Overseas member news

Thought leadership

Dr. Caroline McGroary, a Chartered Accountant and Lecturer with Dublin City University (DCU) was recently awarded the Chartered Star by Chartered Accountants Ireland, and will represent the profession at this year’s One Young World Conference in 2021. Here she hopes to contribute to discussions around the role of education in preparing for the fourth industrial revolution, with a particular focus on the challenges regarding accessibility, affordability and the need to keep gender equality at the forefront of the education agenda. Having trained with Deloitte, Caroline wanted to use her qualification to get into lecturing and was delighted to join DCU in 2010. In 2013, DCU signed a partnership with an all-female Saudi university and Caroline, along with three colleagues, travelled to Saudi Arabia to set up a division of DCU Business School. The original remit was acting as Programme Director teaching business, accounting and finance modules through English, as well as training Saudi lecturers, but it quickly became so much more. Caroline became involved in many impactful projects over her time here, one of which was centred around developing the financial literacy skills of her students and women in the wider community. Caroline is now based between Riyadh in Saudi Arabia and her home in Donegal.  Ahead of International Women’s Day, Caroline outlines her experiences of being a Chartered Accountant and her work in Saudi Arabia, and how she will #ChooseToChallenge for this year’s International Women’s Day.  What inspired you to make the move to Saudi Arabia?  I have always been very passionate about the role of education in transforming lives. Through my own experiences both as a Chartered Accountant and Lecturer, I have experienced first-hand the value of a good education. Mindful that education is not something afforded to everyone, which can lead to gross inequality and exclusion in many societies, this was a real driving force behind my decision to move to Saudi Arabia in 2013.  How do you feel being a Chartered Accountant has helped you in your journey?  The Chartered Accountancy qualification is often branded as a “passport” to one’s future career as it is globally recognised and is considered the “gold standard” in accountancy education and training. I completely endorse this view, as being a member of Chartered Accountants Ireland has not only provided me with a set of skills and values which I can apply in many settings, but it has also provided me with an international platform to pursue a very meaningful career. In particular, the global mobility of the qualification has opened many doors during my time in the Middle East, including providing opportunities to work with other Chartered Accountants, working alongside the Irish Ambassador to Saudi Arabia to establish the Irish Business Network, and working with other high-profile organisations including the Saudi government.  On a personal level, being a member of Chartered Accountants Ireland has allowed me the opportunity to meet many inspirational people and to be part of impactful community projects and groups, including the FinBiz2030 Taskforce. It also inspired me to pursue my passion for education and to complete a PhD in the area of professional accountancy education. These experiences have given me a different perspective on how I can use the qualification to achieve positive impact both from a personal and career perspective.  Is there a strong network of Chartered Accountants in Saudi and in other places you have been? I’m grateful to have met many Chartered Accountants while travelling abroad over the years. I’ve also had the opportunity to use the strength of this network in both my role as a lecturer and in the wider business community. A perfect example of the power of this network is demonstrated through a financial literacy initiative developed in 2019. This project helped develop the financial literacy levels of our students, as well as women in the local community, with an awareness campaign reaching over 1 million social media users. Some students described this initiative as “a life changing experience”, with others referring to the knowledge gained as “a life skill which I can apply in business and in my personal life”.  This initiative was borne out of an initial conversation with a former colleague in Deloitte, who then connected me with their fellow partner in Deloitte in Saudi Arabia. The Deloitte team worked with us over a few months to develop an educational experience for both staff and students.  Other Chartered Accountants also engaged with us, from both Ireland and the UK, and by the end of the semester the initiative had gained the support of Chartered Accountants Worldwide, along with other key partners including the Saudi Ambassador to the US. This example is a great reminder of the power of the Chartered Accountant network and, most importantly, what can be achieved when Chartered Accountants come together to work on meaningful and impactful projects. How have you seen Saudi Arabia change since you first arrived in 2013?  Over the last number of years Saudi Arabia has been undergoing an economic and social revolution. As a result there has been progress in many areas, particularly regarding the empowerment of women in Saudi society including changes to guardianship rules and allowing women to drive. However, the reforms that have been of most interest to me are those around the education of women, including the commitment of the Saudi government to increasing female economic participation. I believe these reforms will fundamentally change the future of the country and it has been a privilege to help my students in this way.  How have you seen your students develop over the course of the programmes you teach? It is always a source of pride to observe the development of our students over the course of their degree programmes and their achievements upon graduation. For example, the employment rate of our Saudi graduates stands at approximately 90%, with many of these graduates also going on to pursue further education. This is significant, as it demonstrates the appetite for change regarding the employment and empowerment of women. At an individual level, I also see marked increases in the confidence and social awareness of our students as they progress through their degrees. This is noteworthy, as many student projects were based on addressing global issues yet were applied in their local communities, including the financial literacy initiative outlined above. In your own words, why do you believe financial literacy is key? Financial literacy refers to knowledge, behaviours and attitudes regarding financial decisions and long-term financial well-being. In the absence of such skills, individuals may lack the ability to make sound financial decisions in their professional and personal life, risking their future financial security and that of their family. It is also an essential skill in addressing the gender divide, as in many countries women are considered to be at higher risk of financial exclusion than their male counterparts. Therefore, I believe that financial literacy is an essential life skill and should be taught at all levels of our education system. From your experiences, what would be your advice for anyone thinking of studying Chartered Accountancy? My advice would be that if you want a meaningful career, a globally recognised qualification that provides you with strong technical and business skills across a variety of roles and industries, then Chartered Accountancy is definitely for you.  I would also advise prospective members to talk to other Chartered Accountants, as well as engaging with the Chartered Accountants Ireland “Chartered Career Chat” series, to learn about members’ experiences and perspectives of the qualification.  Finally, as we celebrate International Women’s Day 2021, how will you embrace this year’s theme #ChooseToChallenge? Over the last number of years I have gained a deeper appreciation regarding the importance of education in reducing inequalities in society. Given that I have the opportunity to represent Chartered Accountants Ireland at the 2021 One Young World summit, I #ChooseToChallenge and contribute to the conversation regarding the role of education in preparing for the fourth industrial revolution, with a particular focus on the challenges regarding accessibility, affordability and the need to keep gender equality at the forefront of the education agenda. 

Mar 05, 2021
Public Policy

  As influential members of every sector of the economy, professional accountants are uniquely positioned to help effect meaningful and positive change in a collective effort. To do so they require training and support to apply their skills to the challenge. Chartered Accountants Ireland is committed to providing our members with this support.   Sustainability is of global concern and relevance to us all, and businesses are vital to it. Following the shocks of the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses are being called on to transform themselves, to rebuild, rebuilding a socially just, low-carbon and climate resilient economy and society. The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs) can provide a framework for businesses in this, but the business transformation required to achieve these goals goes beyond incremental improvements and adjustments to ‘business-as-usual’. The changes in 2021 and beyond will be dramatic, not just to the operations of business but across their value chains. In 2020, Chartered Accountants Ireland began the process of embedding sustainability throughout our activities. Advised by an Expert Working Group on Sustainability, we created a programme of work, held virtual events on sustainability topics and launched an online Sustainability Hub providing information, guidance and supports to help members understand sustainability and meet the challenges it presents. We also published a short guide Sustainability for Accountants. This guide details the risks and opportunities presented by sustainability, and the steps that need to be taken to address the challenges. It also shares best practice examples and describes how organisations can transition to operating sustainably, successfully and cost-effectively. You can read more about our 2020 activities here. In 2021 we will be keeping pace with the urgency of this ‘decade to deliver’. We will be building on our sustainability activities and beginning our path to a positive climate and environment impact. We are currently working on a carbon plan for our Dublin office, and reviewing our carbon footprint. We are increasing our public policy activities and members events and have begun a series of ‘explainers’ articles in our weekly eNews on topics identified as being important focal points for members in 2021, including decarbonisation, the circular economy and biodiversity and what they mean for accountants. The topic of decarbonisation will first be addressed in a District Society event in March, and sustainability is the leading topic of the Institute's Annual Governance Conference in April. Working with the Expert Working Group on Sustainability of the Global Accounting Alliance (GAA), and in association with the Accounting Bodies Network of A4S (Accounting for Sustainability),we will be contributing to the UN Biodiversity Conference in May (‘COP 15’) and the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (‘COP 26’). We are also delighted to be working as part of the One Young World and Chartered Accountants Worldwide (CAW) initiative, FinBiz 2030 in their goals to engage financial and business professionals to achieve the UN SDGs. Significantly, this year will see an Institute-wide ‘Sustainability Week’ from June 14-18. During this week we will launch Chartered Accountants Ireland’s own roadmap towards carbon neutrality, as well as publishing guides for members on the application to their businesses of topics such as the circular economy and biodiversity. We are running the first Chartered Accountants Ireland Sustainability Conference that week (June 16), and will bring together speakers on topics from sustainability reporting, sustainability finance and governance, as well as provide practical advice on decarbonisation programmes. Follow our activities in the Sustainability Centre on our website to find information on our Expert Working Group on Sustainability, our events, resources, and sustainability related news. For all queries please contact Public Policy Officer Susan Rossney at susan.rossney@charteredaccountants.ie

Feb 19, 2021

Chartered Accountants Ireland is a global organisation, with members living and working all around the world. Our network of very active District Societies are a way for members to network professionally and personally. They are a great way to offer and give support, as well as for those living overseas to keep in touch with us here in Ireland. This week, Tuesday 26 January is Australia Day so we are taking the opportunity to reach out to our 1,037 members who call Australia home. So, where is everyone?   State Number of members  New South Wales  617  Victoria  227  Western Australia  91  Queensland  49  South Australia  6  Northern Territory  3  Capital Territory  3  Tasmania  2  Not stated  39 Australia Day is a national holiday, so we hope our members are enjoying a day off. We invite members to Tweet and tell us what you are doing to mark the day this week, using the hashtag #CharteredAustralia We'd love to hear from you! And don't forget that if you are a member living in Australia, your District Society would welcome you getting in touch. The Society Executive is Cathy McDermott, and she can keep you updated on events and activities the Society arrange.

Jan 26, 2021

We were delighted to catch up with Marie-Claire McDonnell, who is now based in Toronto with her family. As you will read, it wasn’t a smooth start but she has some really good, practical advice for new arrivals or those thinking of making the move. In 2019, we launched a Chapter Network Group for members in Toronto, which Marie-Claire heads up, so anyone in the area should certainly reach out!  Tell us about your journey as a Chartered Accountant and how you ended up settling in Toronto?  I trained in EY Dublin in the ICT department (Industrial, Commercial and Technology) and qualified in 2008.  Similar to many in my intake, I took a year out to travel mostly Asia, Australia and New Zealand. I came back to Ireland in the latter part of 2009 worked for three years as Associate Director, Finance in Depfa Bank. It was at Depfa I met my now husband, Cormac, and we decided to move to Canada. At the time it was easy to get a one year working holiday visa, and we chose to live in Toronto as we both had financial services experience and Toronto is a Financial Services hub.  I found it hard to settle in Toronto if I am completely honest, it did take me about a year. We came in September 2012, when the bad weather starts. We knew no one here and I really had to put myself out there to make friends. It takes a few months to get work here also, so I took on temp admin roles to keep myself occupied at the start. I remember asking myself a few times as I was doing data entry for eight hours a day: “did we make a huge mistake?” But we hung tight and both secured great roles by December 2012. I took a maternity cover contract in a pension fund called OMERS ($109 billion in net investment assets in 2019), where I was Senior Financial Analyst in Finance for Venture and Strategic investments. Once I was there four months, they made me permanent and I stayed for three and a half years before I made the move to recruitment. I now recruit qualified accountants in non-financial services industries with Robert Walters Canada, and have a special soft spot for helping the Irish ACAs who have just arrived in Toronto.  What have been the advantages of being an ACA in Toronto? The Irish ACA designation is very well respected in Toronto, and Irish ACAs have a reputation for being extremely hard workers. Employers like the training Irish ACAs get in Ireland. A lot of the time the ACAs from practice have had exposure to audit of large multinationals and are technically strong as a result.  The ACA designation opens so many doors here. Another huge benefit of the ACA designation is that it is a profession which you are almost guaranteed to secure permanent residency with. What advice would you give to members going to Toronto today? Be prepared to have to wait to get a good role and have savings to keep you going for three to four months. Toronto is an expensive city and sometimes it can take a while to get a good role. As you have no credit history in Canada, you might need to pay a few months rent up front. It is important to be prepared for this. I would also encourage people to be open. Contract work is your friend in Toronto, it is a foot in the door of a good company, or it is Canadian experience to secure your next role. Look at contract work with an open mind: what experience will I have after this role to open doors for me? Be confident and put yourself out there. Toronto is a city built on networks. Be prepared to cold message people (maybe Irish ACAs here) and ask them for a chat/coffee/Zoom call. I know so many people here who have secured work by networking. Irish people do try to help each other in Toronto as much as possible which is fantastic. How has lockdown been in Toronto for you? I am sure like everyone, I can say it has been very challenging. We had a difficult few months in that we welcomed our second daughter, Isla, in May in the middle of lockdown. Isla unfortunately was born critically ill with meningitis. Our family were all in Ireland and they were so worried about us over here. Managing their worry on top of our own was difficult. My husband and I did not see Isla together until she was discharged from hospital a month later as only one caregiver could be in the hospital at a time. Daycare was closed so we had to find care for our two-year-old daughter Aoibhinn. COVID just made a terrible situation 10 times worse if that was possible! However, in the midst of the difficulty, the kindness and selflessness of our friends was unbelievable. Our close circle of friends here rallied around, staying overnight with us, minding our eldest daughter, taking our dog, cooking for us, driving us to the hospital and back, cleaning and just being here for a shoulder to cry on when you technically cannot touch people outside your family.  They put themselves at risk being with us as we were in hospital every day.  Lockdown was probably one of the worst times of my life but we really learned how amazing and supportive our friends are here. Thankfully little Isla is a trooper and has made a full recovery.   What will Christmas mean for you this year?   We are actually travelling to Ireland for Christmas for five weeks. We are very lucky to have a house to quarantine in Killarney. My brother is getting married at the end of December and we wanted to take our little miracle baby Isla home to meet her family in Ireland. It will not be the same as years before, but we are content to just be at home with our families. I am also very excited for some grandparent babysitting so I can hopefully squeeze in a few shopping trips! Marie-Claire McDonnell is a Finance and Recruiting Specialist with Robert Walters and also is a point of contact for the Toronto Chapter and would love to hear from any members in the Toronto area. Similarly, members looking to reach out can contact Gillian Duffy - District and Global Member Manager.

Dec 02, 2020

Making the move After working for KPMG Dublin for four years, I used the network to move to the Madrid office a year ago. Thankfully I enjoyed five months of the city in full swing before COVID-19 hit and I absolutely loved it. Spanish life There is a relaxed vibe for such a major city, life really is all about enjoying cervezas and tapas on the terrazas. The weather helps facilitate this, as it can get chilly, but it hardly ever rains! There are lots of activities for expats: I joined a hockey team and a running club, and I found that a great way to meet locals was to go to “intercambios” where you can practise your Spanish and the Spaniards practise their English.   Overcoming the language barrier I worked for the audit and accounting advisory teams in KPMG Madrid. I felt incredibly welcomed by my colleagues there, but at times the language barrier was difficult, as I moved with only a basic level of Spanish. English is not as commonly used as it would be in KPMG offices in other European capitals. However it was sink or swim so I have definitely improved. The importance of networking Unfortunately due to the pandemic, my contract was terminated in August. However, I am continued to job hunt here as I just love the city and all it has to offer. I have recently come across Professional Accountants in Spain (PAS), which is a network for students and members of the UK and Irish chartered accounting bodies, which should definitely help me to make some contacts. Thankfully, it didn't take me too long to find a new role with the Olympic Channel in Madrid so I'm delighted! Moving on and staying strong While Madrid is a major European capital, it clings strongly to the Spanish culture, which I believe makes it unique and therefore an exciting and interesting place to move to. I would highly recommend it to anyone and there are a few multinationals with English as their corporate language if someone didn´t have Spanish. If anyone is thinking of a move, I´d be happy to give any advice, so please feel free to get in touch via Chartered Accountants Ireland. Leah Lenehan, ACA  

Oct 21, 2020

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