is willing to pay for that service, and the timing of when you will get paid. It opens the doors for a discussion on what work the client wants done, and identify any work they are willing to do themselves. Make a list of the steps involved in the work and use this as a template to assist in the conversation. The benefit is that it saves a lot of stress and bad feeling when you think you’ve done a great job only to find that the client does not appreciate it and is unwilling to pay for it. Orla McGahan is the principal of McGahan and Co, and is a member of the Members in Practice Committee of Chartered Accountants Ireland.  

Dec 01, 2018
Personal Development

Thinking is the top-rated next generation skill, but the ability to think critically is rare. Follow these tips to stand out from your peers in the soft skills stakes. I was browsing LinkedIn recently when a headline caught my eye. It read: “The top skills companies need – and how to help your employees develop them”. I’m a sucker for a list, so I clicked in and scrolled down for the answer, whizzing past the verbiage in the process. To my surprise (and that of the article’s author, as I found out when I eventually read the intro), the leading ‘next generation skill’ is... thinking. We do it all the time but according to research from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, it’s the most important skill of the future followed by self-understanding, empathy, ethics and communication. Develop your critical thinking According to Georgetown professor, William T. Gormley, critical thinking consists of three elements: a capacity to spot weakness in other arguments, a passion for good evidence, and a capacity to reflect on your own views and values with an eye to possibly changing them. He elaborated on these points in a recent Harvard EdCast, which you can listen to here. But how can you develop these three elements and learn to think critically? According to an article published by NUI Galway, there are a number of ways to do this. You will likely know some of the points mentioned (join a debating society, get involved in class discussions etc.), but there some very noteworthy suggestions also. They include: Swap coursework with a classmate and critically evaluate each other’s arguments, use of evidence and conclusions; Accept that criticism and disagreement aren’t the same as conflict. It’s okay to hold different views to a classmate, friend or lecturer; Engage critically with course content, particularly with your assigned reading; and Remember that critical thinking is hard. As a set of ‘higher order’ skills, it isn’t something you can learn overnight. Keep trying. Ask for feedback – and learn from it. There’s some great material there, but the university’s Christopher Dwyer also suggested a very useful – and fun – means of honing this skill in his book entitled Critical Thinking: Conceptual Perspectives and Practical Guidelines: play devil’s advocate. In the era of groupthink and news bubbles, it’s easy to be convinced that there’s a right way and a wrong way. Seeking out alternatives, even seemingly irrational ones, could help you see things in a new light and this is what your future employers will be looking for - someone who is technically competent but can approach things with fresh perspectives. Let the debate begin!

Nov 01, 2018
Personal Development

Empathy isn’t only helping us connect with the feelings of others, it also hones our own self-awareness, aiding us in building and nurturing healthy relationships. WORDS BY PAUL PRICE When asked about artificial intelligence (AI), Amos Tversky, psychologist and long-time collaborator of Nobel Prize in Economics winner Daniel Kahnerman, replied, “We study natural stupidity.” Tversky wasn’t saying that humans are stupid, only that we have a propensity for emotional reasoning. Indeed, it is this ‘emotional stupidity’ and emotional intelligence (EI) that sets us apart from machines.  Despite rapid advances in emotional recognition algorithms, it is unlikely that machines will manage to simulate the most human of EI skills – empathy – any time soon. Why? Because empathy requires both feeling and imagination. It is the ability not only to understand others’ perspectives but to attune emotionally to them so that we ‘feel’ what they are feeling. Like a social radar we use to read the mood of a room, or the political currents of an organisation we enter, empathy is a uniquely human skill. And while at times it seems akin to a sixth sense, empathy, through focused effort and regular practice, can be learned.  To ‘feel’ the feelings of others, we must first channel our own. This begins by learning to recognise visceral signals inside our own body and what they are telling us. What feelings do the physiological signs preempt? What triggers them? By honing our self-awareness in this way and learning to quieten our inner chatter during interactions with others, we can gradually form a base for empathetic social-awareness. For those who find this a challenge, here are a few suggestions to help with one-to-one collegial interactions. Take an active interest in the experiences and the concerns of colleagues and be ready to reciprocate.  If a colleague seems emotionally burdened, show a healthy concern for their wellbeing. Be ready to listen if they care to share. Do so with compassion and without judgement and without trying to ‘fix’ them. If you feel that an experience from your past might help, offer to share it, but curtail talk about yourself. Remember this is about their circumstances, not yours. If values differ widely, to attune, you might try some method acting. For example, if a colleague is distraught at the loss of their cat but you are not a pet lover, you might revisit how you felt at the loss of a loved-one of your own. But maintain a healthy objectively so as not to exacerbate the situation. If you simply cannot attune to what the person is feeling, rather than avoid reflecting altogether, consider saying something like, ‘I can’t imagine how you are feeling.’ Empathy requires practice. Observe people interacting in different social settings whenever possible. Pay attention to how their moods change and learn to identify related emotional cues. Avail of every opportunity to practice your listening and emotional response skills, particularly with friends and family.   Here are some tips for developing empathy in work-groups: At meetings, avoid excessive note-taking. Instead, focus on the speakers and what is going on around you. Make occasional eye contact. Observe how others respond to their facial expressions, body language, verbal cues and tone of their voices. Notice how these signals relate to the thrust of the meeting and the mood in the room.  Pay attention to timing, particularly when you are contributing. Observe others that you consider naturally possess empathy. If you continue to have difficulty, consider engaging the help of a trusted mentor. Through developing empathy, we learn to appreciate difference, embrace diversity and nurture healthy relationships with those around us. Any time invested in developing this competence is time spent future-proofing our careers, not only towards AI but against potential relationship blunders.

Nov 01, 2018
Spotlight

Auto-enrolment makes sense, but there are critical issues beyond pension coverage that need to be considered. BY GILLIAN RYAN I went to visit my daughter in the Gaeltacht on Sunday so we had a five-hour round trip, much of which was spent reading articles in the Sunday papers and on LinkedIn about pensions – much to my husband’s delight. Genuinely. I know that’s probably most people’s idea of hell but given the fact that I have worked in the pensions industry for longer than I care to remember, I find such articles really interesting and, if I’m honest, a little frightening. My job and career to date is based on people’s need to invest in pensions. I work with advisers to support them so they can help their clients build better financial futures. On that basis, you might say I have a vested interest but as well as working in the business, I’m a wife, a mum and a friend, so my vested interest is less about my job and more about the futures of the people I care about. That said, my professional experience gives me greater insight than most on this topic. The road trip involved me reading articles about the potential reduction of tax relief on pensions contributions, the ability to bring pension funds back to Ireland from different jurisdictions, the alleged complexity of different pension structures, the fact that public sector workers don’t really need to worry too much about their pensions, and that the private sector does not appear to worry enough. I shared some insights with my husband as we drove down the dreary M6. I don’t imagine my comments and observations made the trip any more exciting for him. It did, however, open up a discussion about our future though and the potential cost of financing it. Damian is a golf club member and I’m a gym member. We both like driving nice cars. We’re not big travellers but like to have a sun holiday once a year and enjoy socialising. I could go on, but the point I’m making is we like to enjoy life and this costs money. We both work hard and believe that life is for living, but we have two children and we know it’s important to provide for them as we want them to have everything they need. What struck me as really scary was that, although I have worked in financial services for over half of my life, this was probably the first time we had a forensically in-depth discussion about such things. Maybe it is a sign that we need to get out more, but it is more likely because we have reached the stage in life where we know we are half-way there and we want to live in the comfort that we have grown accustomed to in retirement – but we don’t want to work forever. We are both members of occupational pension schemes, to which we and our respective employers contribute. As we near retirement, the need for – and the benefit of – being a member of these arrangements is becoming ever more relevant. There is a push to increase pension coverage in the private sector in Ireland and I agree that this is something that should be done. I have some concerns about the direction of change, however. Coverage If I think back to when I was 20 and retirement was two more lifetimes away, pension funding was the furthest thing from my mind. Had I not worked in a company with a pension scheme, I am quite confident that I would have elected to spend my money elsewhere. On that basis, I genuinely believe that 20-something year olds need a push to make provision and to that end, the introduction of an auto-enrolment (AE) system that would automatically include this cohort of private sector employees makes a lot of sense. They will be grateful someday that this was “forced” upon them. Adequacy I believe an AE scheme is appropriate for those who don’t make the decision to fund but at a certain stage in life, one needs to start taking responsibility for one’s own financial future. The issue of having set levels of pension contributions in place is that members of such schemes believe that just ticking the box is enough. They believe they have a pension, which they do, but that brings me to my next concern: is the pension that you contribute to adequate to support your needs and desires in retirement? This is where the requirement for financial advice kicks in. Individuals need to be asked the following: Are you maximising the tax reliefs available to you at this stage in your life? Are you taking enough risk to generate the returns you need on your investment? How does your pension fund fit in with the other assets you own? When you retire, what should you do with your pension to provide for the future you want? We are all living longer, so how do you save enough to ensure that you can afford to retire comfortably? There is a cost for getting this advice, and rightly so. But in the world we live in, surely we understand that you get what you pay for – particularly if you are savvy enough to plan ahead. Tax relief I mentioned tax relief in the last section and in the weekend papers, there was much discussion about tax relief and the possibility that the Government may seek to reduce the tax relief available to higher rate tax payers. The papers referred to the “standardisation of tax relief on pensions” and I struggle with this one for many reasons. Higher rate taxpayers earn more and therefore pay more tax on their income. To that end, they should be entitled to tax relief at the same rate as they pay on income earned. If it was about creating a more simple structure and encouraging more private sector workers to fund pensions, then why not standardise at the higher rate? If our Government wants to increase coverage, they should surely aim to make pensions more attractive to the lower earners rather than penalise the higher earners. Reducing higher rate tax relief will not encourage those subject to tax at the lower rate to fund pensions. It will make no difference to them and will more than likely reduce the amount of pension contributions made by the higher rate cohort, so this contradicts the Government’s stated ambition to increase private sector coverage. Tax standardisation only relates to reliefs, which is one part of the equation. There has been no reference to standardising the tax paid on the income from retirement benefits. As a higher rate taxpayer, why would I make contributions to my pension and get relief at the lower level when at retirement, the same Government that reduced the relief available to me in the accumulation stage (pension funding) want to tax the income paid to me in the decumulation stage (retirement) at the higher level? That isn’t a balanced approach. The cost to fund auto-enrolment Private sector versus public sector pensions – this is the most emotive debate of them all and, as you can imagine, the public sector don’t want their pension benefits to be touched. To be fair, I completely understand that. While it is a significant cost to the economy, there are a huge number of men and women who work hard to earn this benefit and I am sure that if I was eligible, I’d be fighting to retain it too. Many academics and industry representatives have tried to come up with solutions that would create a level pensions playing field between the private and public sector. To date, no-one has been successful. My main concern, and the one that the Government tends to brush over, is that the majority of pension costs incurred by the State relate to public sector pensions – not private sector pensions. Conclusion AE in some form makes sense and addresses the coverage issue. It doesn’t address the adequacy issue, however, and there should therefore be a middle ground where individuals can seek advice and fund private contracts where necessary. The means by which the State funds the introduction of AE, which is a system to maximise coverage in the private sector, should not be funded by a reduction in tax relief. This move would be totally counter-productive in a world where private sector pension funding needs to be increased. Anyway, if you have made it to the end of this story, you will be glad to hear that my daughter is having a great time at the Gaeltacht and my husband is delighted that she will be home next week, so there’s no need for anymore (pension) road trips. Gillian Ryan is Strategic Business Manager at Standard Life.

Oct 01, 2018
Spotlight

It seems likely that Ireland will soon adopt the Auto Enrolment Retirement Savings System, so here’s some practical advice to help your clients prepare for the road ahead. BY GARY BRIGGS Back in 2012, when the UK Government introduced automatic enrolment (AE), only 50% of private sector employees in the UK were enrolled in any sort of pension scheme. Today, that figure is very close to 100% and the few employers that have failed to comply with the legislation face heavy fines. Whether they wanted to or not, the vast majority of UK employees are now saving money for retirement and although their futures are not guaranteed to be rosy, they are certainly more financially secure. Both employers and employees make contributions, resulting in an additional £2.5 billion saved into workplace pensions each year. In Ireland, which will introduce AE by 2022, there is a mountain to climb. According to research carried out by Standard Life in early 2017, only one-third of all private sector workers in Ireland have any sort of pension scheme while the topic of retirement planning never even occurs to three-quarters of all employees. This presents a massive challenge for employers, and their accountants, who will very shortly need to start preparing their workforce for across-the-board pension contributions. AE, which is currently subject to a public consultation process, is likely to apply to those between 23-60 years of age and earning over €20,000 per annum. Contributions will begin at 1% for employees, increasing to 6% in year six. Contributions will also be matched by employers up to a maximum of €75,000 and the proposed State contribution is €1 for every €3. Just to be clear: AE is probably going to apply to ALL employers. So a household employing one nanny will need to be just as diligent as a multinational corporation with 500 employees. The only differences will be in the scale of the operation and the timing. If Ireland follows the UK’s example, large corporations will be first in line. This will give SMEs, who are less likely to have pension arrangements in place, time to get their houses in order – but nobody will be exempt. Your role Let’s also be honest: not everyone is going to like this. Many employers, especially smaller ones, will regard it as an additional administrative and financial burden. Some employees may resent additional monies being automatically deducted from their payslips. Sadly, some will see it as a necessary evil akin to tax, rather than as a welcome gift for the future. In contrast to the UK, it is proposed that employees in Ireland – not their employers – will choose their pension provider on an individual basis. This could lead to confusion for employers. This is where you, the accountant, come in. Your existing relationship with your client puts you in the perfect position to prepare them for this sea change. By pointing clients in the right direction and helping them organise their payroll data, you can smooth what can otherwise be a painful process and add significant value to your client/accountant relationship. It will also make your clients less likely to fall prey to other payroll administrators that might claim to offer a one-stop solution for AE. Key factors I was fortunate enough to be involved in the UK’s AE project from the beginning when one of my clients, a restaurant chain with over 40 sites, asked me to embark on a pension planning and budgeting exercise. This was followed by an investigation into the optimum software and payroll services to make the proposed process work efficiently. I soon realised that significant adaptation to their existing systems would be required and that financial advice was only a tiny part of the overall process. There were also 14 volumes of guidance notes to digest. Since then, I have helped hundreds of employers – large and small – to introduce workplace pensions. While every business is different, there are three common factors when it comes to the effective roll-out of pension schemes. The first is data. Put simply, if you put bad data in, you get a bad solution out. So before any employer can even start to implement a pension scheme, they must get their employee and payroll data into impeccable order. More often than not, this requires an element of cleansing and re-formatting the data to make sure it’s compliant with whatever pension software they are going to use. Payroll operators may also need some degree of training to become familiar with the new process. The second factor is communication. Assuming the Irish Government goes ahead with AE, we can expect the relevant government department to immediately start a nationwide campaign to promote the initiative. Many clients will nevertheless remain perplexed about their obligations. The average employee will be even less aware, and this ignorance will be far from bliss. Much of the language associated with pensions and AE is highly technical and the process, with its staggered enrolment dates and incremental increases, has the potential to be confusing. Effective communication will be required at every stage of the process to make employers and employees accept, and eventually embrace, this initiative. At Vintage Corporate, we developed a comprehensive communications toolkit to help our clients keep staff informed and engaged. Aside from the statutory letters, we supported the enrolment process with staff notices, workshops and one-to-one meetings. This gave us the opportunity to introduce the wider topic of general financial planning, which can ultimately improve employees’ financial well-being and enhance their employer’s status as a great company to work for. The third key factor that facilitates adoption of workplace pensions is project management. These pension reforms will be Ireland’s biggest for many years and will necessitate a complex, highly regulated process. Each employer will have to complete numerous steps, often placing great pressure on support staff. Your clients can of course manage the entire exercise themselves, but it is likely to consume many hours that could be better spent. In the long run, it may be more cost-effective for them to call on the services of a professional adviser who has already managed the process several times and knows the ropes. A long road If you are speaking to your clients about AE, you should also help them realise that their obligations will be ongoing. Most employers naturally focus on the initial launch and implementation, giving less thought to the longer term. The UK experience has shown that this was simply the beginning. Like us, you could introduce a comprehensive ongoing service whereby a member of your support team maintains regular contact with enrolled companies and visits them at least once a year to ensure compliance. You could also present clients with an annual report and a certificate of good pension governance. Gary Briggs is Managing Director at Vintage Corporate and a leading authority on workplace pensions and group insurance.

Oct 01, 2018

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