Hannah Mullaney, Managing Consultant, Saville Assessment and Stephanie Rudbeck, Senior Consultant, Talent Management and Organisational Alignment, Willis Towers Watson
Where are we now?
Our most recent Global Workforce Study found that only 55% of all financial services employees have trust and confidence in the job being done by the senior leadership of their organisation. Why is this?
Well, when we dig a little deeper into these results, we also found that:
- 38% of financial services employees don’t think their senior leaders are doing a good job of growing the business
- 43% of financial services employees don’t think their senior leaders are doing a good job of managing costs
- Only 44% of financial services employees think their leaders are doing a good or very good job of developing future leaders
- Only 56% of financial services employees believe the information they receive from senior leadership
- Only 49% of financial services employees believe their organisation has a sincere interest in employee well-being
Leadership appointments have a critical impact on organisations, however, so many of these appointments fail. A 2013 report by the Institute for Policy Studies cites that nearly 40% of the CEOs on the highest-paid lists from the 20 years’ prior were eventually “either bailed out, booted or busted”. Willis Towers Watson’s proprietary benchmark database estimates the cost of senior management and leadership turnover to be 75% of compensation. Our data also highlights that at any one time, approximately 30% of leaders are a flight risk – so, organisations can lose leaders easily; and it costs!
Where are we going?
Leaders already have a tough job – and it’s one that is only set to get tougher. The world is changing, work is changing and we are at the beginning of a fourth industrial revolution. Technological advances such as AI and robotics are already disrupting almost every industry and to master this new digital world, leaders must be “agile amid disruption”. Indeed, those occupations and specialties most in demand today did not exist 10 years ago. In fact, 65% of children entering primary school today will end up working in jobs that don’t yet exist. We are living in a VUCA world. Leaders are leading in a VUCA world. For those of you unfamiliar with the acronym, VUCA stands for volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. Starting to sound familiar?
Additionally, the demographics of organisations are changing and younger generations are starting to emerge as the dominant force in most organisations, bringing with it another set of challenges. Our clients recently discussed this topic at a roundtable event and described how “a large chunk of the workforce feels they have a more relevant understanding of their markets and clients than their leaders” and are “full of fresh ideas” that reflect this. They are, consequentially, often “dissatisfied with decisions that current leaders are taking”. This can be particularly pertinent amongst cultures where an approach of “this is how we’ve always done it” is ingrained. The outcome is often a disengaged workforce that eventually leaves and that is not good for business.
Looking forward, what do we need to do differently to identify and develop leaders who will not simply survive in this new world, but thrive? We believe that assessment models focussing on impact will help drive innovation in future talent management practice.
What do we need to do?
Solving the problem of potential with impact
How to best identify high potential individuals has long been the subject of debate amongst HR and leadership teams. These debates often rightly start with the question “What is potential?” In an effort to support organisations with this problem, a number of generic models of potential have been put forward over recent years. Whilst such models can be incredibly useful, a major drawback of them is their inability to cope with diversity in future leadership or change within the organisational environment.
Generic measures of potential may help organisations identify future leaders but they fail to provide an understanding of the sort of leadership roles those identified would be best suited to. This is problematic for the individual and the organisation as both parties start to map out the future.
The impact model of leadership provides a solution to this problem. Rather than seeking to establish what potential looks like in a generic sense, by asking “Where must our future leaders have impact?” organisations are able to define what their future leadership should look like in a way that links directly and tangibly to organisational outcomes. Assessing individuals against this framework not only identifies potential future leaders, but enables the development of specific career pathways for individual leaders and development plans tailored to these.
Using impact in succession planning
Succession planning is an exercise that brings its own challenges. It is fundamentally a question of what talent is needed and what talent is available? The practice, however, can encounter any number of problems. Firstly, much activity in this space is positioned in a way that associates it with a current leader’s organisational mortality and so, therefore, becomes inherently sensitive. It can, therefore, be much more difficult to engage with and appropriately advise leadership teams in the exercise. Secondly, there is the issue of defining critical roles and scoping out what these might look like in the future. Whilst we might have a good go at predicting the future, it is still an uncertain place and where many succession plans fall down is in their lack of flexibility. Successful succession plans are as dynamic as the world around us. Finally, there’s the problem of successor identification itself. Leaders often fall victim to mistaking success at one level for success at higher levels (the classic example is promoting a successful sales person out of the role in which they excel and into management). And of course, we must not forget the bias that creeps in; leaders often demand to be able to see themselves in their successors.
By using impact to frame conversations about succession and what talent is needed in the future, it is possible to create plans that are fluid, adaptable, less sensitive and more objective. And this will only have positive effect.
Leadership development for the future
Some organisations still do invest heavily in an emerging or senior leadership development programme in partnership with a leading business school, however these are increasingly rare as their ROI is seen to be difficult, if not impossible, to measure. This is typically a sizeable investment for a relatively small group of individuals with no guarantee that they will stay for the organisation to realise that value.This speaks somewhat to the issue of a general preference on the organisation’s part for ‘home grown’ leaders over external hires, which probably comes from there being less risk associated with the former than the latter. This preference, however, does appear to be at odds with what employees want; the fact that younger generations actively avoid staying in one organisation for more than a few years means ‘home grown’ leaders are difficult to cultivate. If you are particularly progressive, you may not be bothered by this, instead taking the view that you are developing future leaders not just for you, but for the world – although how on earth do you measure ROI there?
Development demands from employees are also changing. Early talent in particular expects rapid growth within a less formal structure, compared to older generations. At a recent networking events, one delegate spoke of how after only a month, their graduates expected to have had a one-on-one meet and greet with the CEO and another talked of graduate employees who expected either an upwards or lateral move within the first two years in role. It is regularly reported that graduates look for training and development over financial incentives during their job hunt. The rise of the gig economy and contingent workforces poses an interesting question around who is responsible for development – workers will still want it and organisations should be thinking about how it can feed into attraction in a world where the war for talent will only become more aggressive.
It is becoming increasingly clear to us that future development needs to focus on flexible, bite-size learning that an individual can dip in and out of, depending on their preference, need and time available. It also needs to take advantage of advanced technology. Elements should include access to online modules, psychometrics, apps and podcasts with opportunities for a cohort to meet virtually for a discussion on the topic. Practical development activities where a group of individuals from different parts of the business work together on a real-life business problem are also both popular and effective.
We also think that rotation programmes and job shadowing will become increasingly more popular, along with the relatively new concept of reverse-mentoring, where younger employees are paired up with more experienced leaders to provide fresh perspectives and an insight into the reality of the millennial generation. Where already in place, it is seen to have had a positive impact in bringing different employee generations closer together, facilitating better working relationships, closing the knowledge gap for both parties and empowering both emerging and established leaders.
The future is packaging leadership development together differently and making use of more flexible,technology-driven, self-selected and self-directed approaches. The learning ‘event’ is no longer.
Lockdown 2.0 – Here’s how to be the best-looking person in the virtual room
suggests “the product you’re creating is not the camera, the lens or a webcam’s clever industrial design. It’s the subject, you, which is just on e part of the entire image they see. You want that image to convey quality, not convenience.”
Technology experts at Reincubate saw an opportunity in the rise of remote-working video calls and developed the app, Camo, to improve the video quality of our webcam calls. As part of this, they consulted the digital photography expert and author, Jeff Carlson, to reveal how we can look our best online.
It’s clear by now that COVID-19 has normalised remote working, but as part of this the importance of video calls has risen exponentially. While we’re all used to seeing the more casual sides of our colleagues (t-shirt and shorts, anyone?), poor webcam quality is slightly less forgivable.
But how can we improve how we look on video? We consulted Jeff Carlson for some top tips– here is what he had to say.
- Improve the picture quality of your call
The better your camera, the higher quality your webcam calls will be. Most webcams (as well as currently being hard to get hold of and expensive), are subpar. A DSLR setup will give you the best picture, but will cost $1,500+. You can also use your iPhone’s amazing camera as a webcam, using the new app from Reincubate, Camo.
Jeff’s comments “The iPhone’s camera system features dedicated coprocessors for evaluating and adjusting the image in real time. Apple has put a tremendous amount of work into its imaging software as a way to compensate for the necessarily small camera sensors. Although it all works in service of creating stills and video, you get the same benefits when using the iPhone as a webcam.”
Aidan Fitzpatrick, CEO of Reincubate explains why the team created Camo, “Earlier this year our team moved to working remotely, and in video calls everyone looked pretty bad, irrespective of whether they were on built-in Mac webcams or third-party ones. Thus began my journey to build Camo: an iPhone has one of the world’s best cameras in it, so could we make it work as a webcam? Category-leading webcams are noticeably worse than an iPhone 7. This makes sense: six weeks of Apple’s R&D spend tops Logitech’s annual gross revenue.”
- Place your camera at eye level
A video call will never quite be the same as a face-to-face conversation, but bringing your camera up to eye level is a good place to start. That can involve putting your laptop on a stand or pile of books, mounting a webcam to the top of your display screen, or even using a tripod to get the perfect position.
Jeff points out, “If the camera is looking down on you, you’ll appear minimized in the frame; if it’s looking up, you’re inviting people to focus on your chin, neck, or nostrils. Most important, positioning the camera off your eye level is a distraction. Look them in the eye, even if they’re miles or continents away.”
Low camera placement from a MacBook
- Make the most of natural lighting
Be aware of the lighting in the room and move yourself to face natural lighting if you can. Positioning the camera so any natural light is behind you takes the light away from your face, which can make it harder to see and read expressions on a call.
Jeff Carlson’s top tip: “If the light from outside is too harsh, diffuse it and create softer shadows by tacking up a white sheet or a stand-alone diffuser over the window.”
Backlit against a window Facing natural light
- Use supplementary lighting like ring lights
The downside to natural lighting is that you’re at the mercy of the elements: if it’s too bright you’ll have the sun in your eyes, if it’s too dark you won’t be well lit.
Jeff recommends adding supplementary lighting if you’re looking to really enhance your video calls. After all, it looks like remote working will be carrying on for quite some time.
“The light can be just as easy as a household or inexpensive work light. Angle the light so it’s bouncing off a wall or the ceiling, depending on your work area, which, again, diffuses the light and makes it more flattering.
Or, for a little money, use a softbox or a shoot-through umbrella with daylight bulbs (5500K temperature), or if space is tight, LED panels. Larger lights are better for distributing illumination– don’t be afraid to get them in close to you. Placement depends on the look you’re going after; start by positioning one at a 45-degree angle in front and to the side of you, which lights most of your face while retaining nice shadow detail.”
In some cases, a ring light may work best. LEDs are arranged in a circle, with space in the middle to put the camera’s lens and get direct illumination from the direction of the camera.
- Centre yourself in the frame
Make sure you’re getting the right angle and that you’re using the frame effectively.
“You should aim for people to see your head and part of your torso, not all the space between your hair and the ceiling. Leave a little space above your head so it’s not cut off, but not enough that someone’s eyes are going to drift there.”
- Be mindful of your backdrop
It’s not always easy to get the quiet space needed for video calls when working from home, but try as best you can to remove anything too distracting from your background.
“Get rid of clutter or anything that’s distracting or unprofessional, because you can bet that will be the second thing the viewers notice after they see you. (The Twitter account @RateMySkypeRoom is an amusing ongoing commentary on the environments people on television are connecting from.)”
A busy background as seen by a webcam
- Make the most of virtual backgrounds
If you’re really struggling with finding a background that looks professional, try using a virtual background.
Jeff suggests: “Some apps can identify your presence in the scene and create a live mask that enables you to use an entirely different image to cover the background. While it’s a fun feature, the quality of the masking is still rudimentary, even with a green screen background that makes this sort of keying more accurate.”
- Be aware of your audio settings
Our laptop webcams, cameras, and mobile phones all include microphones, but if it’s at all possible, use a separate microphone instead.
“That can be an inexpensive lavalier mic, a USB microphone, or a set of iPhone earbuds. You can also get wireless lavalier models if you’re moving around during a call, such as presenting at a whiteboard in the camera’s field of view.
The idea is to get the microphone closer to your mouth so it’s recording what you say, not other sounds or echoes in the room. If you type during meetings, mount the mic on an arm instead of resting it on the same surface as your keyboard.”
- Be wary of video app add-ons
Video apps like Zoom include a ‘Touch up your appearance’ option in the Video settings. This applies a skin-smoothing filter to your face, but more often than not, the end result looks artificially blurry instead of smooth.
“Zoom also includes settings for suppressing persistent and intermittent background noise, and echo cancellation. They’re all set to Auto by default, but you can choose how aggressive or not the feature is.”
- Be the best looking person in the virtual room
What’s important to remember about video calls at this point in time is that most people are new to what is, really, personal broadcasting. That means you can easily get an edge, just by adopting a few suggestions in this article. When your video and audio quality improves, people will take notice.
Bringing finance into the 21st Century – How COVID and collaboration are catalysing digital transformation
By Keith Phillips, CEO of TISATech
If just six or seven months ago someone had told you that in a matter of weeks people around the world would be locked down in their homes, trying to navigate modern work systems from a prehistoric laptop, bickering with family over who’s hogging the Wi-Fi, migrating online to manage all financial services digitally, all while washing their hands every five minutes in fear of a global pandemic… You’d think they had lost their mind. But this very quickly became the reality for huge swathes of the world and we’re about to go through that all over again as the UK government has asked that those who can work from home should.
Unsurprisingly, statistics show that lockdown restrictions introduced by the UK government in March, led to a sharp increase in people adopting digital services. Banks encouraged its customers to log onto online banking, as they limited (and eventually halted) services at branches. This forced many customers online as their primary means of managing personal finances for the first time.
If anyone had doubts before, the Covid-19 pandemic proved to us the importance of well-functioning, effective digital financial services platforms, for both financial institutions and the people using them.
But with this sudden mass online migration, it’s become clear that traditional banks have struggled to keep up with servicing clients virtually. Legacy banking systems have always stilted the digitisation of financial services, but the pandemic thrust this issue into the limelight. Fintech firms, which focus intently on digital and mobile services, knew it was only a matter of time before financial institutions’ reliance was to increase at an unprecedented rate.
For years, fintechs have been called upon by traditional players to find solutions to problems borne from those clunky legacy systems, like manual completion of account changes and money transfers. Now it is the demand for these services to be online coupled with the need for financial services firms to cut costs, since Covid-19 hit the economy.
Covid-19 has catalysed the urgent need to bring digital transformation to a wider pool of financial services businesses. Customers now have even higher expectations of larger institutions, demanding that they keep up with what the younger and more nimble challengers have to offer. Industry leaders realise that they must transform their businesses as soon as possible, by streamlining and digitising operations to compete and, ultimately, improve services for their customers.
The race for digital acceleration began far before the recent pandemic – in fact, following the 2008 financial crisis is likely more accurate. Since the credit crunch, there has been a wave of new fintech firms, full of young, bright techies looking to be the next big thing. Fintechs have marketed themselves hard at big conferences and expos or by hosting ‘hackathons’, trying to prove themselves as the fastest, most innovative or the most vital to the future of the industry.
However, even during this period where accelerating innovation in online financial services and legacy systems is crucial, the conditions brought about by the pandemic have not been conducive to this much-needed transformation.
The second issue, which again was clear far before the pandemic, is that fact that no matter how nimble or clever the fintechs’ solutions are, it is still hard to implement the solutions seamlessly, as the sector is highly fragmented with banks using extremely outdated systems populated with vast amounts of data.
With the significance of the pandemic becoming more and more clear, and the need for better digital products and services becoming more crucial to financial services firms and consumers by the day, the industry has finally come together to provide a solution.
The TISAtech project was launched last month by The Investing and Saving Alliance (TISA), a membership organisation in the UK with more than 200 leading financial institutions as members. TISA asked The Disruption House, a specialist benchmarking and data analytics business, to create a clearing house platform for the industry to help it more effectively integrate new financial technology. The project aims to enhance products and services while reducing friction and ultimately lowering costs which are passed on to the customers.
With nearly 4,000 fintechs from around the world participating, it will be the world’s largest marketplace dedicated to Open Finance, Savings, and Investment.
Not only will it provide a ‘matchmaking’ service between financial institutions an fintechs, it will also host a sandbox environment. Financial institutions can pose real problems with real data and the fintechs are given the space to race to the bottom – to find the most constructive, cost-effective solution.
Yes, there are other marketplaces, but they all seem to struggle to achieve a return on investment. There is a genuine need for the ‘Trivago’ of financial technology – a one stop shop, run by an independent body, which can do more than just matchmaking. It needs to go above and beyond to encompass the sandboxing, assessments, profiling of fintechs to separate the wheat from the chaff, and provide a space for true collaboration.
The pandemic has taught us that we are more effective if we work together. We need mass support and collaboration to find solutions to problems. Businesses and industries are no different. If fintechs and financial institutions can work together, there is a real chance that we can start to lessen the economic hit for many businesses and consumers by lowering costs and streamlining better services and products. And even if it is just making it that little bit easier to manage personal finances from home when fighting with your children for the Wi-Fi, we are making a difference.
What to Know Before You Expand Across Borders
By Sean King, Director of International Tax at McGuire Sponsel
The American retail giant, Target Corporation, has a market cap of $64 billion and access to seemingly limitless resources and advisors. So, when the company engaged in its first global expansion, how could anything possibly go wrong?
Less than two years after opening its first Canadian store in 2013, Target shut down all133 Canadian locations and terminated more than 17,000 Canadian employees.
Expansion of an operation to another country can create unique challenges that may impact the financial viability of the entire enterprise. If Target Corporation can colossally fail in its expansion to Canada, how might Mom ‘N’ Pop LLC fare when expanding into Switzerland, Singapore, or Australia?
Successful global expansion requires an understanding of multilayered taxes, regulatory hurdles, employment laws, and cultural nuances. Fortunately, with the right guidance, global expansion can be both possible and profitable for businesses of any size.
Any company with global ambitions must first consider whether the company’s expansion outside of the U.S. will give rise to a taxable presence in the local country. In the cross-border context, a “permanent establishment” can be created in a local country when the enterprise reaches a certain level of activity, which is problematic because it exposes the U.S. multinational to taxation in the foreign country.
Foreign entity incorporation
To avoid permanent establishment risk, many U.S. multinationals choose to operate overseas through a formal corporate subsidiary, which reduces the company’s foreign income tax exposure, though it may result in an additional level of foreign income tax on the subsidiary’s earnings. In most jurisdictions, multinationals can operate their business in the foreign country as a branch, a pass through (e.g., partnership,) or a corporation.
As a branch, the U.S. multinational does not create a subsidiary in the foreign country. It holds assets, employees, and bank accounts under its own name. With a pass through, the U.S. multinational creates a separate entity in the foreign country that is treated as a partnership under the tax law of the foreign country but not necessarily as a partnership under U.S. tax law.
U.S. multinationals can also create corporate subsidiaries in the foreign country treated as corporations under the tax law of both the foreign country and the U.S., with possibly two levels of income taxation in the foreign country plus U.S. income taxation of earnings repatriated to the U.S. as dividends.
Under U.S. entity classification rules, certain types of entities can “check the box” to elect their classification to be taxed as a corporation with two levels of tax, a partnership with pass-through taxation, or even be disregarded for U.S. federal income tax purposes. The check the box election allows U.S. multinationals to engage in more effective global tax planning.
Toll charges, transfer pricing and treaties
When establishing a foreign corporate subsidiary, the U.S. multinational will likely need to transfer certain assets to the new entity to make it fully operational. However, in many cases, the U.S. multinational cannot perform the transfer without recognizing taxable income. In the international context, the IRS imposes certain outbound “toll charges” on the transfer of appreciated property to a foreign entity, which are usually provided for in IRC Section 367 and subject to various exceptions and nuances.
Instead, the U.S. multinational may prefer to license intellectual property to the foreign subsidiary for a fee rather than transfer the property outright. However, licensing requires the company and foreign subsidiary to adhere to transfer pricing rules, as dictated by IRC Section 482. The U.S. multinational and the foreign subsidiary must interact in an arms-length manner regarding pricing and economic terms. Furthermore, any such arrangement may attract withholding taxes when royalties are paid across a border.
Are you GILTI?
Certain U.S. multinationals opt to focus on deferring the income recognition at the U.S. level. In doing so, they simply leave overseas profits overseas and delay repatriating any of the earnings to the U.S.
Despite the general merits of this form of planning, U.S. multinationals will be subject to certain IRS anti-deferral mechanisms, commonly known as “Subpart F” and GILTI. Essentially, U.S. shareholders of certain foreign corporations are forced to recognize their pro rata share of certain types of income generated by these foreign entities at the time the income is earned instead of waiting until the foreign entity formally repatriates the income to the U.S.
The end goal
Essentially, all effective international tax planning boils down to treasury management. Effective and early tax planning can properly allow a company to better achieve its initial goal: profitability.
If global expansion is on the horizon for your company, consult a licensed professional for advice concerning your specific situation.
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