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Alison Humphries

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Alison Humphries

Director

I joined Pro in 2008 and now sit on the board as a Director. I now head up Pro-Tax and together with my team we cover Practice and Commerce & Industry at all levels. We also have our Partner Search division which specialises in the recruitment of Tax Partners.

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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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.

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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.

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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.

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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. Marek is a commercially focused international tax professional, experienced in determining Group tax policy, managing tax risks and delivering expected tax rate. He has strong UK compliance and reporting experience and a successful track record of implementing valuable, sustainable international tax planning projects for both FTSE100 and smaller companies. 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 (of whom one has not yet joined!). 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.

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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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The World Cup – can you watch it at work? A few tips to get around your boss…

Posted by Alison Humphries

Between now and the 15th July at 4 pm the nation is waiting to see if, in fact, it is coming home. With a 6-1 win behind us and a promising start to the World Cup, everyone is keen to see who we will be playing next and what our opposition is doing. But the biggest question on our mind, whilst the sun is shining, and the football is on…how can you watch the world cup at work? Thus far, the issue has been minimised as all of England’s games have either been at the weekend or at 7 pm, however, there are plenty of other teams that are favourites for people to watch, whether you are from another country or you have a sure thing on the sweepstake at work, and let’s face it, any sport is good to watch! Here are a few handy tips so that you can try and get the best bits of the matches you are keen on at work; 1. Ask your boss, most employers will either want to watch it or allow you the flexibility (deadlines permitting) to watch the odd game and note to self, this doesn’t mean watching every match in the office, feet up with a beer in one hand and a slice of pizza in the other. 2. Listen to the game, whether you are streaming from your mobile or have the radio on your phone, you can carry on with your duties, and when a good bit of the game comes up you can take a sneaky look on your mobile device and never miss a goal. 3. A lot of offices already have TV’s in their office, normally this is for the news or financial reports or snapshots of business, maybe talking to your employers and persuading them that during the World Cup and Wimbledon, all of your clients that come into the office would prefer snapshot of the hottest games around…surely? Get the best of the World Cup on the office TV and make as many trips past the reception as possible. 4. A few words of wisdom, don’t take a sickie to watch the World Cup, don’t go to the pub at lunchtime and not go back to work, don’t put privacy screens on your computer and pretend to be working, always be diligent, professional and show your employer full transparency and respect, it will go a very long way. If you need to book last minute annual leave from work, during the current season, I’m sure most employers would be delighted if you were open and honest about why. Finally, there is potentially one date you should put in your diaries, Monday 16th July 2018. If the unthinkable happens and England actually win a penalty shoot-out and go all the way to the final, then this would kick off at 4:00 pm on Sunday 15th July 2018. If England somehow managed to win the World Cup then rather than there being record levels of unexpected absence – be the good guy, get your annual leave booked now!

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Tax Managers – When is a good time to move In-House?

Posted by Alison Humphries

Is there a 'right' time in your career to move from Practice to in-house? As a Tax Manager in Practice you may be considering a move in-house, but when is the best point in your tax career to do this - is the option always there or does the move in-house have an expiry date? The age-old myth would tell us that someone from Practice can move in-house at any point in their career. In fact, this may well have been true a few years back. In 2011, for example, we saw Tax professionals at all levels - Assistant Managers, Managers, Senior Managers and Directors - move in-house. Here at Pro, we even identified some Tax Partners moving in-house. Alas, it's 2019 and the market has changed. No longer can you move in-house at any point in your career. The ripest time to move in-house is either upon qualification or whilst you are still a Manager or (junior) Senior Manager in Practice. As a seasoned Senior Tax Manager in Practice, you will most likely find yourself at a crossroads - you are either being pushed to do Business Development (which is not necessarily the reason you got into tax) or you are being targeted within an inch of your life to hit certain targets to get to Director. Some people think this is the prime point to jump in-house. However, the reality is quite the opposite. As expert recruiters for the tax market, the honest answer is: you are an expensive resource for someone who has no proven in-house exposure, compared to those who have 2-3 years’ experience in-house and are at the same level as you. You may well be put forward for roles and if you know the Head of Tax, you may find you get an interview, but chances are that when the CFO and CEO sign off business cases and meet you for a final interview, the person with the in-house experience may have the edge when it comes to the hiring decision. Don’t get us wrong, it's not impossible to move if you are at this level, it’s just much more difficult and you may be waiting a while for an opportunity to arise. As a Director or Partner, it is rare that you will find an appropriate opportunity to enter an in-house role (unless you are seconded to the business for being a great asset in everything you have done for them already). The number of roles at this level are undoubtedly slowing down and the competition is rife, so someone who is already a Head of Tax will have the edge over someone who is straight from Practice. There is also a big disconnect between the average Head of Tax remuneration and that of a Big 4 or Top 20 Partner, who are too expensive to make the switch (unless of course, they are willing to take a hefty pay cut). So when is the best time to move in-house? So, in essence, the best time to move in-house, in my opinion, is between 1 – 5 years PQE as this is a prime spot for those who are still willing to learn, are still keen to soak up information and those whose salary hasn’t reached a level where you price yourself out of the market compared to those with industry experience who will most likely be on less money than you as a basic salary. Fancy a move in-house? For more information on this article or for in-house Tax jobs in London or Nationwide, contact Alison on 020 7269 6312 or alison.humphries@pro-tax.co.uk.

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The secret to Interview Success

Posted by Alison Humphries

Interviews can be intimidating and no matter how much experience you have, unless you fully prepare you’ll run the risk of underselling yourself and missing out on that dream position. It may be cliché but the old adage “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail” has never been truer in relation to interviews. We have produced a Secret to Interview Success booklet to assist our candidates with their interview preparation, the printable version can be found here. In this guide, you will find all the hints and tips necessary in order to perform to the best of your ability at interview. We hope you find this booklet useful and if your Pro-Recruitment Group Consultant has not booked you in for a full interview briefing, please get in touch with them to arrange this. Download the booklet here >>

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