Nicole Moriarty is Tax Manager at Revolut. Revolut launched in July 2015 with the vision of becoming a progressive financial partner and global bank. Nicole joined the company in October 2018 from Smith and Williamson, and has experience in R&D, capital allowance, VAT, UK direct tax and managing banking compliance. We spoke to Nicole and she has shared her thoughts on working for Revolut, her experiences working in an in-house tax role, advice for those looking to get into the industry, and challenges for future in-house tax professionals.
So, for anyone who isn't aware: who are Revolut, what's it like working for them?
So, Revolut is an E-money institution and challenger bank launched in the UK four years ago. We are an alternative to your traditional high street bank and have a strong focus on foreign exchange and crypto-currency. We offer a product and service that eliminates all of the crooks, creaks and inefficiencies that the current high street banks offer their customers at the moment. In utilizing tech, we don't have any high street presence and also allow people to be both more mobile and international. We’re all about the challenger bank mentality of giving the power back to the people.
And in terms of what it’s like working for Revolut, because it's such a young company you get to see all of the products being developed from an early stage. You sit with the people who are developing the products and new offerings and get to actually impact these. For example, tomorrow I might be involved in reviewing the tax on how a new product is going to be offered to the market or advise on a contract with a new Partner. So in my role, it just makes what I do on a day to day basis more real and impactful. It's probably the most driven team I've ever worked with. Everyone is really keen to achieve their goals. People don't sit back on their heels and it means that there's a lot of collaboration so everyone just gets it done.
You are currently expanding at a rate of 500% each year. What does this mean for your role, and what makes tax interesting here?
Well, the first thing is that my job isn’t just about compliance. It also means that no two days are the same and the speed at which we’re expanding means that I'm also having to upscale my skills at the same time. I am expected to know the answer to a whole host of different tax issues and as we're expanding in so many different jurisdictions it creates a lot of unknown complications. So, our growth means that I'm having to learn and develop myself.
And on the note of growth, you are hiring two roles beneath and one role above you as well, which is rather unusual. How has this been, and what have you learned?
I'm really confident in my position at the moment, but I'm also very aware that within the next six months we are going to be operating as a bank in a vast number of jurisdictions, globally. And it's important to know where my limitations are and to bring someone in for the greater good of the team. From my perspective, having this expertise in the team will offer further risk-proofing and sound-boarding for my own development. What’s the phrase, “you don’t know what you don’t know”. The team and I need somebody to come in who knows the unknowns.
What advice would you give someone who wants to be part of the team?
I see a lot of people leaving practice to go into industry because they think it's going be easier, less of a challenge, or more of a relaxing ride. While this may often be true, my experience with Revolut has proven the complete opposite. So first of all, you need to be open to things outside of your job specification and to not just rely on the security of working within a box. You just really have to think outside of that box and get involved in things, maybe not even in the tax team, but in things which will eventually benefit the tax team. For example, I often help the HR Team with employee-related information because it then helps us with the employee-related returns. The advice of rolling your sleeves up and learning to get stuck in and collaborate as a team would apply just as much to a first-time mover from practice, as it would to a Group Tax Director from a really big bank.
How was the transition in-house for you?
The transition in-house for me has been great, and I think the relationships I have fostered in previous companies have proven very helpful in making this transition. My old colleagues at Deloitte – Kevin Cummings and Tyler O’Callaghan, for example, have been extremely helpful. Without these types of relationships in place, I would have struggled – you need to be able to trust your advisors well.
How do you think the role of the in-house professional has changed over the years?
I think that traditionally, the idea of the in-house tax professional was very compliance-based. And I think with the introduction of technology, businesses can obviously automise compliance with greater efficiency and with this, the in-house tax team is streamlining and becoming more advisory-focused. The second way that in-house tax has changed involves risk. Right now, tax risk is a big consideration for the board. So where previously people may have focused on being quite aggressive in their tax nature, it’s now all about how tax risk is managed in terms of policies, governance and the right frameworks.
What challenges do you see on the horizon for the in-house tax professional?
Well, I think the challenge is getting the experience in the right places. Moving forward, we need to ask ourselves where do the junior tax practitioners get their compliance-focused experience at the start of their career to then be able to take a step back and advise?
For instance, does it make sense to go right from graduate to a transfer pricing specialist? I think this would mean a lot of grads and newly quals might step into tax without seeing hands-on the impact of changing just one number on a return. So the challenge will be a question of marrying up these skills, in light of growing tech advancements.
We recently ran an interview preparation blog. What’s the first thing you personally notice about someone in an interview, and what might you be interested to read on?
I’d say one of the main negatives is that candidates just do not seem to know their own experiences well enough, and also perhaps haven’t reflected on why they are applying for that particular company. As I said, the changing nature here and to an extent in any business means your role likely won’t be exactly that on your job specification every day, and you’ll need to do a little more. And to be confident that you are eager to do a little more, we need to feel that passion and enthusiasm in your reasons for really putting yourself forward for the company. I think for your blog, I’d be keen to read on what’s actually important to tax candidates when they are looking for new roles. I know what was important to me when I made the move, but that doesn’t seem commensurate with priorities for those in the market right now. Also, it would be good to get your insight on pointers on how to conduct the interviews in the best way possible – as in, what’s best practice in tax?
Which role would you say you found the most challenging in your career so far?
Honestly, I think I’d have to say that my experience at Smith & Williamson was perhaps the most challenging, but certainly rewarding. That's probably where I developed and grew the most prior to Revolut. I went from the Big 4 to a mid-tier firm, and it’s here where I acquired a vast array of experience for the first time for my clients. Going in as a Manager meant I was expected to know the things that you just don’t have exposure to in the Big 4. So the challenge here was a lot of independent upskilling, which made it all the more rewarding to see myself develop. When you’re advising a client with a mid-tier firm, every penny can matter to them and in this sense, they can expect much more from you. I actually think there’s a lot to be said for going into a mid-tier firm, and this can be a great introductory step into the in-house context.
Where do you see your own career building?
Honestly, it’s difficult to say. I've been here now for nearly a year, and it is probably the fastest year of my life. I used to plan the years in chunks of 3 – though I see the company growing so fast that I know that my responsibilities are only going to increase. Revolut is a great company because if I have a passion to get involved in anything, I can just put myself forward. The company is growing so fast that I'm growing at the same rate. For the first time, I don’t feel like I need to have a plan.
How do you find your downtime?
So, I do a lot of Yoga – without that, I would have cracked up some time ago. It’s important to have a hobby, passion or a side project. This way, work doesn’t become all-consuming. Even though somebody appears to have stolen my yoga mat this morning, that didn’t stop me – it’s as habitual as brushing my teeth.