A number of our partners, heads of departments and tax specialists were among 150 senior professionals from some of the world’s leading independent accounting and law firms who gathered in London last week to attend a conference focused on the changing dynamics of the international business environment and how to improve services for clients operating in different markets. Participating in Alliott Group’s 2016 Worldwide Conference enabled representatives from Alliotts to meet and exchange views with leading economists and international business advisers from the Bank of England, the Confederation of British Industry and the Department for International Trade.
(L-R Steve Meredith, Colin Farmer and Sudheer Gupta of Alliotts)
Held at the Royal Horseguards hotel in London, Alliott Group’s Worldwide Conference is our international association’s annual flagship event. In addition to acquiring knowledge about the opportunities and challenges presented by the UK and global business environment, our partners and specialist advisors were able to develop relationships with professional counterparts in other mid-market accounting and law firms around the world who can provide solutions as and when our clients need professional support in different markets.
During the four day conference, authoritative speakers from the Bank of England and the Confederation of British Industry presented the latest data on the UK economy and their predictions, particularly in the context of the country’s decision to leave the European Union (‘Brexit’) and the resulting uncertainty.
Lai Wah Co of the Bank of England outlined the Bank’s recent monetary policy actions including reduction of the bank’s interest rate from 0.5% to 0.25% and £70 billion worth of quantitative easing through government and corporate bond purchases. We heard that:
-The UK faces a period of economic uncertainty following Brexit
-UK investor and consumer confidence has dipped in the run up to and following the Brexit vote
-UK inflation is set to rise
-The Pound has plunged against the US Dollar and the Euro
-UK GDP growth will slow, but then should start to pick up.
However, Amar Mistry of the Department for International Trade emphasised that despite the uncertainty caused by Brexit, the UK will continue to be a good place to do business. Mistry provided a number of reasons why the UK is the number one location in Europe for attracting Foreign Direct Investment:
-Plans to make the UK the G20’s most attractive tax regime, including the reduction of corporation tax to 17% by 2020
-A vast market that is the world’s 6th largest economy with easy access to a talented workforce
-A favourable business environment that enables ease of set-up and operation.
We also received cultural awareness training from Farnham Castle Intercultural Training designed to help us to develop a ‘global mindset’ and to become local experts in advising clients on how to be more successful when extending internationally. Susanna Lyddon compared culture to an iceberg, explaining that 90% of culture is ‘below the water’ and outlining the richer cultural intricacies such as learning styles, the importance of time, relationships and language, and approaches to problem solving.
Ben Kent of Meridian West shared comprehensive research on what clients want from their professional advisers. The level of service provided to clients by the world’s six largest accounting firms was shown to be ‘patchy’ and Kent also highlighted the big firms’ perceived weaknesses in terms of delivering commercial advice and providing service consistency worldwide. According to Kent, the best opportunities for smaller firms lie in providing specialist advisory services related to tax (e.g. transfer pricing), regulation and technology which are all high demand areas. Although it was emphasised that we are entering the age of the ‘technology supported professional’, we were also advised by Kent not to lose sight of the huge value still placed on human interaction and judgment by clients.
During the conference, we joined representatives of the alliance’s international tax and global mobility special interest groups in holding roundtable discussions on the impact of recent international tax developments on internationally focused SMEs, particularly national implementations of proposals in the OECD/G20 Base Erosion & Profit Shifting (BEPS) project that is targeting tax avoidance and that have a bearing on permanent establishment risks and transfer pricing strategies. A multidisciplinary roundtable also explored issues related to successful entry into a foreign market.
James Hickey, Alliott Group’s CEO comments: “This year’s Worldwide Conference was our largest to date in terms of the number of attendees. Energy levels were very high this year – our members clearly have a huge appetite for developing the knowledge and professional contacts that will support the growth of their clients’ business into new markets.”
Attending the conference gave us first hand access to the latest information and thought leadership from authoritative figures in the world of global commerce. We will use this intelligence and the valuable professional connections we made to help us to continue to provide first class support to our clients involved in, or looking to do business in, multiple markets. Through Alliott Group we are very much connected to the world of business.
Attending the Alliott Group conference and spending time with the executive team and members I was reminded why Alliott Group is well deserved of the International Accounting Bulletin/The Accountant 2016 Rising Star Association of the Year award.