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Showcasing Female Talent : Profiles of Women working in Indirect Tax – by Liz Watt

I wanted to demonstrate that quite often, women’s careers do not follow a linear path, but this fact does not stop these women achieving, and frequently exceeding, the career goals they set themselves.

I also wanted to show that there isn’t one set career path – there is a wealth of opportunity out there in all different types of businesses and in fact, if you compare all the profiles so far, no two are the same.

And I also wanted to demonstrate to women at an earlier stage of their careers that, contrary to received wisdom, there are some great role models out there!

These interviews have been a tremendous success. I have really enjoyed hearing about the many and varied career paths my interviewees have followed, and I have learnt some fascinating and hitherto unknown facts about them along the way!

If you would like to read the profiles so far, please click here

Watch this space for a whole new set of profiles during 2020 – I hope you can take inspiration from the amazing talents and achievements they showcase.

Referral Scheme

Do you know someone with a great story to tell? Or is there someone you think I should feature in 2020? Maybe someone in your team, a colleague or a client….. If yes, please refer them to me and if I publish their profile, a gift will be winging its way to you!

To find out more, please contact me:

Women's Profiles

The traditional concept of ‘Retirement’ is changing……… Liz Watt

An increasing number of us are finding ourselves in the position of considering our retirement and future life options at a far earlier stage than previous generations, especially as quite often there will be a gap between the time when we finish conventional employment and when our pensions (state or otherwise) kick in. This may be an enforced situation – eg redundancy, or driven by health or family issues; it may be that one experiences a growing realisation that life in the corporate world is no longer as fulfilling and ambitions wane; or some may be in the fortunate position that financially, suddenly it is possible to change tack.

Whatever the reason, the reality is that having made the decision to change direction or retire, many are blind-sided by the question ‘Now What?’ Lack of planning can leave a huge gap between the world that was, and the reality that is looming. Without planning and forethought, the issues that arise can include boredom, loneliness, ill health, loss of purpose and direction and often financial hardship.

In my experience, though, it is those with a sense of purpose that make the most successful transition. Everyone is different and the same plan won’t work for everybody. However, if you are one of the many who have no real idea about how to go about planning and preparing for this next phase of life, this Learning Lunch is for you.

Over a light lunch, I will help you:

  • Look at how to embrace the opportunities and challenges that you might be facing
  • Consider the options open to you as you plan your new reality
  • Think about how you are going to fill your time without a corporate structure around you
  • Assess your transferable skills
  • Discuss issues important to you with a small, like-minded group of people
  • Take away a plan as to how you can move forward

Date & time : Thursday 30th January 2020; 12-2pm

Venue : Central Court, 25 Southampton Buildings, London, WC2A 1AL

Investment: £25 + VAT

If you would like to join me for this interactive and informative lunchtime session, please contact me:


Resisting Change? How Adaptable Are You? by Liz Watt

I moved house earlier this year. Big deal you might think – and yes for me it really was! We’d lived in our house for 25 years; both my girls were only small when we went there and so it had been our only real family home. Consequently, there was a huge emotional attachment to disentangle, as well as the physical move we were about to undertake. Added to that, having lived in and around London for most of my adult life, we were moving out of London to live by the sea, which was both exciting but at the same time, deeply scary.

So in the run up to the move, I found myself saying ‘this is the last time I’ll do this…… commute / cook a meal in this kitchen / go to my regular exercise class with my friends’ – the list is endless… and as a result I was making myself feel pretty mournful and nostalgic.

At this point I realized I had to have a serious word with myself! It was important to stop this rather negative way of thinking and instead, reflect on why we were making this move, what we are looking forward to and remember all the positive benefits of moving out of London to the sea. So, I started to reframe my thinking: ‘this is the first time I will…… do my new commute / cook a meal in my new kitchen / have my girls to stay / walk on the beach….’

This experience has made me really think about how I personally respond to change, what is important to me to remain stable in my life and what I am comfortable in letting go of. It made me question how resilient I am. I have to admit I’ve found it challenging and this has been a learning experience.

More importantly though, it has enriched the way I respond to my Coaching clients who are going through a period of change – in whatever guise. Responding to and dealing with change is one of the most frequent issues that clients bring to the table, whether it is at pivotal moments of ones career, for example promotion, taking on new responsibilities or as a result of major life changes – for example, return to work post maternity or parental leave, or in the run up to retirement.

Whether change is happening in your professional or personal life, your response to it is likely to be determined by how much control you feel you can exercise over a situation. We are far more likely to be resistant to change if we feel we have no influence over it. Change is an integral part of life, but the fear of the unknown is likely to cause us to push back and put up barriers. Even when the change is something new and exciting, the lure of the familiar – what we know and are comfortable with – can make us anxious.

Being able to exercise some choice and control over situations can help. But the fact is that change happens, and we have to learn ways to deal with it. Being adaptable and resilient certainly helps. Good communication too – for example if your business is going through a reorganization and redundancies are on the horizon, your ability to weather the storm will help if you know what the score is. Being self-aware enough to recognize your own internal barriers and unpick where they are coming from can help in seeing the bigger picture, as can being empathetic to the effects of change on ourselves and those around us.

So, six months on – have I adapted to my big life change? Well yes – what seemed scary and very unfamiliar at the time is now a great source of joy. In this case, change really has been a good thing!

If you are experiencing change in your professional life and would like some help in navigating the way forward, please contact me to see how Coaching might help :

Embracing Change

Customs and Global Trade – a hot topic….by Emma Wade

With Brexit on the horizon the Customs market has been very interesting over the last 12-24 months from a recruitment perspective.  Customs is obviously a hot topic for most businesses and the consultancy firms have been very busy, resulting in teams growing significantly across the UK including partner appointments – it’s great that Customs has the high profile that it deserves.   Not that I am biased at all!  The consultants joining these firms have come from a diverse range of backgrounds – the UK is an attractive place to be from a customs perspective right now from both a technical and professional perspective.  Candidates have moved over to the UK from other consulting practices overseas, some have made the move from an in-house environment and there has been a steady stream of candidates leaving HMRC, attracted by the bright lights of the private sector.  On that note HMRC have recruited heavily themselves into the Customs area, a combination of transferring people internally from VAT over to Customs and Excise and recruiting graduates straight into teams such as the EU Exit Policy team.

On the in-house side the market has been steady, but not quite as hectic as you may expect.  There has been a reasonable amount of recruitment for Customs and Excise compliance specialists and grants from the government have helped customs agents and intermediaries to build capacity to manage Customs declarations.  Recruitment at the more senior level has been more piecemeal – there have been a few appointments but many businesses are waiting to see if the UK leaves the EU with or without a deal as this will have a significant impact (huge impact for some businesses) on what their Customs landscape will look like.

I have had many conversations with businesses, talking through potential hiring plans, all contingent on what happens with Brexit.  The effect on the Customs burden for many businesses is so dependent on Brexit that in my view, they are right to wait.  It will have a big impact on the level of seniority of candidate they need to recruit.  Some businesses have taken pre-emptive steps and have been using contractors to make sure that processes are in place and they are Brexit ready.

One thing I do know is that it’s a great time to be a Customs specialist in the UK, the work will be challenging, the landscape continually changing and your role will certainly be high profile in the business.

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

I am delighted to present the next in my 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 interviewee this week is Gill Hunter.

Gill Hunter

Gill Hunter is an experienced Indirect Tax professional, working for Essentia Global Services as a Senior Indirect Tax Consultant,  as well as being a member of the First-Tier Tax Tribunal. Gill started her Indirect Tax career in the Investigations division of Customs and Excise, before moving to a Big 4 firm. She took a career break, during which time she pursued other projects, including technical tax writing. She also became a magistrate serving in the Kent Courts for 10 years. During this time she built links with the local prison service and in 2013 set up a programme in Kent prisons to prepare prisoners for job interviews before their release. Gill returned to the Big 4 through one of the Return to Work programmes. She moved to Dubai in 2017,  and previously worked for a couple of the Big 4 as they built their Indirect Tax practise in the UAE, before moving to Essentia.

Gill Hunter

  1. What gets you up in the morning?
    Wondering what excitement the day might have in store.
  2. Can you describe your current role to me in 1 sentence?
    Member of the First-tier Tax Tribunal and Consultant for Essentia Global Services.
  3. What led you to your current position?
    I was recruited to the Tax Tribunal in 2009 when the VAT and Duties Tribunal and the General and Special Commissioners merged and I joined Essentia when I met one of the owners, Bill Morrison, in a bar in Dubai!
  4. How did you get into Indirect Tax in the first place?
    I joined Customs and Excise in 1983 as a VAT inspector in London at the tender age of 19 and from there I went into investigation work before I left to join Price Waterhouse, as it was then, in 1990.
  5. What do you think is the biggest challenge facing the Indirect Tax industry right now?
    As I am currently based in Dubai, looking from here at the UK it appears it must be the uncertainty Brexit continues to bring to businesses across all areas. Here in the GCC it is helping businesses prepare for the three remaining countries to implement Indirect Tax and dealing with the changes that occur in Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrain as their Indirect Tax systems mature in the years ahead.
  6. What advice would you give to young professionals – especially women – starting out on their Indirect Tax careers?
    There are so many opportunities in Indirect Tax in the UK and also around the world. If you don’t feel suited to the first job you have, don’t think you will be stuck there for ever. Nothing stays the same and Indirect Tax can provide you with a long career that is rich in variety.
  7. What barriers have you had to overcome during your career to date?
    For me the biggest barriers came when I returned to work having had my son in the mid 1990s. That was not an easy time to make progress in your career and be a mother. Experience suggests leaps and bounds have been achieved in the work place in the last 25 years, not least the addition of Return To Work programmes such as the one I joined at Deloitte in 2016.
  8. Have there been times when you considered changing career tack?
    Definitely, when I looked at returning to work when the children were older. Over the years, I have added new skills to my portfolio but somehow VAT always draws me back into its fold in one way or another. A life in VAT produces very transferable skills!
  9. And if yes – what made you stay?
    In 2016 I was fortunate to be included in the Deloitte Return to Work programme for people who had been out of the workplace for a number of years. It was an amazing programme for reintroducing me to consultancy work and introducing me to the technological changes that had taken place in my 18 years away from an office environment. Since then I have worked for Deloitte and PwC in Dubai.
  10. What has been your ‘career-defining’ moment?
    This is a difficult one to answer but I can’t help thinking back to when I became an investigator in the 1980s. Much of the work I have been involved with in the years since has been influenced by the training and experience I received at that time – including becoming a magistrate, voluntary work in prisons and my work in the Tax Tribunal on MTICs and similar cases – investigation work gave me an insight into and interest in investigation, criminal law and the judicial process.
  11. What did you want to be when you were growing up?
    There wasn’t a particular job that I wanted to do when I was growing up. But I remember when I heard that I had been appointed to Customs and Excise when I was 19. I was working in a restaurant where I grew up in North Yorkshire. The boss said that he hoped I didn’t end up as a VAT inspector and I laughed because I had no idea VAT inspectors were part of Customs and Excise. I thought I would be stopping drug smugglers at Heathrow Airport. Little did I know! But what I wanted to do was to be able to live and work in London and it certainly enabled me to do that, for many years. And now in Dubai.
  12. What advice would you give to your younger self?
    Be patient. You have many years ahead of you to find the work that satisfies you. If you find you are in the right place from the word go that is great too, but if you’re not, look for the people who will support you to find the appropriate place for your skills and talents. There is some truth to the saying that if you do a job you love you’ll never do a day’s work in your life.
  13. What are your honest thoughts on social media?
    I think social media have been great technological advances but we see that they often bring out the worst in people. Maybe because we are still working out how to use them.
  14. If you won a big award, who would you thank?
    I would thank my husband, Brian, for always supporting me in the choices I have made, especially the one to take time out to stay at home with Charlie and Katie for 18 years and then to take on more projects as more time became available as they got older. I would thank them too for being happy that their ‘mum’ was out in the world making a contribution.
  15. What’s the best thing anyone has ever done for you?
    Told me that I can!
  16. What’s the one word you’d want people to describe you with?
  17. Books or kindle?
    Mostly Kindle with the occasional book.
  18. If you could have a Skype chat with anyone, living or dead, who would it be?
    As I am currently in the UK for seven weeks and my husband is in Dubai or Saudi Arabia, definitely him. He restores my equilibrium. If on the other hand I couldn’t get through to him I might have a chat with Elvis instead!
  19. What is your best time saving tip?
    Make a start. You don’t have to complete a task all in one go, but take the first step and the rest will follow.
  20. What has been the best part of your day today?
    Lunch with a friend.
  21. Favorite holiday destination?
    Wherever the family is. With the kids in Canada and the US and us in Dubai, wherever we can meet around the world. Next stop a family wedding in Bali!
  22. Tell me one thing that people might not know about you……
    When I made my first arrest as VAT investigator back in the 1980s the man I arrested complained that he shouldn’t have been arrested by a woman! Or that when I was in Customs & Excise I was once part of a peep show in Soho when we forgot to close the show when we went in to count the day’s takings and I was talking to the performer when a customer came in and put his money in the slot and she began her act. Who says indirect tax isn’t interesting?!


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