Q. Much of your work focuses on the Asia in-house tax market. Can you tell me more about the search assignments you typically work on ?
Asia is a growing tax community with a number of ‘in-house’ companies looking to bolster their internal teams and bring in technical support. The main focus is within 2 key areas – BEPS/Transfer Pricing and Tax Risk/Control. A large number of my assignments this year have been APAC lead positions with a core focus on cross boarder tax issues, BEP regularity control and tax risk, control and governance.
Q. I understand that your base is in London. How do you manage client and candidate relationships internationally ?
Relationships are built on trust, knowledge and delivery. I have been working in the tax recruitment market for over 10 years and have built up an extremely strong network of senior tax professionals with global responsibilities. Given how small the tax community is, my success is built purely on reputation and being able to deliver on the most complex assignments. With international clients this is no different, however you adapt/appreciate the cultural changes as well as mirror the time zones as closely as physically possible! I also travel a lot – travelling to Asia at least 4 times a year. Building trust in a face to face capacity is the most important aspect and once this trust is developed my clients and I can work together in building first-rate shortlists and therefore delivering the best possible results.
Q. What trends do you predict for the Asia tax recruitment market for 2016/2017 ?
I believe there will be continued growth for the in-house market, specifically for candidates with plus 10 years of experience. Corporations will look for candidates who can bring confidence around tax delivery as well as being able to mitigate tax risk and sell the benefit internally. With China and India pushing through new tax regulation I do feel that Indirect Taxes will be a big talking point as well as tax advisory roles coming back into industry with the rise of M&A activity. The big 4 firm’s right now in Asia are pushing on hiring and it will only be so long until this falls back into in-house tax teams.
Q Do you see any differences between Asia and EMEA in terms of how CFOs and VPs of Tax go about hiring senior tax professionals ?
I do feel that hiring leaders in Asia are still adapting to the idea of having an ‘in-house’ tax team that covers the main areas of compliance and advisory. I feel that a lot of reliance is placed on the accounting firms for tax advice where in some circumstances having senior individuals in-house would be a more commercial decision, and providing strong tax communication internally.
Also, the Asian tax community is some years behind the UK and US in terms of its size so when we do go to market, hiring leaders have to understand that the talent pool is smaller and therefore talent is harder to find. Hiring leaders have to be more clear in terms of what their needs are so we can define a search together and find that ‘needle in a haystack’. The talent in Asia is second to none and hiring leaders need to be confident with their plans and how they see that individual fitting in to the wider tax group.
Q. In the US and EMEA the recession had a dramatic effect on the volume of graduates entering the tax profession 5-7 years ago. The current market is very candidate-driven because of this dearth of qualified tax professionals. Is the same true in Asia ?
Yes and no... The recession has hit all business and more importantly tax teams globally resulting in a smaller talent pool . In the past 7 years in Asia budgets have been tight, head counts frozen and growth hard to achieve. However I do feel that Asia has not felt the impact as much as others. With China growing so rapidly over recent years, India opening up its trade doors and the ASEAN agreement being put in place the majority of the APAC has seen growth and therefore more requirements have been put on the tax professionals and in teams. Also, it is only recently that GST has been introduced to a number of countries, that operational taxes have been implemented and new OECD regulations have been drawn up therefore requirements for tax individuals remain high.
A lot of areas in tax are being invested in for the first time so it isn’t the lack of grad hiring rather the lack of candidates with a particular skills set. Indirect Tax and Transfer Pricing are the perfect example of this – Regional roles in these areas are being hired for, for the first time in earnest. This therefore means finding a plethora of high caliber candidates is a challenge for the client in the region.
Q. Do you find that US or EMEA tax professionals who relocate to Asia experience any issues acclimatizing to a different work culture?
This is not a huge issue as corporations are very good in supporting new, overseas candidates and candidates who are hired from overseas are hired because of their strong commercial and international experience. Culturally it can be a challenge, but it is both my job and my clients to make sure we ascertain the right skill set for an overseas move so that it does work, and also to make sure that the candidate is aware of the challenges that lay ahead. Schooling, tax rates, local culture and times zones are the main challenge but we have to make sure that candidates are fully aware and thoroughly prepared.
Q. Do you see any threat to the tax search market from in-house recruiters who use platforms like LinkedIn to source tax talent ?
LinkedIn for external headhunters in a niche market should not be a tool that should be relied upon but rather a support mechanism. LinkedIn is an excellent platform for professionals to stay connected but as a head hunter it is my job to do more than just look at a page – I would not be close or understanding of my market if this was the case. LinkedIn is very good at attracting the actively looking market, it is my job to attract the market that doesn’t know they are looking or is not yet in the public domain. This cannot be achieved through LinkedIn.
Chris Bale: “Thanks very much Phil for taking the time to talk to etaxjobs. I am sure your insights will be of interest to senior tax professionals working in-house”
Recent Placements made by Phil Jolley:
Head of Tax - FTSE 50, Greater China
Asia Pacific Head of Transfer Pricing - FTSE 20, Singapore
Country Tax Manager – Indonesia, Fortune 10 Group
Global Head of Tax – Global Conglomerate, Hong Kong
Tax Director – Japan, Global IT Group
Head of Tax, ASEAN – International FMCG Group. India
Head of Tax Operations - Leading Banking Group, Hong Kong
Senior Tax Advisor - Banking Group, Hong Kong.
Head of GST – Global Banking Group, Singapore
Phil is an Associate Director at Integral Search. You can contact him on +44 7894864963 or by email: PhilJolley@integralsearch.com. To view the current tax assignments that Integral Search is managing, please click here.