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Alison Humphries

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Alison Humphries

Managing Director | Group

I joined Pro in 2008 and now sit on the board as a Director. As a business owner at Pro-Recruitment, I now head up all 5 divisions. However, having historically been a tax recruitment specialist for almost 15 years I still have a vast knowledge and network in tax recruitment and work very closely with clients and the team. I have a successful leadership team in place at Pro with specialist knowledge in each of the 5 market disciplines. 

 

I have a trusted network and solid relationships that have been formed over 10 years’ and that continue to grow. People stay in touch with me, refer friends and family to me and those that I have helped over the years look to me to help with their recruitment needs.

 

I have 10 years of tax recruitment experience in London, my knowledge of practices, and in-house tax teams rivals those in any tax recruitment team in London. I know many candidates who I can reach out to which helps keep me ahead of my competition.

 

Outside of work, I usually head out to walks with my Boxer dog Tess, after which I tend to hang out at the local pub and have a pint of local bitter. My favourite holiday…too difficult a question, skiing in the alps, road trips in the US or partying and relaxing at the same time anywhere in the Far East I love them all. 

alison's articles

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8 Tips to Reduce Stress

Posted by Alison Humphries

At Pro-Group, we are doing everything in our power to ensure that our employees are looked after from all angles including financially, mentally, emotionally, and physically. But it has to come from within. You have to want to live a more stress-free and calmer life and have a safe place in which to do so. When I need a moment to de-stress I walk into my garden, I look at the flowers, the grass, the toys, the things the dog has chewed and think to myself... "there is so much I need to do to this" - haha! I jest but it's so true, our daily life, running a house, running a job, running a family...it can be very demanding and it's not all calm walks through cottage gardens for most of us! With a focus on wellbeing at the forefront of all of our minds in the past 12 months, we have decided to partner with Luminate to host a series of internal webinars to better equip our teams with practical tips, advice, and support on maintaining good mental health wellbeing. With April being National Stress Awareness Month, this month we explore ways of managing stress. Research shows that employees who work from home may experience more of a blur when it comes to work and personal life boundaries, and many struggle more with the concept of unplugging and ending their workday compared to those who work in an office setting. 41% of employees who more often worked from home vs. on-site considered themselves highly stressed, compared to 25% of those who worked only on-site. 42% of those who work from home report frequent night waking, while only 29% of office workers reported the same. Of course, there are plenty of perks of working from home (goodbye commute!) but stress, anxiety, loneliness, and uncertainty have played their part. Here are some of our tips to ensure you take care of your stresses and mental health whilst working from home. 1. Set a routine you can stick to Whether you set your own schedule or have specific hours that you need to be working, creating a routine can help you focus better on the tasks at hand, making your day feel more manageable and productive. Set your day up in blocks. This makes your day more manageable and task-driven, allowing you to accomplish what is needed at specific times. Eat that frog. Tackle you’re most complicated tasks in the morning, which will set you up for the rest of the day.   Set regularity to your normal routine, wake up at the same time, set aside a lunch break and regular breaks in between. 2. Create a dedicated workspace Even though it may be tempting to curl up on the sofa with your laptop, try to create a dedicated workspace where you can solely focus on your job. Creating specific work and personal life boundaries, even if you're just using a small corner of your home, can help you mentally shift from home life to work. It may also help you leave your work "at the office" once you're done with your day. 3. Take regular breaks Now that you’ve broken your tasks into smaller and more manageable steps, you need to ensure that you’re rewarding yourself for completing them. This might involve a few moments to stretch and move away from your desk, giving yourself some time to check in with family and friends, or taking the much-deserved lunch break outdoors (weather permitting!) for some fresh air away from your ‘office’. 4. Reduce Distractions and set boundaries When working from home, you may experience challenges setting boundaries with people who forget that working from home is still working. Family members, friends, and neighbors may ask you for help or to engage with them during your working hours. You may even experience some frustration on their end if you note that you are unavailable, but setting those clear boundaries. As a first-time parent, I am so thankful for the nursery that my daughter goes to. The 8am dropoff and 5pm pick up clearly set my daily boundaries and are the hours that I can work guilt-free. Quite often I have unfinished work at 5pm, so I do look at emails and make the odd call at 7pm whilst we prepare dinner, but I always give myself between 5-7pm the time with my daughter and everyone I work with is very aware of these boundaries and that they will either catch me before 5pm or after 7pm if it is important.  5. Stay connected It’s easy to feel isolated working from home and it is so important to make an effort to connect with supportive individuals around you, be it family, friends or colleagues. Because everyone may have different schedules, set up a regular time to video chat or call each other, and add it to your calendar as a reminder as something to look forward to. You can also create a group chat to stay in touch with each other throughout the week. At Pro-Group, we have a Whatsapp group, regular microsoft teams calls, and evening social events. As lockdown eases, we are putting outdoor events together as an opportunity to connect with colleagues again. 6. Know when to switch off Working from home doesn’t mean working 24/7. Overworking causes burnout. Burnout affects productivity as well as health and in the long run, is a recipe for disaster, mistakes increase, health issues emerge and recovery from burnout is tricky. Having a schedule, a list of things to achieve in your day, week, and month, will allow you to manage your accomplishments. Remember to work smarter, not harder. At Pro-Group, we work with core hours in place, but offer the flexibility for our teams to work around their personal commitments. This is key for work/life separation - setting the tone that if you respect your team member's need to have that balance and delineation, that they will similarly respect the need for their work time to be fully devoted to work, where possible.  7. Keep your house running With the freedom and flexibility to work from home, it’s nice to be able to do the things that would ordinarily get on top of you. When you take a break to get yourself a cuppa why not put a wash on whilst you wait for the kettle to boil, empty the dishwasher, do the small things around the house that get on top of you and mean that you have to rush around in your spare time. One thing that I have personally started doing in my fresh food shopping on Monday at 8am, I drop my daughter off at nursery and head to the supermarket. It's extremely quiet, I'm not rushing around with a toddler, and I know that my family is set for the week. I may log on a little later on a Monday morning but no one misses me and my work still gets done. As long as you aren't missing a meeting, do the things that free your mind and take a weight off your shoulders. I'm certainly not suggesting a spring clean for half a day but it's the little things that will help your week progress.  8. Practice self-care and be kind to yourself It’s easy to beat yourself up when things don’t go right. When you work from home, it's important to prioritise self-care. Doing so may help you stay connected to yourself and better understand what you need in terms of work-life balance. Take your time figuring out how you can best take care of yourself and meet your needs. Practicing self-care may include: Regular exercise Reading Listening to music Cooking Spending valuable time away from your desk We hope that with this series of webinars, our colleagues at Pro-Group can start to see the signs of stress, learn how to cope with triggers, and even come up with some techniques to manage stress. Life is better when it's stress-free, but it is also impossible to think our busy lives will be stress-free, so let's learn to live with it and take active ways of managing, coping, and living with stress so that it doesn't have a detrimental effect on our health (physical or mental). For more information on what we do at Pro-Group to improve our employees' wellbeing, contact Alison at alison.humphries@pro-tax.co.uk or call 07852 249 421

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International Women's Day 2021 - We Choose to Challenge

Posted by Alison Humphries

International Women’s Day (IWD) is celebrated each year on March 8th. It is a day marked to celebrate the “social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women” and “a call to action for accelerating gender parity”. This year, the focus is on choosing to challenge gender stereotypes and support equality. Figures from the Confederation of British Industry’s (CBI) employment trends survey  in 2019 show 93% of businesses are taking action to close the gender pay gap and increase diversity in their workforces, compared with 62% who were asked a similar question in 2017. Companies recognise the business case for building a diverse workforce – innovation, candidate & client attraction, & ultimately higher return or profits. Many candidates are putting more pressure on companies to show they are pushing diversity and gender equality – with two-thirds of women taking a company’s gender pay gap into consideration, according to research from the Equality and Human Rights Commission. But businesses are also facing a real skill set problem, said Matthew Percival, the Head of Employment at the CBI. As an employer, we are committed to ensuring representation of people from all backgrounds regardless of their gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, race, religion, ethnicity, age, neurodiversity, disability status, or any other aspect which makes them unique. We are proud to be sharing an inclusive working environment where our staff are equally male:female split and we celebrate an equally split Board. Almost a third (30%) of recruitment firms have less than 5% female leaders at board level and another third (32%), only have between 21-50%. With my recent appointment to MD (following my return from Maternity Leave), promoting Claire Stradling as Director on our Board, and 50:50 male:female management team, it’s our responsibility as recruiters to pave the way for a more diverse recruitment landscape. As your recruiting partner we choose to challenge gender stereotypes, we are committed to fair, open and honest recruitment processes. The pandemic has put a lot of things into perspective for some organisations, with the change in working landscape and the wider pool of openly available candidates, the recruitment gaps are slowly decreasing. As a candidate, here’s what you can expect from us: Encouragement to present yourself as yourself We welcome applicants from all backgrounds to apply and would encourage you to let us know if there are steps we can take to ensure that your recruitment process enables you to present yourself in a way that makes you comfortable. The Harvard Business Review (HBR)  reported that women are rated as being more effective leaders than men during the COVID-19 crisis, with 57.2% of respondents in a survey saying women ranked positively in overall leadership effectiveness ratings, compared with 51.5% for men. That’s not to say anyone is superior because of gender, that’s why we have good male and female representation on the Board here at Pro-Group. Fair hiring and interviewing processes In our HBR’s Language Matters Report, they found that 44% of women would be discouraged from applying to a job if the description included the word “aggressive.” Our consultants are trained with an understanding to use neutral language to encourage the best candidates and represent you for you. We will speak to you to understand your needs before submitting your CV to a client. This gives us a chance to meet you, talk through your CV in more detail, and get to know a little more about you – your strengths, areas for development, and so on.  CVs and CV writing CV Writing support is offered from the get go, you will receive support and preparation from your expert consultant, every step of the way throughout your recruitment journey.. You’ve probably heard the following statistic: Men apply for a job when they meet only 60% of the qualifications, but women apply only if they meet 100% of them. We encourage you to explore your skills and will give you the confidence you need to reach your career potential. Not only that, but we also put your CV into our standardised format before sending your details to any of our clients, It’s our duty as your recruiter to eliminate any form of prejudice and make the process fairer by standardising all candidate information. Feedback from interviews Nearly a third (30%) of young women do not get feedback after a job interview, compared to less than a fifth (18%) of male applicants, according to research from the City & Guilds Group and Business in the Community (BITC). After your interview with our client, we will seek out feedback, and feed this back to you constructively. If you’ve been successful in securing the job, great! If not, we’ll aim to help you to understand where your skills are better aligned to suit you with the best organisation for your needs. The pandemic may have exposed some of the imbalances that have existed in the system for a long time, and we need to continue the conversation even after the pandemic is over and we will support you every step of the way through your recruitment journey with us. For advice or for a more detailed discussion with Alison about her experience, email alison.humphries@pro-tax.co.uk or call on 07852 249 421

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COVID-19: How it affected my maternity leave, my business and changed my focus!

Posted by Alison Humphries

With many returning to work in the office, and new patterns of working emerging across the employment landscape, the Director Team here at Pro-Recruitment Group are sharing their experiences and insights around the returning to work post COVID-19 Alison Humphries, Board Director, shares her experience of returning to the workplace after maternity leave, and rediscovering the unprecedented new ways of working. Alison: I am one of the owners of Pro-Recruitment, I have been in the business for 13 years and been in the working world for 20 years without ever really having time off. I went straight from education to work, even in my teen years I worked on weekends. Other than a 2-week holiday or a few extra days over the Christmas period I am admittedly a bit of a self-confessed workaholic! In October 2019 as I walked out of the office I was about to embark on a new journey through maternity leave…I was excited, I was nervous, I was scared. I was about to have a baby, my body, my heart and my head were about to be turned upside-down and on top of that I had to relinquish control of my business . To say this was going to be hard was an understatement, as i've been involved throughout the whole 'Pro-Journey', but after working with so many experienced consultants and developing and training a knowledgeable Management Team, I knew it was being left in good hands. Fast-forward to January 2020 I’d given birth to a beautiful little girl called Charlotte, everything was starting to get back to normal and I was feeling like my old self. Everything at work was going so well, I had been into the office and all of my teams were reporting success. As an owner of the business I was keen to know how the company was performing (that’s the workaholic in me), so I had committed to attend every Board Meeting from January onwards and I was so pleased that things were going so well. Maternity leave wasn’t so bad…I booked myself and my daughter onto swimming lessons, rhythm time, baby sensory…you name it we had signed up for it. It was important to me that Charlotte was sociable from day one and that I made some mummy friends in the local area. My focus slowly changed and allowed me to realign myself from the workaholic and enjoy being a mother. The Unthinkable  During the week we would stay at our flat in London and at the weekend, we would head to a place that we had recently bought in the Midlands as it was close to my family. On March the 15th I waved my other half off to work. Unexpectedly I got a call at midday, he was coming home that evening and working from home indefinitely. The UK was being hit hard by COVID-19, it wasn’t going away and businesses across the country were telling people to work from home. Luckily for us at Pro-Group, we already had the infrastructure in place for us to make that swift move without causing to much disruption to our day-to-day work. Pro-Recruitment made this decision on March 15th and then what was to follow was unthinkable. We went into lockdown on March 23rd. The range of emotions that followed included fear, anxiety and dread. I had brought a baby into the world and this was our generation's war. Were we going to survive, how serious was all of this if the world was now in lockdown. Pro-Group was impacted heavily, like everyone else in the UK, we were moved to reduce our team size, we had to think strategically, we had to act fast, we had no idea how long this was going to last and if we were even going to have a business at the end of this. I was being informed of decisions that were being made, furlough schemes that we were using and many other things that were impacting our business and we had no control over any of it. I wanted to be involved in calls, decisions, meetings that were loaded with information, but I also had a baby that was breastfeeding, teething and was struggling to sleep - finding this balance was challenging, but upon reflecting, it feels like an accomplishment to balance work and life as this extreme level. How could we make this a more positive experience? We had to make this a positive experience, it became apparent as places like Wuhan started to ease their lockdown that this wasn’t going to last forever, we would come out of the other side. I  took advantage of the time that we had as a new family of 3. My partner was there for every bath time and bedtime, he was there when we were having a bad day of crying just to ease things for me, even if it was only for half an hour so I could shower and have a cup of tea. We took advantage of the late summer evenings and beautiful weather; we have transformed our garden and I have become somewhat a pair of “green fingers”. We made time for each other and made every evening a time to cook, talk and enjoy dinner together. We became really close to our neighbours and would now consider them friends. All of these things would be interrupted ordinarily by work, travel and other outside factors. August came around, before I knew it I was thinking about heading back to work on 1st September. Our business had halved, I had relocated and life was so different. I had to put Charlotte into nursery and think of a back to work plan. Given the amount that I had been in touch with Pro-Group whilst I had been on maternity leave we started talking about my return fairly early on. I had a plan, a strategy and lots of time to think about how we could get out of the other side of this pandemic. Pro-Group had been excellent in considering my return to work I have come back to work 3 days a week and 1 day is working from home. I have the full support of my co-Directors and walking back into the office on Tuesday 1st September was daunting. It felt as if it was my first day at school again, I was nervous, had I forgotten how to do this? Turns out I haven’t thankfully, in fact I am even more focussed now than I have ever been. With only 3 days a week at work every minute counts. I have to be extremely productive on those days, I have time on the train to work and think of ways in which I can help my team, I am refreshed when I get to work and I feel like I have a new found energy and enthusiasm to help my company out of a slow market and back to winning ways. ​In Summary Maternity leave was completely interrupted by lockdown and COVID-19, but I tried to make the very best out of a very disruptive situation. I don’t feel like I have stood still for six months, the world hasn’t passed me by, I have had time to re-energise, re-focus and be in a better mindset coming out of this. Whilst it saddens me that the business I have helped to build for 13 years has changed dramatically, I have managed to better my personal life in a way I hadn’t imagined I would. In my opinion, flexible working and taking into account a good work-life balance and a happy home life is the most important thing in the world and allows you to be at your best when you leave your house in the morning ready to face whatever the world throws at you. For advice and information about returning to work after maternity leave, or for a more detailed discussion with Alison about her experience, email alison.humphries@pro-tax.co.uk or call on 020 7269 6312

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60 Seconds With: Nick Watson, Head of Tax at IHG

Posted by Alison Humphries

Nick Watson is the Head of Tax at InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG). Boasting an 18-year career at IHG, Nick made a cross over from Tax into Global Finance Transformation, before moving back and becoming Deputy Head of Tax in 2015 and promoted to Head of Tax for IHG in 2019.  What is great about working for IHG? I’ve worked for IHG for 18 years, since leaving Arthur Andersen in Birmingham. IHG has a fantastic culture which supports its people really well – this is probably not surprising given we are in the hospitality business and therefore have a natural affinity with providing great service to people. You were promoted to Head of Tax earlier this year. How are you finding this new challenge? So far so good, although I fully appreciate I have some big boots to fill from my predecessor. One of the biggest challenges is managing teams across five time zones and trying to put my emails away when at home as a result. You have had an impressive career boasting some 18 years at InterContinental Hotels Group (“IHG”) with a variety of roles. Most interestingly you made a cross over from Tax into Global Finance Transformation (before moving back to Tax) – this must have been quite a challenge, can you talk us through why you did this and the challenges that you faced? Yes, around 12 years ago I had actually agreed to take up a Head of Tax position for a FTSE250 company. Disastrously the company I was moving to announced it was undertaking a merger (after I’d signed the paperwork!) and so my new job disappeared. Following a subsequent discussion with IHG’s Head of Tax and Group CFO, I was offered a role in IHG’s newly formed Global Finance Transformation (“GFT”) team. In that role, I was responsible for working with IHG’s Finance Leadership Team to set the overall strategy for our Global Finance function (approx. 1,000 colleagues worldwide). I also ran the programme management for key Finance projects, organised Global Finance conferences and led Global Finance Communications. I remember the transition out of tax at the time being quite scary in as much that I found myself in a totally new world, trying to learn as fast as I could on topics (e.g. budgeting systems, planning processes) that I was not that familiar with. I also realised that my network was nowhere near as wide as I thought it was when I was in Tax! I took away two key learnings from this experience – firstly, NEVER leave a job/employer on negative terms as you don’t know what the future may hold and, secondly, you CAN survive the unknown! So what made you move back to Tax? In 2013, at one of the Global Finance conferences that I organised, our Group Chairman was talking about his career and I picked up on a comment about not being scared to go for a higher position even if you doubted your ability to succeed. He made the point that if you didn’t feel scared about a new position, then you were probably not taking on the best move. With this in mind, I thought that with the skills I had accumulated outside of Tax, together with a tax-focused development plan, I could be a credible successor at some point in the future for the Head of Tax role. Once again, IHG were supportive of my ambition and enabled me to transition back into the tax team over a couple of years, before becoming Deputy Head of Tax in October 2015. Adjusting back to life in Tax wasn’t as hard as I had imagined, although this was largely because I re-joined at a time when the whole tax world that I had previously known was changing, and I was afforded the opportunity to pick up with the (then) new areas of BEPS, tax transparency and responsible tax practices. The hardest aspects have been catching up on internal transactions that I didn’t work on during my time in GFT. In your opinion has the role of the “in-house tax professional” changed much over the years and if so, what is the biggest change? The fundamentals of the role have largely remained the same, but at the same time, there have been some quite substantial changes in recent years. Firstly, we have seen a move to outsource our UK corporate tax compliance over the last 10 years or so, in order to free up time of our team members (who very often have group responsibilities as well as project work). Tax professionals need to now be much better at communicating tax to key stakeholders in their respective businesses, particularly at the more senior levels. Stakeholders do not need to know all of the technical details (and especially not section numbers from the tax legislation!), but instead, need to know the high-level tax risks that arise in their areas. Finally, there is now a lot more regulation that tax teams have to deal with. Not only a raft of new legislation (e.g. US tax reform, CCO rules etc.) but also ensuring that adequate controls are in place, as well as the right level of supporting documentation. Can you talk us through the structure of your team? Given IHG are based in 100+ countries the tax team must be quite complex? We have a team of approximately 60 tax professionals in our team worldwide, with around half of the team focusing on indirect taxes (VAT, US Sales Tax, GST etc) and the remainder on direct taxes (global corporate taxes and European employment taxes). Our teams are based in Burton upon Trent, Atlanta, Gurgaon (near Delhi), Shanghai, Singapore and Sydney. What do you look for when someone applies for a role within your team? Personality. Always. It’s no good being the smartest person on the planet if you cannot interact well at a human level. I therefore look for a good balance of IQ and EQ. Being a FTSE100 Group with a base in the Midlands, we usually have a good range of applications for new roles. How would your team describe you? Hopefully as someone who is calm and approachable. What advice would you give to your younger self? I wish I had invested in Apple and Microsoft 25 years ago instead of a load of useless dotcom companies that didn’t survive! Other than that, my advice would be to enjoy being young and take whatever opportunities come your way. What challenges, personally or professionally, do you think the next generation will face? On a personal level, I feel for young people who are trying to get their feet onto the property ladder – it must be incredibly difficult. Professionally, and particularly with the incredible pace of technological change, I can see even more candidates chasing the same job opportunities. What do you do to unwind outside of work? I am an avid Leicester City football fan and also manage my 8-year-old son’s under-9 football team. When I’m not doing either of these things, I’m probably out watching my 13 and 16-year-old sons playing for their football teams! Thanks for your time Nick, as a little treat for all of our readers…do you have any guilty pleasures you can share with us? Hmm… well don’t try and book time in my diary at 9.30 on a Friday morning as I will be tucking into a good old English breakfast at the office. For more information about this article, or to speak to Alison about your recruiting needs or Tax opportunities in London or Nationwide, contact her on 02072696312 or alison.humphries@pro-tax.co.uk. Back to 60 Seconds archive >>

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60 Seconds With: Octavia Peters, Operations Finance Director at SEGRO

Posted by Alison Humphries

Octavia Peters is the Operations Finance Director at SEGRO. She is a qualified Chartered Accountant and Corporate Treasurer and has over twenty years of experience in the corporate sector and in practice. Formerly the Head of Treasury and Tax at SEGRO, she is now responsible for operational finance and finance teams across SEGRO PLC. Talk to us about how your role has changed over the last 5 years? It's unrecognisable! 5 years ago I was Head of Tax and Corporate Finance Manager at SEGRO - studying for my ACT exams and working on a number of secured financing transactions alongside my role as Head of Tax with a team of 3.  I was promoted to Head of Treasury and Tax in mid-2015 and spent the next 3 years reshaping the Treasury team and focusing on financing transactions – raising more than £3bn in bond and debt facilities, reducing the companies average cost of debt to below 2% and significantly increasing debt maturity and liquidity.  In mid-2018 I was asked to take on the role of Operational Finance Director.  I’m now responsible for all the operational finance teams across the Group, (40 people spread across 5 countries), budgeting, planning and internal reporting as well as being the financial business partner to the COO. When people are in the role as Head of Tax – what advice would you give them on how to broaden their skill set to get into a more mainstream role like yours is now?  Firstly – let people know that you want to expand your role and be very open about it.  People can often have quite set ideas of what a Head of Tax should be like and what they want to do – so you need to break down those barriers/mindsets.  Secondly – ensure that you have good succession planning in place so that there is someone in place to transition into your old role as you leave it behind and you are not leaving a gap in the business.  Thirdly – be patient – it’s easier to transition in an organisation that you already work in, but the opportunities may not come up that frequently.  And fourthly – seek out opportunities to work on other projects, on top of your day job, to demonstrate that you have the skills, capabilities and potential to transition. SEGRO  – as a listed property investment company, what market changes have affected the business and why?   Property investment is a cyclical business and we see property values increasing and decreasing in response to supply and demand changes in both the investment and occupier markets. The impact of very low-interest rates and quantitative easing have positively impacted both the occupier and the investment markets as investors hunt “yield” across all property sectors.  However, over the last few years, there has been a “structural” shift in the industrial property sector as increasing urbanisation has both reduced the supply of industrial land in our cities and together with e-commerce has significantly increased demand for warehousing. SEGRO has transformed over the last 8 years and is now the largest listed UK property company. What is great about working for SEGRO? Fantastic, intelligent, professional people. Really interesting, challenging and varied work. It's great to work for a large company – mid-FTSE100 in terms of market cap with a “small company” feel – only 300 employees. You know everyone and can really get things done. How big is your team and what advice would you give anyone who would apply to be part of the team in years to come? My team is 40 people. Roles in property companies don’t come up that often – so if you get a chance take it as they are great companies to work for. How would your team describe you? Intelligent, energetic, determined, hard-working, collaborative approach, strong team player.  Values-driven. What advice would you give to your younger self? Also, what advice would you give to people who are in a more junior tax role but looking for a mixed role in tax and finance in later life?  Be more confident in your own abilities.  Advice to others – think about how the skills you have in tax can transfer across.  An ability to understand both complex legal concepts and numbers is very useful in lots of areas of a business. Always be thinking about how you can broaden your skills and gain new experiences. When you interview someone for your team or organisation what is the first thing you notice about a person and what does it tell you? I try not to be biased by first impressions – but I would expect people to come prepared for an interview – and that goes to turning up on time in appropriate business attire, looking smart, clean and presentable - and don’t shake hands like a limp dead fish. What challenges, personally or professionally, do you think the next generation face? The changes to technology are rapidly changing the world of work, meaning that the more basic tasks/roles where I learnt tax technical skills will no longer exist as human jobs.  But in the same way that spreadsheets totally changed what most accounting clerks spent their life doing I’m confident that machines won’t replace humans – jobs and work will be very different but we aren’t clear what that will be currently. But smart people with good interpersonal and communication skills and strong emotional intelligence should continue to thrive.  What do you do to unwind outside of work? With 3 rugby-obsessed teenage sons, I spend a lot of time at the side of sports pitches watching rugby – but also enjoy playing golf, skiing and baking. Thanks for your time Octavia, and as a little treat for all of our readers… do you have any guilty pleasures you can share with us?  Reading fiction  – pretty much anything.  I have a ridiculous number of books on my Kindle. For more information about this article, or to speak to Alison about your recruiting needs or Tax opportunities in London or Nationwide, contact her on 02072696312 or alison.humphries@pro-tax.co.uk. Back to 60 Seconds archive >>

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60 Seconds with: Michelle Deans, Tax Director at Gravity Media Group

Posted by Alison Humphries

As Tax Director of Gravity Media Group, Michelle Deans is responsible for the management of the tax function across the business. Michelle is an experienced Head of Tax who has worked across a number of industries as well as in public practice. She joined the Gravity Media Group in 2013 to establish the internal tax function. As an international tax specialist, Michelle has experience working in numerous tax jurisdictions. In your opinion has the role of the “in-house tax professional” changed much over the years and if so, what is the biggest change? The role of the "in house tax professional" has changed significantly over the years.  In the early 2000s, a key responsibility of the tax team was to drive down the effective tax rate of a company using a number of widely available structures.  In recent years the focus is more on compliance: ensuring a company is able to say with integrity that it complies with tax legislation globally and pays its fair share of tax where it should.  You have both in-house and private practice experience, for you what has been the most challenging of all roles and why? Definitely in-house roles have been the most challenging and by far the most interesting for me.  As an in house tax professional, you need to be able to intricately understand the business you work for in order to be able to advise on a variety of issues from the highly complex to the mundane.  On top of that, you are responsible for ensuring your tax knowledge is up to date so that your advice is relevant. Gravity Media Group is extremely acquisitive how has this affected your role? The acquisitive nature of the business provides challenges but definitely keeps me on my toes!  Our internal tax team has not expanded at the same rate as our business and we need to continuously find ways to streamline our processes whilst learning about a new division at the same time.  Each acquisition has enabled us to expand our knowledge and has introduced us to some fantastic people. What is great about working for Gravity Media?  There are many things, however, two that stand out are the people and the interesting nature of our work.  I work within a strong and supportive leadership team and genuinely enjoy the company of my colleagues across the board.  That is important to me. In addition, as we operate globally in the live entertainment and broadcast industry, you never know what you are going to be called upon to look at next: the tax implications of a major football tournament in a country we don't have a presence in, supporting the team on 'I'm A Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here..' or evaluating the tax implications of a potential acquisition.  How big is your team and what advice would you give anyone who would apply to be part of the team in years to come? We have three tax advisors for the group, including myself. We also rely on the support of our strong financial directors in each of our key jurisdictions.  Advice for future team members?  Don't be afraid to get your hands dirty and dig into the detail to really understand the business - that's when you give the best advice. How would your team describe you? Commercially minded, expressive, supportive and thought-provoking. What advice would you give to your younger self?  Don't sweat the small stuff, it will work out in the end.  Focus on where you want to be in the long run and plan how you might achieve it.  Deal with each issue as and when it arises. When you interview someone for your team or organisation what is the first thing you notice about a person and what does it tell you? Body language.  Good eye contact and a quietly confident manner speak volumes about a person's ability to deal with our commercial teams, which is an integral part of our role. What challenges, personally or professionally, do you think the next generation face? I think the next generation faces the challenge of overcoming the 'snowflake' stereotype, which certainly doesn't hold true in my experience.  Also, we are seeing the increase of part-time and flexible working practices across the board, particularly with the younger generation.  It will be fantastic to see this generation demonstrate that creating value doesn't necessarily require full-time presence in an office during standard hours and that there are more flexible ways to deliver value. Thanks for your time Michelle, and as a little treat for all of our readers…do you have any guilty pleasures you can share with us? My colleague suggested this must be my love of reading tax legislation in the middle of the night, but no, I have a (previously) well-hidden love of country music! For more information about this article, or to speak to Alison about your recruiting needs or Tax opportunities in London or Nationwide, contact her on 02072696312 or alison.humphries@pro-tax.co.uk. Back to 60 Seconds archive >>

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60 Seconds with: Sarah Cooke, Head of Tax at Euromoney PLC

Posted by Alison Humphries

Sarah Cooke is the Global Head of Tax, Treasury & Investor Relations at Euromoney Institutional Investor PLC. Euromoney is an international business-to-business information company focusing on the global financial community, is listed on the London Stock Exchange and is a member of the FTSE 250 share index.  In your opinion has the role of the “in-house tax professional” changed much over the years and if so, what is the biggest change?   The biggest change has been the transition from being a predominately reactive back office function to a proactive business partner to the business. You have an impressive career boasting some very interesting roles in-house, for you what has been the most challenging of all roles and why?  I think it was the transition to take on Treasury as this was a whole new area and I had to learn the different words the bankers use to describe the same thing!  It was important to appear competent but also not be afraid to ask questions when I didn’t understand.  This was sometimes tricky. Euromoney – tell us about any big changes/acquisitions or exciting projects that have affected your role here?  Things are always changing here at Euromoney but that is part of the attraction.  I have recently taken on Investor Relations just when we have a group of new shareholders.  I am therefore having to learn to juggle 3 different areas which is challenging but hugely rewarding. What is great about working for Euromoney?  Euromoney is very entrepreneurial and fast-paced.  We are able to influence and implement change quickly which is fantastic. How big is your team and what advice would you give anyone who would apply to be part of the team in years to come?  I don’t have a large team as we are a lean organisation, however, I look for anyone coming in to have a positive outlook and a solution-focused mindset.  I don’t want to just be brought the problem. How would your team describe you?   Positive, enthusiastic and hopefully fun. What advice would you give to your younger self?  To never assume people know what you want in terms of your career, make sure you let your manager know if you have an ambition for something or a particular role.  They may not be able to give it to you today, but you never know what opportunities may present themselves in the future. What challenges, personally or professionally, do you think the next generation face?  The impact of robots changing traditional roles. What do you do to unwind outside of work?  A combination of sport (watching and doing), trying new restaurants, and relaxing with my family, ideally in Provence. Thanks for your time Sarah, and as a little treat for all of our readers…do you have any guilty pleasures you can share with us?  Cheesy Discos and American teenage dramas (Gossip Girl being my favourite!) For more information about this article, or to speak to Alison about your recruiting needs or Tax opportunities in London or Nationwide, contact her on 02072696312 or alison.humphries@pro-tax.co.uk. Back to 60 Seconds archive >>

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60 Seconds with: John Gearing, Head of Tax at Network Rail

Posted by Alison Humphries

John Gearing is the Head of Tax at Network Rail, who owns and operates the railway infrastructure in England, Wales and Scotland on behalf of the UK. Network Rail works round-the-clock to provide a safe, reliable experience for the millions using Europe’s fastest-growing railway every day, and is currently delivering the biggest and most ambitious upgrade the network has seen in over 150 years. In your opinion has the role of the “in-house tax professional” changed much over the years and if so, what is the biggest change? The underlying role has not fundamentally changed as in house tax professionals focus remains on working towards ensuring the employing company is tax compliant and efficient. What has changed is that individuals are now more specialised and focussed on one area of tax rather than covering a wider range You have an impressive career boasting some very interesting roles in-house, for you what has been the most challenging of all roles and why? Working in Financial Services was the most challenging as everything had an unrealistic deadline attached and the business was constantly looking to stretch interpretation of the law Have there been any significant changes or large projects at Network Rail that have affected your role as a tax specialist?  No! What is great about working at Network Rail? NR is an excellent employer that helps all employees find the right work-life balance. I also have a team that gets along and enjoys their work creating a fun environment How big is your team and what advice would you give anyone who would apply to be part of the team in years to come? Currently, including myself, there are four in the team although we enjoy the assistance of apprentices and graduates from internal schemes. There should be another permanent member of the team and we are recruiting now. My advice would be to speak to Pro-Tax who have details of the vacancy! How would your team describe you? I would hope they would say supportive and fun to work for. I guess you’d have to ask them for the actual answer! When you interview someone for the team, what is the first thing you notice about a person? Their self-confidence. If they can talk to you and look in your eyes then that displays confidence. Too many people look down or at papers showing a lack of confidence to me. In taxation, especially in-house, an employee needs the self-confidence to liaise with and challenge the business. What challenges, personally or professionally, do you think the next generation will face? The constant added complexity to legislation and the need to specialise. Identifying which area to specialise in will be important and will be challenging. Thanks for your time John, and as a little treat for all our readers…do you have any guilty pleasures you can share with us? Disneyland. I just love everything about the place and Space Mountain remains the highlight of any holiday. For more information about this article, or to speak to Alison about your recruiting needs or Tax opportunities in London or Nationwide, contact her on 02072696312 or alison.humphries@pro-tax.co.uk. Back to 60 Seconds archive >>

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