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Alison Humphries

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Alison Humphries

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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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.keogh@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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60 Seconds with: Marek Fletcher, Head of Taxation at Nomad Foods

Posted by Alison Humphries

Marek Fletcher is the Head of Taxation at Nomad Foods Ltd an FMCG group with a market capitalisation of about USD 4.3bn. It owns the Birds Eye, Findus, Goodfella’s and Aunt Bessie’s frozen food brands among others, and has operations throughout Western Europe. Marek has worked in a variety of tax roles, both in practice and in-house, ranging from smaller businesses to a FTSE 100 company. 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? When I started out, there was more emphasis on “clever” tax planning. Following years of adverse publicity, the spotlight shone on tax affairs by the Public Accounts Committee etc, the focus has changed, to ensure that the tax attributes of a business are sustainable, business driven, and able to stand up to public scrutiny. In my opinion, this is a good thing. However, at the same time, I have noticed the increasing role that controversy management has come to play in the functions performed by Tax Departments, as tax authorities get increasingly aggressive in their quest to raise revenue from multinationals. You have both in-house and private practice experience and a very impressive career to date with some very “big” roles, for you what has been the most challenging of all roles and why? Every role has been challenging in different ways. However, a constant theme that I have tried to develop in all of my in-house roles is to change the perception of the Tax Department from a back-office function to a value-adding, trusted business partner. I do this by using every possible opportunity to explain the value that all forms of tax can create or destroy when business decisions are being made, and incentivising all members of the Tax Department according to the feedback that we all (including myself) obtain from the business. Nomad Foods – tell us about any big changes/acquisitions or exciting projects that have affected your role here? Where do I start? The three and a half years that I have been at Nomad has been an exciting journey. Since I have been here, the Group has listed on the New York Stock Exchange, implemented Sarbanes-Oxley controls, refinanced its debt twice, and made two significant acquisitions. There is no sign of this slowing down! Also, as a company operating in the frozen food sector, it is trying to do the right thing, in terms of encouraging us all to eat more healthily, to reduce packaging and food waste, reducing carbon footprint etc, and I am proud to be part of such a company. What is great about working for Nomad Foods? All in-house roles offer variety and are fast-paced. However, I really enjoy working at Nomad because the Group is large enough to have some significant and complex tax issues, while being small enough to enable me to be very visible throughout the organisation. I love the fact that I have a lot of exposure to the very highest levels of management, which while challenging, provides me with many opportunities to stretch myself. 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? The team is relatively small for a Group that manages EUR 60m of tax charge – there are only three of us. As a result, we need to be agile and focused on managing the largest and most significant issues. How would your team describe you? You should probably ask them…However, I hope that they would describe me as somebody who empowers them to make their own decisions, while providing a support structure if they need assistance. Also, I have always been focused on the importance of career development for my team. I believe that the best way to keep your best people is by ensuring that they grow professionally while working for you. One of the things that I am proudest of is how many people who have worked for me in the past have gone on to senior tax roles, both in the UK and elsewhere. What advice would you give to your younger self? Don’t wait until you turn 40 before taking up jogging. It’s much harder at that age! In relation to a career in tax, I would advise everybody to try working both in-house and in practice. Both offer a very different perspective on tax, and require a very different set of skills to succeed. You never know which one you are more suited to until you try both. 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 always look for energy and positive attitude, and value this more than experience. In a previous in-house role, somebody took a chance on me when I had limited relevant experience, and it worked out really well. As a result I try to do the same with others. I think that it is hard to fake attitude and energy, and a candidate with both will be excited to learn, excited to develop and prepared to accept the more boring aspects of a role as a price worth paying for the career development that will follow. What challenges, personally or professionally, do you think the next generation face? I think that technology (such as AI) will render some professions/career paths obsolete, but in my opinion, it is impossible to predict. Twenty years ago, who would have anticipated the rise of Amazon, Uber, and the corresponding decline of some stalwarts of the business world like Debenhams? What do you do to unwind outside of work? I have two teenage children, so I am not sure that family life gives me much opportunity to unwind! I like to run (albeit embarrassingly slowly!) and go for long walks in the country. Thanks for your time Marek, and as a little treat for all of our readers…do you have any guilty pleasures you can share with us? Just one that I am prepared to share with you – cake in the office! Unfortunately, there are too many birthdays and other occasions to celebrate at work, and there’s always something to tempt me! 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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Should I stay or should I go? What looks good on a CV now?

Posted by Alison Humphries

Deciding how long you should stay in one job can be difficult. Questions that are asked by many a candidate nowadays are; should you stay in one job for a long period of time? Is being a “lifer” a good thing or a bad thing? So what looks best on a CV? In my opinion, as an employee there's a fine line between establishing tenure at a company to show that you're not a job hopper, and staying so long in the same job you stop developing and learning new skills, ultimately leading to little or no progression. Good tenure is still highly sought after by employers. According to Amanda Augustine, career advice expert for TopResume, in an ideal world you should try and stay at each job for at least two years as employers may cast doubts on your employability if you have more short stints than long ones, and potentially question your judgement, career goals and performance as an employee. A Bullhorn survey also found that 39% of recruiters believe that the biggest obstacle for an unemployed candidate in regaining employment is having a history of job-hopping or leaving a company before one year. The BBC spoke to Claire McCartney, Senior Advisor for the CIPD, who had a very sensible approach to the subject and felt there was a minimum tenure for changing jobs. In her opinion, remaining at a job for between 6-12 months and then changing could make employers wary when considering whether to hire you. On the other hand, if you leave a company within 3 months it is normally because you turn up and the role or company culture is not as described at the interview, you have a change in personal circumstances, or it simply is just not the right fit for you and you know immediately. This type of tenure can (normally) be explained on a CV and if it only happens once in your career, can be the ‘blip’ that a lot of people have had to experience and overcome. When is the best time to change jobs? While it is true that constantly job-hopping may not send the right messages to potential employers, it is also fair to say that leaving a job doesn’t have the same stigma that it once did - particularly when a move makes sense in the context of your overall career goals. Employers like to see clear progression and professional development in potential candidates. This could possibly include the development of a diverse skill set across disciplines, departments or even secondments. I am of the opinion that the size of an organisation can be a potential factor in determining how long you decide to stay in a role, with larger companies offering secondments, more opportunities to progress through the ranks, and a broader spectrum of departments to gain exposure to - all of which are positive, both for future employers and for you in mapping out your career. As well as this, in certain sectors regular change is not only common, but favourable. In the sectors that we recruit for here at Pro-Recruitment Group, we often find that changing jobs - within reason - is highly sought after. People can gain exposure to different ideas and approaches, see how different businesses are run, gain technical expertise from varied roles and work within different sectors with a wide variety of clientele. Job switches may reward you with a broader skill-base and higher compensation than if you were to work for only one or two companies during your career. In most cases, changing roles every 3-5 years if you are looking for progression or variety is seen as a positive in the current hiring market. Gone are the days when a Partner is a Partner at one firm and one firm only. So how long should an employee stay at one job? To conclude, you can explain a ‘blip’ on your CV albeit only once, and you are encouraged to change jobs if a move offers progression, variety and a different way of learning something. However, if you are gaining all of the above and more in your current role it is not frowned upon to stay with one firm, so long as you can demonstrate movement, variety and climbing that all important career ladder. For more information on this article or to speak to our recruitment experts about your next career move, contact Alison on 02072696312 or alison.humphries@pro-tax.co.uk.

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