Kate Tongue is the Head of Corporate Tax at Argenta Group. Argenta Holdings Limited has a diversified portfolio of businesses focused on the Lloyd’s market in London. Kate speaks with Jay Sky, Senior Consultant at Pro-Tax about life at Argenta Group, the contrasting practice and in-house environments, and shares insight into the effects of COVID19 on the Lloyd’s market.
For anyone who isn’t aware – who are Argenta, and what do they actually do?
Argenta Group is headquartered in London, employing around 200 people globally, with office locations in Singapore, Australia and a presence on the Lloyd’s China platform. We are proud of our unique and rich history of trading in the Lloyd’s market. In 2017 Argenta was acquired by Hannover Re, the third largest reinsurer in the world, which has helped strengthen our position in the market and is expected to bring some exciting opportunities in years to come.
Argenta Group has three key businesses in the UK, operating within the Lloyd’s market; Argenta Syndicate Management Limited, which manages Syndicate capacity of c£570m, Argenta Private Capital Limited, which prides itself in advising c550 clients and represents almost £2.4bn of capacity, and Argenta Tax and Corporate Services Limited, which provides tax, accounting and company secretarial services to around 800 clients and supports the internal group.
What does your role at Argenta involve, and what do you enjoy about your work?
I am a Director of Argenta Tax and Corporate Services Limited and head up the Corporate Tax team. I am responsible for client delivery, new business, finances and team development. I am also responsible for tax within the Argenta Group and support associated companies with tax compliance and reporting. I enjoy the variety of work and freedom and flexibility to focus my efforts where I choose. For example, my weekly workload can include tax provisioning, supporting potential new clients with structuring their underwriting vehicles in the most tax efficient manner, developing our processes and assessing our requirements under DAC6, and looking at the tax implications of possible acquisitions.
The office atmosphere is extremely professional and everyone is very friendly and supportive. I’ve only been at Argenta for just over a year and its thanks to the people who I work with that I settled in so quickly and really feel at home.
How would you describe the culture at Argenta?
The people are key at Argenta and we have a long standing workforce who we recognise as our greatest asset. It’s an inclusive, friendly and social group who work collaboratively towards common goals. I’ve found it a great place to learn and grow, and that hard work is recognised and rewarded. The team spirit has been maintained throughout lockdown through regular formal and informal catch ups.
Why did you join Argenta personally, and what milestones have there been for you since?
I was looking to move away from practice and try something new. I enjoy the challenges that come with working in the Lloyd’s market and the opportunity to head up a team with the flexibility to direct it how I choose. It was a great opportunity. It’s also a unique role with responsibilities both in-house as well as having a large number of external clients which appealed to me. Milestone wise, I am proud to have set up new processes around tax risk and compliance, and initiated more cohesive working between tax functions across the wider Hannover Re group. I was appointed to the Board last year which presented new challenges to overcome!
Some are not aware that Argenta provide tax services to a large client base. For anyone with a practice background who is keen to consider in-house options, how would you characterise working at Argenta?
Argenta Tax and Corporate Services has over 800 clients which certainly keeps us busy. The majority of clients are small family owned businesses operating as Lloyd’s corporate members. We do personal tax for brokers and individuals and manage a mix of LLPs and limited companies and also some large international groups, so again a unique role for someone who understands the tax issues affecting Owner Managed Business type clients such as loans to participators and share buy backs, and wider insurance tax issues such as BEAT, transfer pricing and DAC6. Or someone who is willing and quick to learn! It is a mixed role both in terms of client base but also with the in-house role requirements which include Argenta group tax compliance and operations, tax reporting, restructuring, acquisitions etc.
How are Argenta responding in the given climate, and how would you describe the impact of Covid-19 on the Lloyd’s market?
Really well – we are largely all still working effectively and efficiently at home and are in the process of working out how to get some of the team back in the office safely. The business has made it clear the safety of its employees and their families is key.
The economic shock of Covid-19 has weakened the insurer's balance sheets all around the world. Analysis by the Corporation of Lloyd’s suggested that $100bn of asset value has been removed from the global insurance industry’s balance sheets. However, as a result, rates are increasing considerably making 2021 a good opportunity for new investors.
What kind of person might you keep an eye out for in the Tax Team?
I would be interested in someone who is versatile, hardworking and keen to take responsibility and operate autonomously, but with the ability to ask for help and guidance when needed. Someone who is keen and quick to learn with experience in the Lloyd’s market and with both an accounting and tax qualification (or significant experience), who is able to build relationships with internal stakeholders and key contacts in the market.
What advice might you offer to anyone considering applying for a role in your team?
Make sure you are aware of issues affecting Lloyd’s limited liability vehicles and are prepared to work hard in return for good rewards.