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 email@example.com.