Why people will always remain at the heart of professional services

  • February 21, 2019
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The financial and professional service industries are not necessarily synonymous with a good work life balance.  It isn’t a profession renowned for its ability to deliver financial security as well as professional and personal fulfilment. But there is no reason why that can’t change.

I recently took up the post as managing director of Accordance VAT. How we continue to establish the company as not just a place to earn money, but a place where people can grow professionally, where they enjoy and are stimulated by their day to day activities, and where they are given the space to flourish, is of the upmost importance to me. This would be a challenge at the best of times – add a period of significant political instability which affects how people feel in and about work, and you get a sense of the scale of the task at hand.

Setting out a vision

When I assumed the position of MD, I set out my vision for where I want to take the company. The most important asset we have and the thing I most want to protect, nurture, and develop is our workforce. We have plans to expand, but we will only do this by putting people at the heart of everything we do.

I don’t come from a finance background. I see this as a distinct advantage in my new role; it allows me the scope to have both a lateral and unprejudiced overview. In my six years in the industry, I’ve been able to observe the vast range of talent, the immensely varied skill sets, and the countless people who work with integrity. My relative newness in the industry gives me a different perspective, particularly when it comes to making people the focus of growth.

For me, good business management – whatever the field – rests in the ability to empower people in their areas of expertise. It’s about increasing productivity not by cracking the whip but by increasing job satisfaction, and to harness different skills which complement each other.

The benefits of diversity

The key to developing people is to understand them. And this starts with recognising the varying reasons why people get into finance. Accordance has an immensely culturally diverse team. Our staff are truly European, and we have more than 30 languages spoken in house. With this diversity naturally comes a broad set of reasons for coming here.  Some simply love the industry and were drawn to it through their interest in economics and politics, others because of their analytical or numerical skills and comprehensive understanding of European and international VAT.

Some people work for us for pragmatic, or practical reasons; but all are united by a commitment to expertise. Whatever brought them to our door, they have a right to a fulfilling working life in which they are invested in and enabled to flourish.

As well as recognising people’s varied circumstances, we must also be honest about the challenges the industry faces. Finance and professional services are changing rapidly. The rise of digitalisation brings with it immense possibilities. It offers us the chance to become more efficient, to streamline processes, to improve the customer experience and to liberate ourselves from the more monotonous aspects of work by delegating to machines.

But change is challenging and generates uncertainty. The automation of some previously human processes means that Accordance needs to look hard at the skill sets of our teams and consider how to ensure that human expertise remains at the heart of our offering.  Finding the right interaction between human expertise and technology is crucial to our growth. Automation is often framed as a competition between people and machine. For me, it’s working out how different tools, abilities and skill sets can complement, not overtake each other.

When the role that people occupy is changing, we have to change our expectations with it. From a management point of view, I don’t worry about technology in terms of the workforce – when your business works with people, you will always need people in your business.

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Why people will always remain at the heart of professional services

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