I am delighted to present the ninth 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 ninth interviewee is Liza Drew, FSO APAC Indirect Tax Leader at EY.
Liza is EY’s FSO APAC Leader for Indirect Tax. She has 22 years of experience in Indirect Tax, with a large part spent in the financial services sector. Liza is currently based in Singapore after recently moving from Hong Kong. Prior to that she spent two years in Malaysia where she led several large banking and capital markets projects relating to the implementation of Malaysian GST, including the National Stock Exchange and a number of local and global banks. Liza’s experience in the financial services sector has given her a deep technical expertise across banking and capital markets, insurance and wealth and asset management. Prior to joining EY Liza spent 6 years as EMEA Head of Indirect Tax for Nomura International Plc which is Nomura’s European broker/dealer in London. She successfully integrated the legacy Lehman equities business into Nomura following the 2008 acquisition. Previously Liza undertook the EMEA Head of Indirect Tax role at Bear Stearns and later joined JP Morgan where she was responsible for integrating the legacy Bear Stearns business into JP Morgan following its acquisition of that entity. Liza holds a Bachelors Degree in Law and was called to the Bar of England and Wales in 1995.
- What gets you up in the morning?
The thought of coffee.
- Can you describe your current role to me in 1 sentence?
I lead EY’s FSO APAC Indirect Tax business.
- What led you to your current position?
In 2014 I got headhunted to set up EY’s FSO APAC indirect tax practice based out of Hong Kong and the rest is history. In the last 5 years I’ve worked in Malaysia, Hong Kong and Singapore and the team continues to expand. Australia comes on board later this year and China to follow.
- How did you get into Indirect Tax in the first place?
That is quite a long story but also shows the length of my career in indirect tax. I qualified as a barrister in 1995 and spent some time in Chambers completing my pupillage. However, I really wanted to go into tax so I joined the indirect tax practice in Deloitte in 1997. The idea was to get some tax experience with the view of going back to Tax Chambers at some point in the future (I never did).
In 2007 I decided to leave Deloitte and go into the banking industry as EMEA Head of VAT for Bear Stearns International. My timing was not so great given the onset of the global financial crisis but having said that, it was a great experience to later work at JP Morgan and finally Nomura (post its acquisition of the Lehman equity business).
- What do you think is the biggest challenge facing the Indirect Tax industry right now?
In Asia Pac I would say the continuing pace of change across the region and the focus on going digital. Also, our roles as indirect tax professionals are changing. I do much less pure indirect tax advisory than I used to. Now my projects usually involve some type of systems implementation/automation which requires a different skill set altogether.
- What advice would you give to young professionals – especially women – starting out on their Indirect Tax careers?
As your career progresses, your priorities in life may also change. Do not be afraid of recognising this and communicating the same when you are having your career conversations. Find yourself a mentor or several as they usually prove invaluable throughout your career. Finally, don’t underestimate the power of networking, start early.
- What barriers have you had to overcome during your career to date?
I can honestly say that I haven’t had any noticeable barriers to overcome during my career to date – something I am very thankful for.
- Have there been times when you considered changing career tack?
No, not really. For me the move from Big 4 into industry in 2007 was a significant change. After an 8-year stint in the FS industry the decision to move myself and the family, lock stock and barrel to Asia in 2014 and back into Big 4 consulting was huge. But I’ve never wanted to move away from indirect tax and I am very fortunate in that it has given me a variety of options during my career.
- What has been your ‘career-defining’ moment?
I have two. First qualifying as a Barrister, second when I made Partner at EY. Both occasions made me feel incredibly proud and still do.
- What did you want to be when you were growing up?
A hairdresser – I had big plans to get my own brand of shampoo into Boots. I still think about it now!
- What advice would you give to your younger self?
None, I’m probably no wiser than I was then. My younger self had lots of fun and that’s a good thing!
- What are your honest thoughts on social media?
A necessary evil. I am active on LinkedIn for work and have an Instagram account so I can follow my daughters. I have never had a Facebook account nor do I have Twitter. I’m probably considered a dinosaur but I’m always a little wary of the impact of social media on our younger generations.
- If you won a big award, who would you thank?
There are a handful of people who have been instrumental in my career and I am still in touch with most of them so they know who they are. I would definitely thank my husband and my daughters for their continuing support. I travel so much for work which means I am away from home a lot. This is only made possible by their support and I’m very thankful for that.
- What’s the one word you’d want people to describe you with?
- Books or kindle?
It was always books, I thought the Kindle was a terrible invention until I got one. Now I tend to use both, my Kindle is much better for travelling but I still find it hard to walk past a book shop and not come out with something.
- If you could have a Skype chat with anyone, living or dead, who would it be?
- What is your best time saving tip?
I don’t have any, probably why my days are always pretty long.
- What has been the best part of your day today?
Confirmation of some key promotions within my team.
- Favorite holiday destination?
Since we moved to Asia in 2014 we have been very spoilt as to holiday destinations but I think Bali would be up there along with Langkawi in Malaysia.
- Tell me one thing that people might not know about you……
As part of “my mid-life crisis” I took up triathlon as a hobby at the end of 2015. I really don’t have the time to do it properly but I have really enjoyed the challenge in learning to swim in open water, riding a bike and running for long distances. It has been a great way to make new friends, challenge myself and travel round South East Asia. This year I have travelled to Thailand, Vietnam and my next two events are in Indonesia and Shanghai!
The views reflected in this article are the views of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the global EY organization or its member firms.
- by Liz Watt