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Dictionary Corner – by Catriona Cookson

If you’re looking for someone new to follow on Twitter, take a look at Susie Dent. Who’s she I hear you ask? Well, as she describes herself in her profile “ That Woman In Dictionary Corner” …….from Countdown. Oh yes, I hear you all say ….and who knew she has 365,000 followers !!

It’s a gem for lots of interesting and unusual words, and their meanings, and some of the recent ones are a real tonic:

Bloviator – someone who talks for hours and says nothing

Ultracrepidarian – an uninformed know – it – all.

We all know lots of these!

And if you’re thinking of toadying up to someone – do you know where that comes from? In 17th century markets, quacks would sell their “magic” medicines by having their assistants swallow a “poisonous” live toad and then be miraculously cured. So ….the toad eater is a fawning flatterer!

And my current favourite is hurkle – durkling – an 18th century Scottish term which means lounging in bed long after it’s time to get up! Hopefully, not too much of this happening if this lovely spring weather reappears.

Susie Dent


MCA Member Survey 2019 – by Catriona Cookson

The MCA has recently published its 2019 Member Survey, you can take a look here ……fortunately for all of us the outlook seems positive with 9 in 10 respondents believing their consulting activity will increase in the next 12 -14 months, and members estimating that consulting activity grew by almost 6% in the last twelve months. As ever Brexit provides both an opportunity and a challenge ……

I found one of the most interesting sections to be the section on the young MCA, members who have been in the industry 0-5 years.

The percentage of young consultants attending Russell Group universities has dropped from 73% in 2011 to 54% in 2018. The number of young consultants attending Oxbridge has also decreased significantly from 13% in 2011 to 4% in 2018.

The report states :

“What is clear from the survey findings is that the industry is becoming more accessible than ever to graduates from all backgrounds. While a significant proportion of young respondents attended a Russell Group university (above the national average), there has been notable downward trend since 2011”

Is the data provided in the report really telling us this? The overall sample size was 328 and there is no information around how many of this group are young MCA…so we only have a small sample of young MCA on which to reach this conclusion. It may be that some Russell Group candidates were offered roles in management consultancy but choose alternative options in banking, fin tech, start ups etc or it may be that some Russell Group candidates joined management consultancy and then left after a couple of years using their early experience as a career springboard. It seems to me that we haven’t got enough data to conclude that “entrance to leading management consultancy firms is becoming more accessible than ever”

In fact, the league table of universities attended by young MCA members in 2018 is broadly similar to 2016 – and Loughborough although not a Russell Group university is a very good university with high entrance requirements.

The management consultancy firms will continue to make offers to Russell Group and Oxbridge candidates, and so to increase diversity, accessibility and inclusion the key is to increase access to the top universities. That’s why the real story (and the real positive for the MCA) is their decision to choose The Access Project as their charity partner for the Recent MCA Awards.

This charity works with bright students from disadvantaged backgrounds to help them gain access to top universities. This will then facilitate their access to top tier careers in fields such as management consultancy, law and corporate finance. If the MCA really wants to increase accessibility, they should continue their partnership with this charity and encourage their member firms to do the same.


Purpose Beyond Profit….by Catriona Cookson

I chuckled recently at the EuroMillions lottery winner who won £71m and freely admitted it was going to change his life – his days of shift work in a factory were over! Good for you, I thought, much better this than those people who say it won’t change them, they’ll keep doing the same job, living the same life blah blah blah.

We all drift off into the fantasy world sometimes of what we would do if we won the lottery ….and yes, I would disappear out of management consultancy recruitment quicker than you can say “blue sky thinking”! And while that would bring some amazing freedom, it brings with it some big challenges too. And that’s where purpose comes in. There seems to be a lot of chatter in the business and consulting world around purpose at the moment …. Purpose Beyond Profit….Profit with a Purpose ….. how an organisation with purpose can use this as part of its recruitment strategy etc etc.

Without a sense of purpose, most of us would be lost…we think it would be ideal to be free, to have no constraints, to do what we like…. but the combination of too much time and too much money on your hands can lead to disaster. We can all think of fabulously successful and wealthy people (or their children) who with no real focus in life can end in despair. Even people who have looked forward to retirement can often find a void when they escape from the routine and status of work.

So, as we’re all unlikely to become lottery winners anytime soon, we need to build on what we have , whether that’s in our personal lives or in our outside interests and activities. If you’re looking for some direction in your career, or to reassess some of your goals, perhaps some career coaching might help. Please do feel free to contact Liz Watt, who runs our coaching arm at BLT to discuss how she can help. In the meantime, keep buying those tickets …it could be you one day!!!


The Gender Pay Gap one year on……by Catriona Cookson

Since March 2018 organisations with more than 250 employees are required by law to publish their pay gap data. The deadline for this year is April 4th and according to the Times on the 1st April, 5079 employers have so far submitted their data compared to last year’s total of 10,550. So, it’s either going to be a last-minute rush or some will miss the deadline completely…..other things on their minds maybe?

Early results don’t seem particularly encouraging, with 43% of this year’s early respondents reporting a larger median pay gap than they did last year. Of the 1381 companies which reported results last year and have already done so for 2019, 44% reported a wider gap.

However, there is better news from the Big Four with three of the Big Four reporting lower “total earnings gaps” – which includes the pay of employees and partners. Deloitte has the most impressive statistics with the median earnings gap falling to 14%, PwC at 18%, EY at 18.9% with KPMG increasing slightly from 27% to 28%.

The Financial Reporting Council posts a 6% rise in its gap to 27.8%. Over at the Civil Service the Department for Culture, Media and Sport reports nearly a 23% gap, but the Department for Exiting the European Union has better stats at 5.6%. (Interesting that DEXEU Is lower – is this a reflection of being a newer department or more equally split between men/women, who knows?) There’s various commentary in the press too about the gender pay gap within the medical and university sector while better news from Monzo the mobile-only bank, closing its gap from 34% to 14%, as a result of more women being promoted to senior roles, which really is the only way the stats are ever going to change

So, what happens next? The Equalities and Human Rights Commission can take action against companies which fail to report or misreport their data but has no formal sanctions or incentives for companies which improve (or don’t) their gender pay gap. And that is where real progress will be made … the gap starts to close year on year.

Gender Pay Gap

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

I am delighted to present the sixth 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 sixth interviewee is Astrid Krause, Senior Manager, Global Oils Europe (Indirect Taxes) at BP.

Astrid Krause

After qualifying as a solicitor, Astrid joined the Corporate Tax practice of Arthur Andersen in Johannesburg. The decision to transfer to the London office twenty years ago marked the start of a career in Indirect Taxes, initially with Andersen and subsequently with Deloitte. She took her first industry role with a FTSE250 engineering company, managing the group’s UK VAT as well as R&D credit activities. A move to BP in 2012 offered the opportunity to work in a dynamic and multi-faceted business, where she first supported the Upstream segment before moving into a global indirect tax risk management role.

A return to the UK portfolio in 2016 saw her lead the team of VAT and Customs & Excise advisers supporting all of BP’s segments during a time of considerable transformation internally, but also in the external environment. Early in 2019, she moved to BP’s trading and supply business where she oversees the UK and European advisory and compliance activities, and also supports the business’s global growth agenda.

Astrid is a member of the Chartered Institute of Taxation as well as the CBI’s Indirect Taxes Working Group. She is also a mentor for the BP Aspire programme, aimed at identifying and nurturing emerging talent within the organisation.

Astrid Krause

  1. What gets you up in the morning?
    Morning Report on BBC Radio Five Live!
  2. Can you describe your current role to me in 1 sentence?
    I lead the Indirect Taxes team supporting BP’s Supply & Trading business in the UK and Europe.
  3. What led you to your current position?
    A series of great opportunities within BP have opened a number of doors for me during the last seven years. I have been continuously challenged to step out of my comfort zone to where I now partner a very dynamic business with a remit beyond just Indirect Taxes.
  4. How did you get into Indirect Tax in the first place?
    I studied Law and was subsequently recruited by Arthur Andersen’s Corporate Tax team in Johannesburg. When I interviewed for a role in the London office, the vibe in the VAT team appealed strongly. So.. like many of my peers, I ended up in Indirect Taxes more by accident than design, but certainly no regrets.
  5. What do you think is the biggest challenge facing the Indirect Tax industry right now?
    The level of scrutiny from fiscal authorities has never been greater and the challenge we face to remain compliant whilst also adding value to operations continues to be an area of focus for leadership teams globally.
  6. What advice would you give to young professionals – especially women – starting out on their Indirect Tax careers?
    Trust your ability to learn new things, have the courage to challenge existing ways of working and take responsibility for the consequences of your actions – good or bad.
  7. What barriers have you had to overcome during your career to date?
    Upon reflection, I think I created my own internal barriers..! Thinking here of second-guessing myself unnecessarily or waiting for others to take the initiative. So many opportunities missed….
  8.  Have there been times when you considered changing career tack?
    The dynamic nature of global Indirect Taxes has always appealed to me. I guess the only time I changed tack was the move from practice to industry. 
  9. What did you want to be when you were growing up?
    A professional tennis player..!
  10. What advice would you give to your younger self?
    Be brave enough to make your own decisions – you know more than you think you know, and you are stronger than you thought.
  11. What are your honest thoughts on social media?
    I am mindful of social media’s ability to be disruptive in a negative way, but I am also encouraged by the opportunities it offers to introduce us to new sources of information and different ways of thinking. As with many things, it is all about balance.
  12. If you won a big award, who would you thank?
    My parents – who have never (let on that they) doubted my ability to achieve whatever I put my mind to.
  13. What’s the one word you’d want people to describe you with?
  14. Books or kindle?
    Kindle… all day, every day!
  15. If you could have a Skype chat with anyone, living or dead, who would it be?
    Roger Federer for sure – what an inspirational icon, on and off the court.
  16. What is your best time saving tip?
    We do lead very full lives – sometimes self-imposed but mostly not. I find that meticulous planning in advance mostly seems to pay off when trying to keep all the plates – at home and in the office – spinning as they should.
  17. What has been the best part of your day today?
    A member of my team being publicly called out by the business for a complex project very well delivered. Nothing beats the feeling of seeing someone making the most of their opportunities and being recognised accordingly.
  18. Favorite holiday destination?
    Anywhere hot and sunny, thank you.
  19. Tell me one thing that people might not know about you……
    Listening to Country & Western music while baking is my happy place… escapism at its finest.


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