Archives For Europe

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By Sarah Hathaway, head of ACCA UK

We teamed up with the New Statesman to discuss this subject matter at the three party conferences – see a link to the report at the bottom of this blog, but here is my takeaway.

I think you would be hard pressed to find someone who does not think business cares about politics; politicians set the framework in which business operates, a working relationship is paramount. But do politicians care about business; does it only care about a certain type of business? This was the broader theme for the discussion.

The last few years have been difficult; the pressure on the public purse was always going to lead to trade-offs and some issues taking prevalence. And our members support austerity (mild or severe) if imposed at the right pace.

However if recovery is to continue, access to finance is key. As an organisation that supports members from small to large businesses, we recognise that their needs are distinct but that they are also intertwined; businesses do not operate in silos, they are party of a larger supply chain. We are keen to push all three of the parties to continue to champion alternative forms of finance and access to it. We know from our members that this is crucial and the small business bill has taken steps to improve this. There is some evidence that all parties recognise the importance of it but it’s about making sure the practical regulation works for business.

The issue of Europe was unsurprisingly part of the debate at Conservatives; as a global organisation we recognise the need for stability, that’s what our members want and that’s what is needed for businesses to attract long-term sustainable investment. Why would we cut ties with our biggest trading partner? That’s not to say reform isn’t needed, but reform from within not from the outside.

Of course discussing Europe involves a debate around immigration; that debate must be an honest one. We have a skills gap and so while we are working to plug that over the medium-term, we still need to fill it in the short-term. We believe all parties need to recognise that and taking students out of the net migration figure and treating them as a talent pipeline for business will help achieve that.

Ultimately politics involves trade-offs and risks, much in the way business does, but it is about calculated risk, evidence and taking a long-term view.

Politics is at its best when it recognises that it doesn’t have all the answers and that it shouldn’t try to. Instead as with any good relationship, the success comes through hard work, collaboration and concession on both sides.

To download a copy of the report click here.

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By Petros Fassoulas, head of policy and public affairs – Europe, ACCA

It is this time again in the political circle when we are asked to step up and elect Members of the European Parliament (MEPs). Some view these elections as having little relevance to their everyday life, but that could not be further from the truth.

The European Parliament is, together with the Council of Ministers where member state governments are represented, the main decision-making body of the European Union. Its members decide on the rules and regulations that govern significant parts of the European economy.

The Single Market Committee, chaired by Malcom Harbour MEP, a British Conservative, has been instrumental in the design and adoption of many of the laws that govern the biggest common market in the world, where about 50% of British exports go, worth about £200 billion a year.

The Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee, chaired by another Brit, the Liberal Democrat Sharon Bowles MEP, played a key role in the decisions that re-engineered supervision of the banking and financial services sector in the EU.

The audit reform dossier was spearheaded in the European Parliament by Sajjad Karim, you guessed it, yet another British MEP, who was the rapporteur (the person who held the pen) while the EP’s Legal Affairs Committee scrutinised and amended the European Commission’s proposals.

So the European Parliament and its members play a crucial role and most British MEPs are usually at the core of the decisions made, decisions that affect British business. This is why the choice of who we send to Brussels is crucial. ACCA works closely with British MEPs on all the policy areas that affect our profession, so we know first-hand how important it is that our MEPs are influential, involved, active and constructive, prepared to engage, build alliances, lead, write reports, vote and be part of the decisions that affect us all.

The European Parliament Elections are not a mid-term assessment of the government or an opportunity to give mainstream parties a kicking. They produce the MEPs that represent us and our interests. It is imperative that we engage by showing up to vote so we can ensure that the people we elect are able and willing to do the job.

Voting for the European Elections takes place in the UK on Thursday 22 May and polls are open from 7am until 10pm.

By Tim Payne, partner, KPMG Europe

In the ACCA 2012 study Talent Management in a Shared Services World, the messages were loud and clear. The vast majority of senior finance people surveyed believed that, as finance functions evolve, managing talent will become increasingly important. However, only 28% of respondents said they had a talent programme in place and of these only 34% felt these were effective. So where do talent programmes go wrong, and what can senior finance managers do differently to make them a success?

In our experience, many talent programmes fail because someone decides to implement a best HR practice approach to talent management, without genuinely considering the specific, unique needs of their finance function. This often results in a classic nine-box process, where managers spend many hours putting their staff into boxes, fitting the numbers to distribution curves, and identifying top talent, yet failing to use this information in any meaningful way.

The exercise becomes a compliance exercise. Typically few conversations about individuals or teams have taken place, and even fewer actions agreed. Our advice to finance executives charged with crafting an approach to talent management is to step back and consider four questions:

  • Do you understand what mix and location of skills and capabilities you will need in the medium term? A strategic workforce plan for finance starts with identifying those skills, and the future mix required. Workforce modelling makes it possible to role-forward your current workforce and, under various scenarios and using assumptions about hiring, attrition and promotion, uncover the likely gaps between what you will need and what you will have. This is a vital piece of context – talent management can’t work unless it’s grounded in future business requirements.
  • Do you understand what your younger members of the workforce, and by association next generation of workers, think about their careers, and what they expect from an employer? Do you have robust data that helps you plan and tailor an approach to talent management that will be valued by these people? Have you analysed the return on investment of previous attempts of talent management? What have you learned about which talent approaches work in your function and culture, and which don’t?
  • Do you have the basic infrastructure and governance required to manage talent, particularly if you are operating an international finance function? Do you have a robust talent system in which to record data and analyse it? Do you have clarity of job families, grades and associated career paths? Are these transparent? Is there a governance mechanism that will enable challenge, for example when a high potential controller needs an international move as part of a succession plan, but their local manager is reluctant to let the move happen?

In our experience, giving consideration to these questions helps prepare a finance leadership team for the task of creating a genuinely useful approach to talent management; one which will be championed by finance, not by HR; and one which will result in engaged, developed and high performing people, rather than process compliance.

This case study appeared in an ACCA report on Talent and capability in global finance functions. As part of ACCA’s qualitative research leading organisations shared their approaches.

 

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By Mark Gold, chair of the Global Forum for SMEs, ACCA

Despite representing more than 90 per cent of global businesses, and accounting on average for 50 per cent of gross domestic product and 63 per cent of employment, SMEs have by and large been marginalised in the debate about sustainable business – both in terms of policy and practice. ACCA Global Forum for SMEs  has published a new policy paper  that looks at why this is the case and how we can change that. We know that SMEs have been slow to adopt environment-related improvements with only 29 per cent of SMEs in the EU thought have introduced measures to save energy or raw materials, compared with 46 per cent of large enterprises (see here).

The picture is likely to vary across Europe but as an average, the potential for improvements are certainly there, as well as the resulting benefits. So why are SMEs still thought to be slow in terms of recognising the importance and benefits of sustainable business practice?

One aspect is certainly that all too often we end up talking about SMEs as one homogeneous group, which is usually unhelpful. If you consider that this includes businesses with zero employees (only the owner manager) and those that have up to 250 employees, it becomes clear how vastly different these entities are. Their levels of formability, internal capacity and specialisms, not to mention motivations can mean that they end up in fact having very little in common when it comes to sustainability. But all too often we have sought to engage them without appropriately recognising how diverse and disparate this segment or the business population is.

The second question is: are we able to capture all the activities that SMEs do in this area appropriately? Are we asking the right questions? If we ask a business owner what their CSR strategy or sustainability practice is they may draw a blank face. They won’t think to tell us about the local charity they are supporting, about providing young people with work experience nor will they think about the cost savings they are seeking to make in their energy consumption as relevant answers. So are we capturing all the ‘business as usual’ activities that they are already doing?

Finally, are we giving them the right tools to communicate these and to engage? We talk about sustainability reporting, assurance, environmental management systems not to mention all the ‘jargon’ that has developed over time in the sustainability field. It is no secret that much of this has been developed with large businesses in mind so it is therefore no wonder that we are not seeing many enough SMEs engaging.

What I know from my own practice that specialises in creative industries and deals with thousands of SMEs each year is that these are responsible businesses, with a positive impact on society and a careful approach to environment. We ought to be able to capture this better.

XXII Economic Forum in Poland

accapr —  18 September 2012 — Leave a comment

By Rosana Mirkovic, head of SME policy, ACCA

Between 4 to 6 September European politicians and business leaders gathered at the 22nd Economic Forum in the spa resort town of Krynica Zdrój, southern Poland.

Under the title ‘New Visions for Hard Times – Europe and the World Confronting the Crisis’, leaders discussed current models of integration, the economic system, and the substantial reforms required to tackle the on-going economic crisis. Much of the debate was dedicated to the competitiveness of the region and how its businesses can make greater impact on the global stage.

And as the title suggests, this was a high level gathering, attracting regional heads of state, international organisations and the major regional and global business leaders. Most impressively, there was a feeling of a genuine need for the government, business and the NGO sector to work together to address some of the socio-economic problems that remain, despite the remarkable period of transition the region has witnessed. With such a rich audience, the programme provided a similar tapestry of topics; from health, pensions and the ageing Europe, to future energy sources, technological innovations and the social media.

Inevitably, with the Forum’s host being so close to the Eurozone (currently expected to join the Euro in January 2016), the various angles on the Eurozone crisis were debated at length.

I was pleased to take part in a PwC panel debate ‘CEE Goes Global – the Expansion of Foreign Companies in Central and Eastern Europe’, which discussed the chances and the perspectives of the private entrepreneurs with their efforts to expand abroad and the obstacles they have to overcome in order to conquer new markets. The panel also debated the importance of such enterprises for the growth of their home regions and national economies. With larger corporations usually dominating such gatherings, it was especially pleasing to see that smaller, growing businesses were recognised for their dynamism and their increasing presence in international trade.

There was agreement among the panel that while national governments are keen to help the SME sector internationalise, their efforts tend to be mis-directed. The participants, who included presidents of boards of some of the major Polish exporting firms, agreed that government actions ought to be targeted towards making trade easier and less costly and removing barriers to growth and innovation. Other than that, there was reluctance to promote further state interference, and a real sense that entrepreneurs simply need to be left alone to do what they know best. Most interestingly, the extent to which the international expansion of Polish companies benefits the national economy, and as such warrant government support, was raised a number of times – as well as the effect of the country’s branding in boosting the international prospects of its companies. It’s difficult to imagine that either of the questions would be asked if a similar event was held in the UK, for example.

The overwhelming sentiment to note from the Forum however is the general optimism about the region’s future. Having witnessed moderate but steady growth throughout the economic downturn, some degree of retrospection was a common thread that tied together much of the conference’s programme, showing how far the region has come and most importantly, the role of business in opening up the region’s potential and cooperation even further.