Corporate Finance professionals must be able to keep up with emerging trends to best advise their clients. But what lies ahead for the sector itself and how are skillsets changing? Here to shed some light on the future of corporate finance is Chand Chudasama, Strategy & Corporate Finance Partner at Price Bailey.
How has technology and data changed Corporate Finance and Strategy?
Undoubtedly there’s a huge amount of data out there, and most corporate finance and strategy outfits have bought access to it through aggregators. It’s inexcusable to ignore the data that’s there. However, it’s not enough.
Whilst the quantity and quality of the data available is increasing, the clients themselves are gaining their own commercial rigour. Many have come from industry and, armed with this easily-accessible data, in many cases their insight is better than the consultants’.
Combine this trend with the fact that many corporate finance forecasts are still based on optimistic growth assumptions that lack data-driven evidence – you see projections of revenue and margin going up, which looks great, but isn’t an accurate picture.
To keep pace, and to stand out in a competitive market, we need to do something different. When I took over the strategy team at Price Bailey, I wanted to create an insights and research team that took an innovative approach. We now focus on building primary market research into how a business could grow in different markets, and how it could be valued as a result. For example, we do price and market testing around the world, turning that evidence into projections that have a real rationale behind them. It’s a combination of qualitative and quantitative data that offers a far more credible and useful picture to the client.
What about further into the future of corporate finance, what might be three things to look out for?
It’s a continuation of what we just discussed:
The amount of data will increase but the number of people who can connect that to value creation will fall. Data will proliferate but people will focus too much on that and forget to ask the ‘so what’ questions.
As clients become savvier about corporate finance, consultants will need to expand their knowledge to stay one step ahead and continue adding value. Traditional advisors who have only ever worked in finance will struggle to command premium fees, as we see a rise in recruits joining the business from outside the industry and bringing skills such as sales, marketing and increasingly, technology. We’ll still need lots of ACAs, but the expectation will shift and people will need to demonstrate complementary skills.
If advisors can’t think on a global scale, they will struggle. If I think of the international deals we do now, compared to six years ago, the number has increased exponentially. We have embraced that, and we use technology and support teams to facilitate our work. If you can’t think globally, you’ll be limited in your growth and miss out on huge opportunities.
What has been the impact of alternate finance, and how do you keep up with this?
I’m excited to see what the alternative lenders are going to provide in the near and long term future, because I really believe that alternative finance is the right thing for the growth of the British economy and for our businesses. For early-stage companies, alternative financiers can be very effective on the debt and equity side to provide funding.
It’s an area where Britain is lagging behind. In France, we see capital trusts doing a great job of leveraging alternative funding for businesses in their early stages of growth. The issue is that this is a challenging area, where the risk is high and we need more people to back alternative funding in order to reach a critical mass. I understand why alternative financiers might not want to fund that space, it’s risky so it’s hard to make it work.
To learn more about Chand’s rise to success, don’t miss his ‘10 Lessons Learned on the Path to Partner’. If you feel ready to discuss your next career opportunity in Corporate Finance, or you’re looking for talent to fill a role in your organisation, please get in touch.
Henning Lauritsen is Acting Head of Tax at Wyelands Capital (GFG Alliance). Originally from Denmark, Henning started in international tax at petrochemicals company Borealis. He started Carlsberg’s tax team from scratch, and since then has led several global organisations through periods of transition and merger. In the latest of our ‘Lessons from Leaders’ series, we find out what Henning has learned from his career in tax.
How did you arrive at your current role?
In 2009 I was working in Hong Kong for a global commodity group. I travelled a lot – it felt like I went around the world in two weeks. Jules Verne had nothing on me! It was a very interesting company, but jet lag plagued me.
I moved to London for a new role, where I set up the global tax department. I was still travelling, visiting the US and parts of Asia to get closer to the business. When they closed the London office in 2017, I wanted to remain in the City.
Around that time, the GFG Alliance called me and asked me to focus on their M&A business – Wyelands Capital. They did things differently there, and it seemed like a great opportunity to learn, so I joined them as Acting Head of Tax. It’s a year since I started – I think they still like me!
You’ve had a very successful career in tax – what has driven your progress?
It sounds like a contradiction, but I think I have survived by not becoming too focused on the tax world. You have to understand the connections an organisation has within and outside itself, and then to work with the business to translate tax into their language. It’s just as important to understand accounting and cross-border challenges, as it is to understand people and cooperate with them.
To be successful, a tax leader cannot operate alone, and I’m a big believer in synergy. One person can dig a ditch of three metres in two hours but two people can dig seven or eight metres of ditch at the same time. That’s the power of the team.
What lessons have you learned as a tax leader?
There are three main lessons I would share with someone wanting to pursue a successful career in tax:
It’s important to be a good leader. This means working as a team – you’re only as strong as the weakest link. You have to take care of people, lead and guide them, then they will deliver.
You must think broadly. I analyse the company accounts. That’s not my job, but I proactively look for anomalies, such as the effective tax rate, so I can spot any errors sooner. I do what I call ‘the sniff test’ – if it smells wrong, it probably is. I look at the whole business through the lens of tax and take a broad view of the situation.
When you do speak to people, be clear – the way we communicate as tax professionals is critical. I can guarantee that the business does not understand what I’m talking about if I use phrases like ‘future relief’. Terminology also differs from country to country, so an international team must be sensitive to that. You have to be able to explain simply – no long stories! It’s important to pitch your communications to the person’s level of understanding.
How do you advise the business as a tax leader?
In tax, as in many other disciplines, the more experienced you are, the more you need to consider the real question you are being asked. You may only be told parts E-Z of a story, and you have to first understand A-E yourself, and research the background. To properly advise, you need to ensure answering the right question. Never take a risk if it makes you think ‘I hope no one sees’ – you are there to protect the business.
Any career regrets?
Not really! I’ve tried so many different companies, all with different cultures. I’ve had a very interesting career, and I always think that that job I have now is the most important one. I say to other people ‘don’t complain about your situation – you took the job!’. Take control, drive things forward – if you want a salary rise, ask for one and explain why.
I’m happy I chose tax – it was the right decision for me. Tax is like a piece of art of me.
How is tax like art?
If you know your legislation and how to see connections within the business, tax professionals can figure out beautiful plans to save money and serve the business. We must always consider the ethics of our actions – we don’t just do things because we can. But there is pleasure in finding solutions for the business.
For example, I had just joined one organisation and due to the way we were structured and set up historically we had to pay £5m in tax. Working in partnership with PWC, we found a solution that reduced our exposure, reduced risk and was ethical – all by understanding the law, the detail and thinking creatively.
We’ve seen how a broader understanding of the business, clear communications and the power of teamwork have driven Henning’s career trajectory. For more in our ‘Lessons from Leaders’ series, and to discover Henning’s thoughts on the future of tax, visit our Insights page. If you’d like to discuss your next tax role, please get in touch.
Henning Lauritsen is Acting Head of Tax at Wyelands Capital (GFG Alliance). We hear Henning’s three predictions for the future of tax
A closer relationship with tax authorities
In recent years, businesses have cooperated more and more with tax authorities, and the future of tax will see this trend increase as a lack of resources forces efficiencies. The authorities will ask us to implement policies, state our tax strategy on the website and get the whole company behind that strategy. If those policies are put in place, then we won’t need their audits – we have protection around the company and that makes us stronger.
Greater internal controls
The more internal controls a company can implement, the better that company will function. As technology allows our procedures to be digitised, I expect this area will grow in the near future. We can already see that digital VAT and tax creates efficiencies so that we as tax professionals have more time to focus on the company more broadly, rather than the detail.
The world is changing very quickly, and the future of tax will see many more tasks becoming automated. For example, automated transfer pricing reports will allow us to easily consult the business quickly on the markets it should sell to. These processes will also become more accurate over time.
The future of tax teams
The tax department must start to look like a thinking team, focused more on strategy and overall policy than the detail. Automation will mean the tax team reduces in numbers, and those left in it need to shift from being operational to more consultative. The tax department will be more involved in the business than they are today – among the C-suite you may see more tax professionals, lawyers and accountants. Closer integration with the business, perhaps as a virtual team rather than one separate, centralised department, will ensure the tax specialists can better guide the various teams as to what’s best for them.
In summary, it’s clear to see how better cooperation with tax authorities, more automated and efficient internal controls and a more consultative approach will shape the future of tax in the very near future. Stay up to date with the latest trends by following us on LinkedIn. To discover Henning’s thoughts on building a tax team from scratch, to learn about his career path and to access our ‘Lessons from Leaders’ series, visit our Insights section.
“We can already see that digital VAT and tax creates efficiencies so that we as tax professionals have more time to focus on the company more broadly, rather than the detail.”
Henning Lauritsen, Acting Head of Tax at Wyelands Capital (GFG Alliance).
If you’d like to discuss your tax role, or if you’re looking to make your next career move, please get in touch to talk about your needs.
The recruitment industry is well renowned for being process-driven, and that environment can pose challenges to many consultants. Jane Paton, Senior Consultant in our Wealth Management team, explains how a career at SRM Recruitment is a very different proposition.
Tell me a bit about your background
When I left school I went straight to work, selling advertising in a local trade magazine. For a while, I worked in sales for a coffee company, but after a move to Guildford, I contacted a recruitment agency to find a new role. They ended up offering me a job as a trainee consultant. I progressed there into specialist recruitment – engineering then financial services. Now my focus is on investment and wealth management.
Why did you decide on a career at SRM?
I’d become disillusioned with the firm I was with – they’d changed the commission structure and it didn’t meet what I was looking for. I was introduced to Stewart and Andrew and they really seemed like a different breed! I got the impression they had a more grown-up approach than most recruiters – a bit more in line with my own.
I was also able to set up the wealth management division for SRM. Stewart, Rory and Andrew could see how this would benefit their existing business – they have that entrepreneurial spirit.
What’s kept you?
For me, the goalposts never moved. The management team is always helping us to achieve and develop, but they’re not micromanaging us. They give us the tools, the support and most importantly, the encouragement to get going.
What’s great about the business in your eyes?
The team environment in all the offices – everyone is willing to help everyone else.
How would you sum up the culture?
SRM is a grown-up environment. You’re not expected to be chained to your desk, but you do need to work smart and produce results. It’s a good work/life balance. Everyone gets on well, there’s no rivalry, except the normal banter!
What sort of people will do well here?
You need an outgoing personality to bounce off everyone else. We need people with a positive outlook, but we’re not looking for any recruitment mavericks – that wouldn’t fit with our team ethos.
Sum up for the top three things about a career at SRM
Being able to work part-time is a huge plus, as I’ve got 2 children. I’m able to work from home, and the support I’m given is great.
The commission structure is fixed and very clear – no one is going to move the goalposts. That’s really attractive – it’s fair, simple and you know where you are.
The people – this is a great team to be part of
What’s next for your part of the business and your career
We are keen to add more team members to drive the business forward, there’s huge scope to develop.
What would you say to someone thinking of making their next recruitment move – why should they consider a career at SRM?
At SRM you will be in control of how you evolve your career. We work hard here, we get on well, and it’s a great place to develop.
Sum up how SRM is different…
SRM is different because each person who works here is different too – it’s not one size fits all. We’re not KPI driven, so we’re not targeted for how long we spend on the phone or how many CVs we send out. We have the autonomy to control our diary, our work, and ultimately, our career at SRM.
While some leaders have a clear
career path mapped out from the outset, for others the journey evolves. We
speak to Richard Francis, CFO at global digital service provider Netcentric, to
hear what lessons the twists and turns in his career path have offered him, the
changing role of a CFO and the future of the finance team.
Did you always know you’d
work in finance, Richard?
Not at all. At university, I didn’t
know what I wanted to do. I went to a careers fair, got chatting to someone
from Deloitte and they persuaded me to consider audit. After I graduated, I
joined their audit team in Crawley. It was a good experience, getting to work
with lots of big clients, like GM, but I realised quite quickly that I wasn’t
interested in staying in practice. The main issue I had was that the decisions
I made were for other people – I wanted to be in on the action.
What was your first role
I joined Duracell in their finance
and tax team. The real breakthrough for me was when Gillette acquired Duracell.
I got to see the systems integrate and my eyes were opened to a whole new area
of finance. Instead of just looking backwards at tax returns, I was involved in
forward-looking trends, standing up in front of the Managing Director to say
why the business was going left or right.
How did you find working
for a large corporation?
I realised quite quickly that it
wasn’t for me. It seemed as though there were meetings about meetings, you had
to ask your boss to ask their boss a question. It wasn’t what I wanted to do.
At the time there was a lot of buzz about technology, the internet was just
starting off, so I decided on a complete change of industry and moved into a
software company. It wasn’t great timing – I arrived just before the dot com
explosion. The share price went down about 75% the week after I joined. It
wasn’t my fault I hasten to add! But it was a big wake-up call – you have to
make quick changes to survive. I also learned that you shouldn’t make lots of
little restructures, otherwise people are constantly looking over their
shoulder. You have to make big changes, quickly.
What are the advantages of
working for a smaller firm?
I’d say there are three main upsides
of working for a smaller organisation:
You can make things happen. You’ll be given accountability to get on and do something, such as setting up an office, which in a larger company would be reserved for more senior colleagues.
You’ll see a quicker impact from your actions. Once you make things happen, for better or worse you’ll see the results more quickly than in a bigger organisation where risk aversion is rife and decision making is slower or doesn’t happen at all.
There’s a lot more variety. Only in a smaller company can you be talking to a customer in the morning then reviewing a lease in the afternoon. The role of a CFO in a smaller organisation spreads across wider functions, including sales, HR, IT as well as the wider aspects of finance. In a big corporate you’ll be more limited to the finance department, and you’ll have to specialise, such as forecasting, or tax.
What has been the biggest
project you’ve worked on?
When I joined Day Software (a web
content management company) which was listed on the Swiss Stock Exchange, the
share price was going down, like everyone else’s, thanks to the financial
crisis. It was a good chance to restructure the company. After we restructured
the business, it grew by 50% a year. In 2009, it became the best performing
stock on the Swiss stock exchange.
In 2010 Adobe wanted to buy us. At
that point between March and July of that year, I lost my life! I was that dad
doing conference calls whilst pushing my children on swings and arguing with
lawyers in Sainsbury’s. Marrying a listed Silicon Valley company with a listed
Swiss company was very rare and very difficult – it was a big deal at the time.
Lining the financial reporting up forced us to have a strict deadline, which
helped. The deal went through for US$240m and, after a long process, Adobe took
control in October 2010. I stayed on in the role of CFO for a year, to help
with the transition.
Where are you working
In 2015 I moved to Netcentric, which
at the time was a Swiss private company. We maintain global websites for the
likes of UBS, Miles & More and Daimler. The company was growing extremely
fast. It started in 2012 and when I came on board, I was employee #299. In 2017
we accepted an offer from Cognizant in which I had been working on the transaction,
alongside our CEO. Since then I’ve taken responsibility for both the finance
and operations at the firm. We now have 550 people at Netcentric – it’s a very
ambitious company. The company has a very different culture, particularly as it
uses the holacracy organisational model.
What is it like to work in
The holacracy model is based on
running a business in a non-hierarchical way. No one is working for anybody
else, and the best ideas come forward. There’s no monopoly whereby only the
senior people have good ideas. Projects are run in ‘circles’, and there are
leaders of those circles. We never have to discuss or learn organisation
charts, as the company reorganises itself on a daily basis. It’s an Agile
method, which has allowed us to grow massively.
What is your biggest
My biggest regret is not doing my due
diligence properly when I joined a start-up some years ago. I didn’t ask the
right questions about the business’ viability, which I regretted at the time.
However, you learn from those experiences and mistakes.
Most of my regrets are around bad hiring decisions. I’ve made a few, and the common trait is that I recruited too quickly. One thing I’ve learned is to hire slow and fire fast – the chaos from a bad hire is not worth the time saved at the recruitment stage.
Hiring managers should try to avoid a
‘shopping list’ approach where people look for candidates with an exact match
of skills and experience. People generally want a change of role, and why would
they want to move into a job that is exactly the same as their last one? Also,
take the plunge and put your shortlisted candidates in front of your colleagues
so they have the opportunities to point out any potential problems – it will
pay off in the long run.
You mentioned that you believe giving employees a better understanding of company financials is important.
How are you doing that, and why?
I’m a great believer in openness and
often find that people can handle the truth better than you expect. It’s far
better to tell people how things are, as well as what you are and aren’t able
to share. For example, at Myriad, we were facing a difficult financial
situation and I told the staff I wasn’t sure if we’d have jobs in three months’
time, but I could promise an amazing experience that would be great for their
CV. They loved this approach, and everyone stayed.
At the moment I’m working on a
project that involves next year’s budget. I have to be open and explain that I
can’t share everything. As long as people trust you to have the right
judgement, the role of a CFO has to be a buffer at times – you can’t share all
the pain (you don’t want to unnecessarily panic people), but you can give
How is the role of a CFO
The role of a CFO is to be a true
business partner to the CEO – long gone are the days of being locked in a room
with board reports. You have to challenge the CEO and be their sounding board
(privately, of course). The CFO can’t sit in a bubble, they have to collaborate
with other departments, such as sales and marketing, to get a feel of what’s
going on in the business. That requires you to be approachable. If people are
scared of you, you’ll miss out on ideas.
Regulations are changing the
landscape too. Financial stewardship and technological advances mean you need
to be on top of the latest developments.
What are your top three
predictions for how finance teams of the future will look?
(AI) will take over an increasing number of tasks like sales invoicing
Teams will need more
analytical skills to better understand the business and will need to connect
more effectively with the business managers to gain insights.
The pace of change will
increase and it will be our job to observe trends and adapt. We’ll need to
think outside the box to keep up.
And finally, what advice
would you give now to that 18-year-old Richard, heading to the university
Keep educating yourself, it’s never
enough. The world is changing and adapting to it is key. As jobs disappear, new
ones will come, so be ready…
If you want to learn from Richard’s
experience in finance, take a look at this article on ‘how to grow and sell a
business’, or check out our other insights. If you’re
looking for your next career move within finance, or you have an opportunity at
your company that you’d like to discuss, get in touch on + 44 (0) 020 3637
In the latest article for our ‘Lessons from Leaders’ series, Richard Francis, CFO at Netcentric, shares his expertise on how to sell a business, from initial growth through to post-sale integration.
Back in 2010, Richard managed the transaction when Adobe bought Day Software and in 2017, he played a key role when Netcentric accepted an offer from Cognizant.
Going for growth
Rapid growth might be a common business goal, but each company will require a unique approach to achieve it successfully.
Service businesses like my current organisation, Netcentric, must anticipate hiring needs early as it can take around six months to train a consultant and more like nine before revenue comes in. You need to make sure the company is properly financed well in advance so you’re able to take the plunge swiftly.
Quick expansion also relies on a delicate balance of process versus action. You want processes to work efficiently so teams can spend their time doing what they do best, not wading through bureaucracy. The company was not created for the finance team, it was created to help customers and make sales. Remember that your role is to support the company in doing that.
Being prepared to act quickly is absolutely vital if you want to grow a business. Don’t get too bogged down spending months on business plans in spreadsheets that will soon be out of date. Instead, do something more quickly at a higher level that you can change as you need to.
A CFO needs nerves of steel to support a company through ambitious growth. When I took on this role, the CEO explained that my predecessor didn’t sleep for a year! It’s your job to reassure people but also to ensure the senior leaders understand the risks. There’s no room for politics and blame, people need to be allowed to make mistakes if you want to grow.
Preparing for sale
This is the time to focus on doing what you do and doing it well. Don’t waste time thinking about who might buy.
It’s critical that you protect intellectual property. You might find yourself under pressure to transfer intellectual property ownership, but resist this at all costs and be very careful with the contracts you sign. Don’t take legal shortcuts. If you have to give liability, make sure you have an endpoint.
Wherever possible, it’s better to be bought up than putting the company up for sale, and that means a different approach.
How to sell a business successfully
To lead a business through a successful sale, you don’t need to have everyone working on it. It’s important to keep ‘business as usual’, so you want as few people as possible caught up in the sale.
Another risk to manage is time. Open-ended timeframes will wear everyone down. Create some time pressure on the process to drive it forward, and don’t allow yourself to be dictated to on the deadlines.
A business which has recently been acquired faces many challenges during integration with the buyer. To manage the process and see the business succeed, it’s important to understand the reason for the acquisition, whether you are the acquired or the acquirer.
When Day was acquired by Adobe, it was clearly a software purchase, so the integration needed to be quick so that the customer only saw one ‘face’. It’s difficult to do, particularly with big cultural hurdles of a Swiss and US firm coming together.
Netcentric was very different, as Cognizant couldn’t do what Netcentric did, they were buying the way we work. Cognizant has a mantra – ‘do no harm when you acquire a company’. We actually agreed to preserve our approach in pre-acquisition talks and the integration was very light. It’s been business as usual, we’re still Netcentric, only it’s better now because we have the financial security of being a big group with a larger cash flow. We’ve merged where it made sense to do so, such as the legal and finance teams, and we’ve taken advantage of Cognizant functions where possible, such as the new delivery centre in India. When you’re thinking about how to sell a business, the aim is not to disturb staff or customers. It comes back to remembering why you bought the company and ensuring you protect that.
“The work I’m doing around sales and building the business is very different to anything I’ve done before.”
Drew Wardrope – Head of Tax Insurance at Howden
Public speaking isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you’re listing a tax professional’s required skills. It certainly wasn’t something Drew Wardrope gave much thought to whilst he was heading up M&A tax at Barclays. A lot has changed for him over the last 18 months – his public speaking responsibilities included. We spoke to Drew about the early days of his career, his impressive rise through Deloitte, RBS and Barclays and how a call from Rory MacSween at SRM Recruitment set him on a new and exciting path to insurance specialists Howden.
What attracted you to a career in tax?
I’d love to say I have this amazing story about how I always wanted a career in tax… but I didn’t. I basically fell into it. I was studying maths at Nottingham university and I got a job mid-way through my third year – I was going to be an actuary. That was great, I was set up, I could relax a bit. I deferred and took a year off to go travelling. I taught football in the States, toured Brazil in a campervan and then went to Asia. I was getting into a bit of debt, but I wasn’t worried as I knew I had a job to go back to in September and I’d be able to pay it off.
I’m sensing something’s about to go wrong…
This was 2003, way before smartphones, and I was checking my emails in an internet café in a railway station in Cambodia. The actuary company in London had emailed, asking me call them urgently. I found a payphone and was told that the company was laying off all its graduates. I remember sitting outside the internet café almost laughing to myself and thinking, ‘What the hell do I do now?’ I needed to find a new job pretty sharpish but when I got back to the UK in August, most decent firms had already hired for the year.
You secured a graduate role with Deloitte – how did you manage that so late in the day?
Deloitte had just gone through a big merger with Arthur Anderson, so they’d put their recruitment on hold for six months. I was living with my mum in Newcastle and I went down to London for a graduate fair expecting to speak to the Deloitte actuary guy. But I was told, ‘Sorry – all the actuary jobs were filled yesterday. But you can speak to the tax guy – he’s still got jobs available.’ So, I did and that’s how I fell into a career in tax.
You clearly settled into tax well because by year four, you were rated in the top five percent of the population at Deloitte. Then you left for a job at RBS. What made you go in-house rather than pursuing the partner track at Deloitte?
I saw moving in-house as a stepping stone to the partner track. Working for a big accountancy firm, you’re advising businesses all the time, telling them what to do and how to do it. I thought, how am I supposed to give this advice when I don’t really know what it’s like to implement it? In the real world, does this stuff actually work? Is it practical? Is it realistic? So my plan was to go in-house, get some commercial business experience and then effectively go back to Deloitte.
How was life in-house?
It was nerve wracking but exhilarating. When you work for an accountancy firm at a junior level, typically in client meetings you just listen in because you’ve got at least two people more senior than you doing the talking. I went from that sheltered environment to being told by my new boss in my first week, ‘You’re going to a meeting on funds. Do you know anything about funds? No? Well, you had better learn fast because you’re our funds expert now.’ I had a morning to read up on everything and then I went to this meeting with the front office and 10 or so other infrastructure groups and was asked, ‘So, what’s your opinion on tax?’ It was very steep learning curve, but I learned quickly.
You joined RBS in 2007, a year before it went into government ownership. How did that play out for you?
I look back now and think I lived through the eye of the storm. Senior management weren’t saying much – we got most of our information from Robert Peston on the BBC. We saw Fred ‘the Shred’ Goodwin in the treasury effectively pleading for money from Gordon Brown to keep the bank afloat. We watched other banks collapsing and people walking out of Lehman Brothers with their possessions in boxes. There were pay cuts and lots of extra work and day to day I’d go into the office not knowing if the bank would still be functioning. But we just got on with it. There was a real sense of camaraderie – we were all in the same boat and none of us had a clue about what was going to happen. You get rich, interesting experiences from something like that.
You stayed with RBS for two more years and moved to Barclays, which in 2012 found itself in its own media spotlight…
Yes, I somehow chose to work at two companies at the centre of some of the biggest corporate scandals in UK history! At Barclays it wasn’t our financial stability that was in question, it was our reputation. I think it changed the bank for good in that pre-financial crisis, banks were participating in tax schemes that were legal but morally questionable. Post financial crisis, people started thinking about the wider effects of aggressive tax planning – it’s legal, but is it the right thing to do?
After seven years at Barclays, what made you decide to move on?
My last three years at Barclays were amazing. I became head of M&A Tax at a time when Barclays was massively downsizing and selling about a third of the bank. I built a tax team to support that and we did loads of interesting transactions in a very short space of time. It was really fun, but it had a shelf life – the role was only so interesting so long as there was stuff to sell or buy. I could see that by the end of 2017, Barclays would have sold all it wanted to sell and my role would be coming to an end. So I started thinking about my next steps.
Was going back to Deloitte an option, as per the plan you’d had ten years earlier? And where do SRM Recruitment and Howden fit in?
I was talking to various firms about roles in M&A tax, including Deloitte. I was working on a deal in Johannesburg when Rory from SRM Recruitment popped up – he reached out to me on LinkedIn and told me he had a role that he thought was perfect for me. Ultimately he was right, because here I am at Howden! What interested me about the role was the opportunity to go out there and try to grow a business, which I’d never done before.
How fast did things move after that first email from Rory?
Unbelievably fast. It was in huge contrast to the bureaucratic, red tape environment I’d come from, where you can have six rounds of interviews and still no final answer. I had an interview with Howden’s MD on the Friday, met his colleague on the Monday morning and by Monday afternoon I had a job offer.
So you’re now Head of Tax Insurance at Howden – congratulations! Tell us about the workplace culture there.
It’s completely different to anywhere I’ve worked before. We’re majority owned by a bigger organisation but minority owned by employees, and there’s 40 of us globally in M&A. The team was created six years ago and it’s grown exponentially year on year. There’s a start-up feel to the place – it’s a really fun, exciting place to work. There are yoga sessions in the morning and everyone walks around in their sports gear. So it’s not your typical corporate world, but that’s not to mistake the fun for lack of professionalism. When we’ve got client meetings we’re all suited and booted and everybody works very hard, if not harder than in places I’ve worked in before.
Can you give us an overview of what you’re doing at Howden?
I sell tax insurance products. Let’s say a buyer puts £500 million on the table for a new business which has a £100 million tax risk. The next day that tax risk crystallises – the business is now worth £400 million and the buyer is out of pocket. I sell the tax insurance products to the buyer to protect them from that risk. Without insurance, the deal might not happen because the buyer and seller can’t agree how to share that risk. If you transfer that risk to the insurance market and both parties are happy to pay the cost of the insurance policy, which is a percentage of the total overall risk, the deal gets done.
What’s it like applying your technical tax skills in such a different environment?
As far as the technical tax skills go, the application isn’t that different from my previous roles. When you work in M&A you have to become a generalist – one day you might be looking at VAT risk in Singapore, the next it’s transfer tax in Italy. That part of my work hasn’t really changed.
So what is different around your current role – and what new skills have you developed as a result?
The work I’m doing around sales and building the business is very different to anything I’ve done before and I find it really interesting. The workload is intense: I’m working on deals, servicing existing clients and all the time trying to grow the business and make new contacts. There are lots plates spinning and you need energy and mental resilience to take all that on and not get too stressed by it. Work trips can be exhausting: we’ll do seven meetings in a day, from sitting around a table having coffee to presentations to 100 people.
And how have you embraced your new public speaking responsibilities?
Turning up at a conference and speaking for an hour to 100 delegates wasn’t something I’d done before. I do get a bit nervous beforehand, but generally I’ve been pleasantly surprised by my public speaking abilities!
What advice would you have for tax accountants in the early stages of their careers – or what would you tell your 22-year-old self starting out at Deloitte?
I’d say that it’s really important to make your own luck. There are so many things you can’t have a hand in – it’s just about being in the right place at the right time. But what you can do is try to make as many opportunities arise as you can. Do this by putting yourself out there and meeting people. The more you’re getting out there, the more opportunities will arise and when they do, you can grab them. The book Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell was eye-opening for me. He writes about Bill Gates and how he happened to have regular access to a computer in the 1960s, way before computers became mainstream. So many moments are about luck, and it’s about recognising those moments and seizing them.
Discover more stories in our ‘Lessons From Leaders’ series in our blog. If you’d like to discuss your next career change, we’d love to hear from you, so please get in touch on + 44 (0) 20 3637 7808. Or submit your CV here.
Andrew Pal, Senior Consultant – Tax, UK & EMEA at SRM Recruitment shares his story on his career path to SRM and what’s so special about working here.
From Toronto to London
After graduating university in Canada I got into the insurance sector as a number of my family members worked in this area. It was a great experience and had elements I really enjoyed, but I knew that I was looking for something different. A good friend of mine suggested recruitment, which ultimately led me to join one of the large recruitment firms in Toronto.
Personal circumstances drew me to London so I began looking for another recruitment role. This is where I met Andrew, Stewart and Rory (co-founders of SRM Recruitment) as I interviewed with them at another of the large recruiters.
I worked closely with Rory for a number of years focusing on tax recruitment. Whilst the culture and environment of the firm I joined was closer to my style I knew that longer-term I was looking for more freedom and flexibility.
Why did you join SRM?
After Andrew, Stewart and Rory established SRM Recruitment I thought this could be a step in the right direction for me long term. I liked the idea of building my part of the business from scratch and being trusted to just get on with it.
Ultimately I wanted to be responsible only for myself, and steering my career path to SRM offered this in an entrepreneurial environment.
Now, my focus is still on tax but I can pursue other specialist opportunities to make money. I’m also able to work globally, rather than just pass on roles to counterparts in other locations.
Transparency of earnings
The general transparency around earnings was a key draw for me as well as being closer to the planning of the business. I can see the impact I’m able to have on the business.
What’s kept you?
It’s simple – the leaders of the business followed through. It’s been exactly as advertised! They are investing in the business, it’s growing and we’re hiring. There’s still a family feel but the leaders are ambitious and want to expand.
What sort of people will do well here?
Someone who has a maturity about them (and that’s not an age thing) as well as confidence in their abilities. You need a strong work ethic, with the ability to work out in the open. In a larger firm, the spotlight might not be on you, people can hide to a certain extent, so to do well here you need to be someone who wants to take control of their future.
Why should other recruiters join SRM?
It’s a cliché but the world is your oyster here – there’s no restriction to your growth and you know exactly what you will get. I trust and like these guys – they deliver on what they say. This is a very good place to be.
Sum up how SRM is different
It’s very simple, the leadership team focus on recruitment fundamentals, treating each search as an individual project whilst getting rid of the politics and red tape. You’re empowered to get on with it.
What’s next for you? Continuing to grow my name and the SRM name in the market, I see those as one and the same thing. Looking for opportunities that will bring in a number of roles and help grow the wider business. Who knows, maybe North America is next!
Sum up the top three things about working for SRM
1. Transparency in payment: If I bill X I will get Y – that was always a grey area at other recruiters.
2. Empowerment, trusted to work flexibly: I’m at a place in life where I will get the work done.
3. The culture: Just being in the office is enjoyable, we like and respect each other. It doesn’t feel corporate, we are on the same wavelength.
To learn more about how you can grow with us here at SRM Recruitment, take a look at our ‘Work For Us‘ section and get inspired.
When your heart is set on a career path and it doesn’t work out, it can be devastating. Turning that setback into an opportunity and making a success of it takes skill. As part of our ‘Lessons from Leaders’ series, we join Chand Chudasama, Strategy & Corporate Finance Partner at Price Bailey to hear his top ten lessons learned on the path to Partner.
10 Tips For A Successful Career In Corporate Finance and Strategy
1. Pursue a career you’re passionate about
When I was a kid, I hated jigsaws as I found them too easy
to solve once you realised all you had to do was start from the corners and
edges. I’ve always preferred puzzles without set ways of solving them.
As I grew up, I continued to look for those challenging
puzzles and decided to join the army. I was in the Army Reserves and Cadets and
flew through the ranks but when I was 17, I was so surprised when I failed the
medical for the regular Army at selection; it really knocked me back.
I knew that I had to find another type of job where I could solve complex, unstructured problems. I learned that corporate finance and strategy advisory offers that kind of work – one side is very technical and numbers-driven, the other side is highly strategic.
Putting the two together is a great challenge. Even now, I describe my job as like doing three jigsaw puzzles at the same time, where all the pieces are all mixed up, there’s an unknown number of missing pieces and the pictures are changing at different speeds and against the clock! It wouldn’t be for everyone, but I find it really engaging.
10 Tips For A Successful Career In Corporate Finance and Strategy
2. Build up your technical knowledge quickly
Get the right qualifications… and then remember that it’s
not enough on its own!
At the beginning of my career, my goal was to bank at least 300 hours of self-initiated study a year to build up my technical knowledge. In my 20s I probably spent more like 400 hours a year studying. Strategy & corporate finance isn’t like other roles where you might need to have a deep knowledge of a narrow area that you draw upon repetitively every day.
You’ll be required to have a good understanding of a vast range of topics. You might only need a piece of information once a year, but you need to be able to recall it at a moment’s notice. That ability only comes from hard study and thorough understanding of its practical application to solve a company’s problems or create value, and even then, study alone won’t be enough to do your job well. It’s quite tough to match theory with practice.
3. Be around good people
A big turning point in my career was undertaking my MBA at
Newcastle University. I met a lot of great people there. The people who taught
me and who learned alongside me expanded my understanding, as well as giving me
the tools I needed to succeed in my job.
What I realised between the MBA and my first job
afterwards, is that it’s all about the people. If the work is interesting, it’s
the people you work alongside who make or break a job. Every career decision
I’ve made since then has been because of the people I’ve worked with – both
colleagues and clients. I’m lucky that I work for a great firm with incredible
people; I wouldn’t want to work in an environment that didn’t prioritise that.
4. Ask for help
Promotions have challenged me to step up in terms of people management. Being made manager was the toughest change – it took me six months to understand what a manager was meant to be, and I’m still figuring out the shift I’ve made to Partner.
I’ve had to be honest with my team and ask for leeway as I learn the ropes. I’ve never been shy about asking questions, and I’ve been fortunate to work with peers who are never reluctant to give advice and support. It’s important to know your weaknesses as well as your strengths and not to pretend to have all the answers when you don’t. Nothing is more uninspiring to a team than a young leader without humility.
5. Treat your job like your own business
The hard yards in learning how to run a professional
services business are done at grades where you are in the thick of the action –
it is tough but you learn an awful lot and building strong relationships along
the way, both in the firm and with externals is key. However, one of the
biggest hurdles to progression is the shift in mindset, to go from working hard
but still in the mindset of having a job, to having more of an ownership
mentality and treating the business like it is your own.
I grew up in a small family business environment so, to an
extent I never knew anything different, but I certainly now see those values
and that attitude as key to progression.
6. Make friends and influence people
You’ve got to be able to deliver, and when you’re starting
out, you can’t afford to make enemies. If you aspire to make Partner, try your
hardest to deliver without being a git! You can do a good job whilst making
A client recently said to me that when they reflect on the
most successful people in their circle, every one of them had relationship
building skills as one of their top assets.
As an advisor, you can’t be trusted to guide and influence
decision making unless you are trusted – technical competence is part of that
but lots of people are technically strong, what really matters is being trusted
to be the voice guiding good decision making, especially when times are tough.
7. Work/life balance is a team effort
I count the times I manage to get home before 7pm. If I
can manage it twice a week, I’m happy. I remember the impact hiring a new
manager in my team had – there was probably a 4 month period where I only made
it home three times before 7pm and then I was able to stop working at the
weekend; it was incredible. As the firm grows that balance will always ebb and
flow and, if I’m being honest, a lot of the time I’m working late because I
just absolutely love what I do and time gets away from me!
Work/life balance means different things to different
people. For me, time with my family and friends, adventurous holidays and time
to go to the gym or for a swim give me that balance. However, I think the
balance can only be struck if you have a great team around you who care about
one another, who understand what’s going on and who share the workload. If the
capacity and team ethos aren’t there, you can’t have work/life balance.
Culturally, I think organisations should be encouraging all their staff to find
ways to get the balance right, as Price Bailey has done.
8. Build strong relationships
The sign of a strong relationship is being able to have a
tough conversation. If you want to work at a senior level, you need to build
positive relationships with your colleagues to achieve this. Get to know people
so you can work well together. It isn’t enough to be clever or make sales
targets – it’s a given that you can do your job. Two characters have to get on,
so focus on relationships that can collectively grow a company. If you can be
honest about your individual and collective strengths and weaknesses, and find a
constructive way forward, everyone will win – the clients, the staff, the firm
and the Partners.
9. Focus on strategy, rather than transactions
Too often, people are focused on the next corporate transaction, and it’s usually because they’re working in a fee-driven culture or because of a lack of experience in higher-level advisory work. We have found that it’s far better to help a client create their strategy and to help them deliver it, joining them on their journey and helping to guide them.
Partnering strategically enables you to be braver and to point out when an idea doesn’t fit with the plan. It helps build credibility, particularly when you can walk away from a project if it’s the wrong thing to do, despite the value of the transaction. Focusing on strategy has benefitted our clients, it’s allowed the team to progress quickly, and it has underpinned my own career development.
10. Create client value to build your personal brand
First things first, if you live in the UK, don’t call it
your personal brand! It’s not how we do things here – it exists, but it is not
very British to talk about it! For me, it’s about knowing your unique role as a
partner or senior individual and understanding what makes you different.
The best way to rise through the ranks is to create value
for your clients. Find solutions for their problems. It’s beyond cross-selling.
It’s about meeting client’s personal and corporate objectives that are beyond
the scope of the work you’ve been asked to do; to know what’s really driving
them and to deliver on that.
Corporate Finance is an incredibly competitive field, so to stand out you need to think beyond the question the client is asking. What they’re asking for may not be what they really need, or it may just be the tip of the iceberg. If you just give what they have asked for then you can’t be an adviser as you’re inherently stuck in the metaphor of the repetitive jigsaw puzzle!
This only works if the approach is supported by your firm, you have the remit to think critically and if you have a strong enough relationship with your client. It comes back to what I said about building relationships, trust, and a strategic partnership.
Keeping abreast of industry developments (see this
article on the Future of Corporate
Finance), market opportunities, regulatory change and the press, and bringing
these insights to your conversations is also really valuable.
In summary, to be successful in Corporate Finance and Strategy, it takes hard study, strong relationships, integrity, teamwork and a strategic vision. What will make you stand out and get ahead is to do all of this in your own authentic way.
Chand Chudasama, Strategy & Corporate Finance Partner at Price Bailey
If you feel ready to discuss your next career opportunity in Corporate Finance, or you’re looking for talent to fill a role in your organisation, please get in touch on + 44 (0) 020 3637 7808.
Andrew Setchell, co-founder of SRM Recruitment shares his thoughts on why the firm is the ideal place for a recruiter to grow their career. Learn about the culture at SRM, our commission structure and 10 reasons to come and work for us.
Why work for SRM, if you’re a potential recruitment consultant?
We started SRM as we felt the recruitment industry was increasingly focusing on process rather than consultancy. Our belief has always been to listen and collaborate with our clients; building trust so they have confidence in our delivery.
It’s a very straightforward approach but one that has enabled us to attract an experienced and ambitious team of recruitment professionals who believe in doing things the right way.
Clear commission structure
Transparency in the way we reward our consultants is critical. At SRM we operate a very clear commission structure and it’s one of the best in the industry. Each consultant can easily calculate what they will receive, there are no surprises. In a team-based commission structure, you rarely get rewarded for your success.
There’s a strong team ethic though and we listen and learn from each other. We take work seriously and we’re professional in all we say and do but life comes first and we shape the working day to suit us. Everyone needs balance and you’ll find yours here.
Celebrating success is important and we usually do that through team lunches rather than nights out – driven by what they desire to do. For example, we recently experienced Maos, the exclusive restaurant owned by Nuno Mendes, the Michelin starred Chef.
Run your own business
We expect everyone to operate their own part of the business and each SRM consultant is really motivated by that. Once consultants are given real freedom, they feel they have a stake in the business and their achievements become more rewarding.
Get back to real recruitment
We hire experienced consultants and support them day to day to build lasting relationships with clients and candidates. There are no outside distractions, everyone continues to learn from the team around them. Management at SRM is about mentoring, suggesting and leading, not hands-on training of unqualified personnel. You have time for what really counts: your clients and candidates.
Why work at SRM now, when the market is in flux?
We are an established business with repeat clients and a strong foundation. Clients say to me that they like our honesty and transparency, they trust us. They appreciate the advice we give, not solely our ability to deliver and that’s why we’ve been successful.
We focus on finance, tax, public practice and wealth management recruitment – all are doing well, including interim and temp. There’s huge scope for continued growth and expansion, both in our core teams, new disciplines and geographies. We want to hear from consultants who believe they deserve a broader market to succeed in, fewer operators, more clients.
We have discovered challenges such as Brexit don’t duly concern us; we are nimble and flexible, we work internationally, able to change tack and adapt quickly with continuous growth and success.
Who does well at SRM?
Capable recruiters do well as they gain access to a much bigger market than they are used to, and it’s their own to develop. Those who bring positivity and want to be part of the SRM community will also enjoy working here. If you want to be rewarded for your efforts whilst working in a warm team atmosphere, this is the right place for you.
We are looking for consultants who are ready to take on individual responsibility as we don’t focus on KPIs, it’s more about achieving the broad objectives for your part of the business.
What are your aims for the business?
To keep building on our strong foundations. There really is scope to more than double our market and income over the next couple of years as we expand our core businesses and open offices in new regions.