The CA Summit sponsored by Markel Tax returned for an event split across three days starting on 5 October, which brought together the brightest minds from the worlds of finance, academia, and the technology industry to deliver a series of challenging, thought-provoking and truly motivational seminars to inspire ICAS Members around the globe.
Power to the people
Wim Focquet, Talent Director at DPD Group, opened the Inspire chapter by examining the three centres of oneself (I, We and It) to encourage attendees to become in sync with both their private life and work life.
Wim offered that the number of people that are engaged in the workplace is never above 30%, with 65-70% being entirely disengaged or not engaged. He explained that “many of us are in a workplace and are doing things without questioning why we are doing them, we take shortcuts, and are constantly at the centre of a wheel that is turning very fast.
“Good decisions come from our three centres; head, heart and gut, but for decades we have been taught to use our heads, so it’s more difficult for us to use our heart and our gut.”
Wim challenged attendees to do a self-assessment, exploring whether they could bring their true self to work, without being influenced by the job description, how others perceive how they should behave, or the company culture.
He said: “Ask yourself ‘can I be myself in this company or not?’, and if you can’t answer with a firm yes, then you are probably in the wrong organisation.”
To help with the self-assessment, Wim posed that the three spheres of I, We and It encompass the following themes and questions:
Individual – the ‘I’
What is your real purpose, where do you make a difference and what do you aspire to be?
Team – the ‘We’
Do you have psychological safety in your team, are you all working towards a common goal?
Company – the ‘It’
Do you fit within the company goal?
Having worked in human resources for many years, Wim proposed there is a collective movement away from referring to be people as resources as this takes away from people being their true selves. Instead, he calls for People Departments.
Diverse voices in the workplace
ICAS Deputy President Indy Hothi CA was joined by Diana Muendo CA, Emily Cheyne CA and Lucas Alexander-Crichton CA for an open and honest conversation around the themes of equality, diversity and inclusion (ED&I).
Diana, Co-Founder and Owner of M.Y.O, started the session by discussing the unique considerations she made when she first started out in her career. Diana said that she was aware that she was the only black woman on her floor and that, at the time, she felt that she had to imitate the style of the majority of her colleagues.
Diana said: “I think what really seeped in was I had to look and act a certain way to get ahead.”
This created a “disconnect” for Diana as she felt she had to suppress certain aspects of herself to fit into the status quo. Since her time starting out, however, Diana has seen a positive change in the way organisations encourage their staff to feel more comfortable with expressing their authentic self.
This is a sentiment that Emily, Manager, Transaction Services at KPMG, echoed from a personal perspective as she shared her experiences of having dyslexia and how, in the past, she has struggled with comparing herself and her performance to others.
Emily said: “As I’ve progressed through my career, I’ve definitely got better at recognising and accepting things that I am good at, what my strengths and weaknesses are, and accepting that I will probably approach tasks differently to someone else doing the same job as me.”
“It’s about accepting yourself, who you are and what you’re good at. That’s what makes you, you.”
Employers also have a duty to support staff and ensure they work in a safe and accepting environment. Lucas, Audit Manager at EY and Co-Chair of EYs LGBTQ+ network Unity, spoke passionately about some of the initiatives the network has set up in Scotland.
He said: “We felt it was really important to set up a safe space. One of the things we did in Scotland was we started the Unit-Tea initiative, which is effectively a catch-up every week to make sure that everyone had an opportunity to speak about any issues they were going through and to feel really supported.”
Out of office?
Stuart Brodie, Director of Tax at CA Summit sponsors Markel Tax, led a panel session that examined how the COVID-19 pandemic will shape how, and where, many of us will work, as many businesses begin to adopt a hybrid-working model.
With many organisations weighing up the benefits of homeworking, Catherine Burnet CA, Past President of ICAS and Head of Audit UK at KPMG, said that this model has allowed businesses to offer a more inclusive working environment to their staff.
She said: “Homeworking really does give business the ability to fully embrace diversity and inclusion in a very different way.
“Attracting talent in a really competitive market is tough. That ability to offer people homeworking means that we are able to access a much more diverse population than we did before.”
While Annie Graham CA, Partner at EY, did acknowledge the benefits of the hybrid-working model, she also made the case for the advantages of a return to the office, specifically getting there and the journey home.
Charlotte said: “I never thought I’d say that I would miss my commute, but actually, there’s something about the emotional wellbeing that being back in the office from time to time has created some barriers and non-negotiables that has helped us all think about our own wellbeing.
“The decompression on the way home and the thinking time on the way into work id good time. It creates that delineation very nicely from home to the office.”
Charlotte Myres, Global Head of Technical at Markel International was able to bring her working knowledge of the challenges organisations face when trying to find the right balance for their staff as she has led on her organisation’s future ways of working initiative over the past 18 months.
“There is no best practice template for us to follow,” said Charlotte.
“People have worked flexibly before, but never on this scale.”
“I think it’s about finding a balance between meeting some of the expectations of how our employees want to work whilst also looking at what’s best for our customers.”
Five sustainable business lessons
Anne Adrain, Head of Sustainability and Corporate and Financial Reporting at ICAS led a conversation on the importance of sustainability in business and the benefits it can bring to the bottom line, their employees and the planet.
As COP26, the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, fast approaches, Anne was joined by two CAs who shared their five tips for becoming a truly sustainable business.
Helen Marshall CA, CFO at Falcon Coffees was first to share her insights. For Helen and Falcon coffee, sustainability is a vital component of every stage of the coffee selling process, from plant to cup.
Here are Helen’s five tips:
- Know your supply chain: By ensuring that you are looking after the environment that your supply chain operates in, you in turn ensure your business model is sustainable.
- Think about your office environment: Make small and consistent steps towards making your workplace more environmentally friendly.
- Listen to your customers: The expectations of today’s consumers now focused on the ethics of an organisation. Transparency and traceability are key to building a loyal customer base.
- Find the right metrics: Make sure your business is reporting on the metric that is most relevant to how it operates.
- Report and publicise your progress: Shout about sustainable achievements not only goes towards keeping your customers updated, but it also helps to build morale internally.
Like Helen, Jeanette Wong CA works within an organisation that has put sustainability firmly at the heart of the way it conducts business. Jeannette is Finance Director at Abel & Cole, an organic food delivery service that is “on a mission to make shopping sustainably simple, putting people and our planet first every step of the way.”
Jeanette’s five tips were:
- Embed sustainability within company culture: Think sustainably across your businesses, not only within the parameters of a designated sustainability function.
- Be bold and innovate: To truly make a difference, experiment, iterate and help drive the narrative of sustainable business.
- Bring everyone on the journey: Being sustainable can initially require additional costs and investment to your business. Take time to scope an initiative, collaborate and secure buy-in.
- Measure performance and set targets: Once you have the data it is vital that it is brought to life in order to drive positive behaviour and conversation. You can only manage what you measure.
- Embrace equality and inclusivity: Sustainability is more than the minimisation of the impact humans have on the environment, it is about the consideration of the effects businesses have on communities and individuals.
The benefits of blockchain
President of Blockchain for Gala Games, Jason Brink aimed to demystify and debunk some of the misconceptions that are attached to blockchain.
For Jason, the term ‘cryptocurrency’ is “one of the worst community-based branding decisions that has ever been made.”
He explained that blockchain is far from cryptic, instead it is a process hinged on transparency, where the exchange of value is conducted via a distributed ledger that is “publicly visible for everybody to see.”
Part of the reason Jason originally became interested in the benefits of blockchain was his experience working in the aid response to the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, which resulted in the deaths of around 250,000, with the fallout of the destruction affecting millions more.
Jason said that, as the global community rallied around the country by sending millions of dollars in aid, he witnessed people dying of starvation while those in power bolstered their own wealth.
For Jason, the failings in the proper distribution of the aid can be traced back to a lack of transparency in the process, something which he believes could be rectified by the introduction of blockchain.
And for CA’s, Jason believes that now is the time to seize on the advantages blockchain brings to the market.
“From the perspective of an accountant, a properly implemented blockchain is your absolute dream. It enables you to take this entire ledger, plug it into your software and instantly see all the flows of capital and where it’s being spent.”
COVID-19 and the aviation industry
Gabriella Somerville, Founder and Managing Director of ConnectJets, closed out the final day of the CA Summit by giving attendees an insight into how the COVID-19 pandemic affected the world of aviation and what the future of air travel may entail.
“When the pandemic hit, every section in aviation felt the pain incredibly so,” said Gabriella.
As the world begins to gradually recover from the restrictions implemented in response to the pandemic, ConnectJets, as a jet charter service and private jet and helicopter purveyor, are embracing the ‘new-norm’.
“We are not just seeing the existing business aviation clients that are reverting back to flying, we are actually seeing new customers that are coming in.”
Looking towards the future, and considering the importance of sustainability, Connect Skies is a project that Gabriella described as a platform to “help guide people into the future of sustainable aviation.”
With a focus on creating a more environmentally friendly way to travel, ConnectSkies looks to establish a truly sustainable option to air travel.