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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.

MCA

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!!!

Purpose

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 …..as 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?
    Enthusiastic!
  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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ALL ABOUT YOU! The Life and Times of Senior Women in Indirect Tax…

I am delighted to present the fifth 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 fifth interviewee is Liz Maher OBE, Director at Centurion VAT. 

Liz Maher

Following her time at HM Customs and Excise, Liz Maher went to work for Ernst & Young in 1989 becoming its first ever female VAT corporate services director in the UK. Liz now runs Centurion, which is an independently owned VAT practice servicing clients across the UK and beyond. In 2013 it was awarded the National UK Taxation Awards “Best VAT Team” winning the premier spot.

Centurion supports clients in both the public and private sectors from large corporates, housing associations, charities, and education bodies.

Liz also enjoys delivering VAT training on behalf of Centurion including annual VAT updates for professional bodies including the AAT, ICAEW and ACCA and through the British Universities Directors of Finance Group (BUFDG).

A keen volunteer Liz has been the Independent Auditor for Wales on the Investing in Volunteers Awards Program, a former Trustee of the Volunteer Matching Charity REACH, is a founder member of the Friends of Newport Cathedral Choir Charity and has served as a local board member of Young Enterprise Wales.

She is a past President of the South and Mid Wales Chambers of Commerce and is an elected member of the CBI Wales Council.

Liz was recently awarded an OBE for her role in the Diversity Agenda and Economic Development. She had her inauguration at Buckingham Palace last week.

Liz Maher 1

  1. What gets you up in the morning?
    The fact that there is so much to do and the belief that you can make a difference to family, to clients we look after and the wider community, locally and beyond.
  2. Can you describe your current role to me in 1 sentence?
    I’m one of the three Directors of Centurion VAT – an Independent specialist VAT Advisory firm – supporting clients with complex VAT issues.
  3. What led you to your current position?
    My husband Alan had been approached by the University of Wales, Newport to form Centurion VAT in 1998 as a specialist VAT support to Universities – such had been the success of this that the team had grown and when I made the decision to leave EY in the Spring of 2002, I joined Centurion in the Autumn. Centurion continued its successful ethos of expert VAT support outside of the Big 4 pricing and environment – developing our sector offering and geographical remit. In 2007 we became an Independent VAT consultancy and currently are the largest VAT team here in Wales and arguably the South West. Centurion was the Winner of the Taxation’s Best VAT Team in the UK 2013.
  4. How did you get into Indirect Tax in the first place?
    By accident! I did the Civil Service Graduate Entry exam – didn’t put HMCE or Wales on my department or region choice list and ended up being sent to do VAT in Cardiff – I’m not a numbers person but VAT is about problem solving, interpretation of law and evaluation of facts and information – I found I actually enjoy it, especially when you can use those skills to actually help a client move forward.
  5. What do you think is the biggest challenge facing the Indirect Tax industry right now?
    Access to the level of technically skilled VAT people who really do understand that they have to add value not just know the public notices. The challenge from the way in which HMRC is approaching taxpayers at the moment especially the lack of good communication links for taxpayers with the department and the difficulty of getting any technical decision that you can actually rely on from the department. For Centurion the direction of travel of the Big 4 teams is creating lots of opportunities for us to support new clients with their complex VAT issues – like any SME it is the challenge of growing awareness of our offering into the wider markets.
  6. What advice would you give to young professionals – especially women – starting out on their Indirect Tax careers?
    Make sure you like doing VAT, decide where you want to operate in that sector – you’ll need technical knowledge and communication skills to work in the advisory sector. For women I suppose I’d say look at it as a work/life blend rather than balance – balance infers one aspect is always a counter to the other and that immediately creates a pressure so try not to do that. On building confidence especially when going out to network events I pretend to myself that the event is something I’ve organized and that gives me the confidence to approach any group – male or female and start the conversation with “Hello – how are you enjoying this?” Chat usually follows from there I find. Equality of treatment is still an issue but part of the solution is in our own hands – self belief and recognizing that talking more openly about inequality or areas of discrimination will lead influencers that are male to be part of the solution. At the CBI Wales Council we agreed a policy we call “PlusOne” where at quarterly Council meetings the Council members are encouraged to bring along a junior female colleague to sit in on the discussions. It helps build confidence and gets more diverse voices round the table in what many might think is a largely white male business community. CBI Wales Council is one of the most diverse Councils in the network we are told – still more to do – but if you want things to change you’ve got to get involved.
  7. What barriers have you had to overcome during your career to date?
    Back in my early career days – the 80’s and 90’s it would be the issues familiar to many – in the civil service being told by the Leader of the Investigations team that he didn’t like women in the team as they “disrupted” things. In the Big 4 it was largely about progression being linked to whether you were prepared to be the corporate clone image they wanted and who you knew in the existing partner network that would be onside.
    I remember being at a Regional Senior Manager development dinner and hearing the lead partner tell a joke that his boss had said years before as evidence of past views and how things had moved on. It was along the lines of “there was only one thing worse than a female partner and that was a Catholic one as she’d have even more children”. As the only female at the dinner I looked around and felt I needed convincing things had changed. That was 25 years ago now and from the outside it looks like the diversity agenda has moved forward in that corporate environment – which is to be welcomed.
  8. Have there been times when you considered changing career tack?
    Yes, when I left EY as my two children were under 5 but then I realized how much I enjoyed the VAT world and the business environment – I just wanted to find a way of doing it without timesheets! Luckily that’s what Centurion offered!
  9. And if yes – what made you stay?
    I love the way we work at Centurion – the way clients trust us based on what we deliver and not on a big brand name. I love the growth we’ve achieved as an SME and that clients stay with us and tell more people about us.
  10. What has been your ‘career-defining’ moment?
    I’d have to say getting an OBE last week for my role in the Diversity agenda and Economic Development – don’t think I’ll beat that as a personal recognition. On the work front it was the business winning the Best VAT Team in the UK Taxation award – fab team, great achievement.
  11. What did you want to be when you were growing up?
    Teacher or psychiatrist
  12. What advice would you give to your younger self?
    Believe in yourself more – understand your own potential
  13. What are your honest thoughts on social media?
    I tweet a bit – I don’t do Facebook or other platforms. I do pick up news from Twitter but increasingly I wonder how much manipulation is out there.
  14. If you won a big award, who would you thank?
    The people who nominated me for it as I’d be amazed that what I do is anything extraordinary. I’d also have to thank my hubby for being supportive – luckily he knows what VAT and business world is like – and my team mates in Centurion.
  15. What’s the best thing anyone has ever done for you?
    Hubby took me on a surprise trip on the Orient Express to Venice.
  16. What’s the one word you’d want people to describe you with?
    Committed
  17. Books or kindle?
    Both but on balance I love the tactile bit of holding a book
  18. If you could have a Skype chat with anyone, living or dead, who would it be?
    Emily Pankhurst
  19. What is your best time saving tip?
    I’m rubbish at time management – writing a to do list seems to help
  20. What has been the best part of your day today?
    Having a breakfast cuppa at home looking out over the Welsh countryside and planning the to do’s of the day.
  21. Favorite holiday destination?
    Just back from New Zealand – an amazing country and I would love to visit again but Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands is a personal favourite.
  22. Tell me one thing that people might not know about you……
    I took up trampolining in my late 40’s

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