ALL ABOUT YOU! The Life and Times of Senior Women in Indirect Tax…

I am delighted to present the fourth in a series of profiles of senior women in Indirect Tax. The aim is to showcase the talents, experience and stories of these amazing women, and provide some insight into their professional and personal lives, what inspires them and what wisdom they can share. My fourth interviewee is Heather Catlin, Head of VAT at HSBC Group. 

Heather Catlin

Heather Catlin is Head of VAT at HSBC group. She leads a team who are responsible for advising the business and managing indirect tax compliance and indirect tax risk. In addition to her VAT role, she chairs the People Committee for Tax at HSBC and also co-chairs the Inclusion In Tax & Treasury group, which strives for improved inclusion of all types. Prior to her role at HSBC Heather worked at Barclays and Lloyds Banking Group. She started her career at EY where she qualified as a Chartered Tax Advisor.

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  1. What gets you up in the morning?
    It is generally a race between the 6am news on Radio 4 and one of my children.
  2. Can you describe your current role to me in 1 sentence?
    I lead the VAT team at HSBC and also have responsibility for the Tax People Committee and Co-Chair the Inclusion in Tax & Treasury group.
  3. What led you to your current position?
    I really wanted the opportunity to lead a VAT function and be more strategic.
  4. How did you get into Indirect Tax in the first place?
    I spent the first two years of my career in media sales but was increasingly bored with it. I decide to resign and temp while I had a total re-think. I saw an ad for graduate trainees in VAT at EY and I was intrigued. I was offered the role and have never regretted the decision to accept.
  5. What do you think is the biggest challenge facing the Indirect Tax industry right now?
    Aside from the uncertain political and economic environment, the biggest challenge is ensuring we adapt. We are going to need to evolve to be tax professionals of the future, especially in the area of technology.
  6. What advice would you give to young professionals – especially women – starting out on their Indirect Tax careers?
    Look around you for role models – there were so few female role models when I started out and happily this is no longer true. Be ambitious and take control of your own career because no-one will do that for you.
  7. What barriers have you had to overcome during your career to date?
    The biggest leap of faith I made was into a career in tax in the first place. I was starting from scratch with a subject I knew absolutely nothing about and I found it daunting.
  8. Have there been times when you considered changing career tack?
    Not really. I genuinely believe that VAT is the most interesting of the taxes and for the last 20 years has provided me with a series of interesting challenges.
  9. What has been your ‘career-defining’ moment?
    Being asked by a partner at one of the Big 4 firms to host a lunch for some of its talented women because they saw me as a role model.
  10. What did you want to be when you were growing up?
    Either a BBC Producer, a Barrister or a Historian. I wrote to the BBC when I was 10 asking for details of how I could get into it and to their credit they wrote back and sent me all kinds of leaflets about BBC careers.
  11. What advice would you give to your younger self?
    You are more able than you realize.
  12. What are your honest thoughts on social media?
    Most of the time I hate it but due to having family overseas and a child who uses it I can’t switch it off.
  13. If you won a big award, who would you thank?
    My brilliant team at HSBC and my husband because he is so incredibly supportive and has always believed in me 100%.
  14. What’s the best thing anyone has ever done for you?
    When my husband was my next-door-neighbour I was having a ridiculously busy time at work one Christmas and was being bah-humbug about the festive season. I came back late from work one night to find he had left me a fully decorated Christmas tree to cheer me up.
  15. What’s the one word you’d want people to describe you with?
    Trustworthy
  16. Books or kindle?
    Books.
  17. If you could have a Skype chat with anyone, living or dead, who would it be?
    My great-grandfather. He disappeared sometime around 1919. I have spent the last 15 years trying to find out where he went with no luck. I have quite a few questions for him!
  18. What is your best time saving tip?
    Prioritise.
  19. What has been the best part of your day today?
    A discussion with my 7 year old about weekend break destinations. He initially suggested Argentina but we settled on Portugal.
  20. Favorite holiday destination?
    That’s tough as I love to see new places. I have been to Boston/New England a couple of times recently and I loved it.
  21. Tell me one thing that people might not know about you……
    I am season ticket holder at West Ham.

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