What Canada's top senior executives learned from 2016
Eight of Canada’s most powerful business titans told Canadian Business what they learned in 2016. Here’s what they said:
There’s no substitute for a great idea
“This business will always be about the power of good ideas. While things change dramatically every year with new media, technology and ways to look at data, in the end, consumers will engage and interact with good ideas that capture their hearts and minds.”
—Judy John, CEO, Canada and chief creative officer North America, Leo Burnett
Pressure creates diamonds
“The most valuable thing I learned in 2016 was to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. I’ve come to realize that I work best under pressure and in a slight state of chaos.”
—Harley Finkelstein, chief operating officer, Shopify
Keep your eye on the customer
“I spent 30 years in the corporate world, most recently as CEO of Purolator, before moving to [car-sharing co-op] Modo this year. I’ve come to appreciate how closely our business model is aligned to our purpose and customer needs. When you rise through corporate ranks you get a little removed from the daily business—not necessarily for the good. Here, I am directly responsible to the people who use the services. There is no third-party group of shareholders, which can have conflicting agendas. I find it completely invigorating
—Patrick Nangle, CEO, Modo
Smartphones transform retail
“From one day to the next, business operates at an ever-faster pace. Consumers expect immediate gratification—they want their needs and desires met now. Smartphones have, of course, fundamentally restructured the relationship that retailers today have with consumers. Now, at your fingertips, you can access any number of retailers who offer the same, or similar products, as do we. Unless we are nimble and seize promising opportunities, we will be left behind.”
—David Labistour, CEO, MEC
Inclusiveness fosters innovation
“I’ve just celebrated my second year in Canada and I am continually impressed by the country’s appetite for innovation. Canada is demonstrating it can build collaborative ecosystems to address innovation and that speaks to me about Canada’s inclusiveness and diversity. At a time when this seems to be hard to find around the world, it’s exciting to see.”
—Bernadette Wightman, president, Cisco Canada
“Since arriving in Canada, I’ve felt a sense that we’re building something together. We celebrate our diversity, we count our co-workers as our friends and we cheer Canadian wins as if they were our own. From the perspective of someone who calls himself a new Canadian, what we have here is exceptional. This sense of community and shared ambition may be Canada’s greatest market differentiator. The events of 2016 made that clear to me.”
—Sam Sebastian, managing director, Google Canada
Culture matters more than ever
“I’d lived in the U.S. for years, and in February I came back full-time to run Roots. We have a brand with 43 years of connection to the Canadian public, and an incredible culture. There are some extremely talented people in this country, but for us a hire ultimately comes down to the cultural fit. And I’ve found that to really understand that, we have to invest a lot of time with candidates, and they must take the time to get to know us, too. That’s been a huge lesson for our team as we move from being a founder-led organization to one that isn’t, but still needs to keep our values at the heart of everything we do.”
—Jim Gabel, president and CEO, Roots
Vulnerability is strength
“In 2016, I learned that trust is the foundation of being a good leader. You need to invest in building it with your employees by being vulnerable and honest with them. I feel a kind of deeply uncomfortable candour is what gets through the best to people.”
—Peter Aceto, president and CEO, Tangerine Bank
SOURCE: [Canadian Business]
Six issues at the top of tax and finance leaders’ agenda
New Deloitte research reveals that tax leaders are under increasing pressure to add strategic value as companies accelerate business model transformation, from undergoing digital transformations to rethinking their supply chains or investing in green initiatives.
According to Phil Mills, Deloitte Global Tax & Legal Leader, to “truly deliver value to the business, the tax function needs to rethink its resourcing model and transform its technology infrastructure to create capacity and control costs”.
And the good news, according to Mills, is that tax and business leaders have more options at their disposal to achieve this.
Reflecting the insights of global tax and finance executives at global companies, Deloitte’s Tax Operations in Focus study reveals the six issues at the top of tax and finance leaders’ agenda.
Trend 1: Businesses seek more strategic counsel from tax
Companies are being pushed to develop new digital products and distribution channels and accelerate sustainable transformation and this is taking them into uncharted tax territory. Tax leaders say their teams must have the resources and skills to give deeper advisory support on digital business models (65%), supply chain restructuring (49%) and sustainability (48%) over the next two years. This means redrawing the boundaries of what tax professionals focus on, and accelerating adoption of advanced technologies and lower-cost resourcing models to meet compliance requirements and free up time.
According to Joanne Walker, Group Tax Director, BT Group PLC, "There’s still a heavy compliance load today, but the vision for the future would be that much of that falls away, and tax people become subject matter experts who help program the machine, ensure quality control, and redirect their time to advisory activity.”
Trend 2: Tipping point for resourcing models
Business partnering demands in the tax department are on the rise, but 93% of tax leaders say their department’s budget is remaining flat or falling. To ensure that the tax function can redefine itself as a strategic function at the pace that is required, leaders are choosing to move increasing amounts of compliance and reporting to a combination of shared service centers, finance departments, and outsourcing providers that have invested in best-in-class technology.
Trend 3: Digital tax administration is moving faster than expected
in addition to the rising focus of the corporate tax department partnering with their business counterparts, transformative changes to the way companies share tax information with revenue authorities is also creating an imperative to modernize operations at a faster pace. Nine in 10 (92%) respondents say that shifting revenue authority demands on digital tax administration will have a moderate or high impact on tax operations and resources over the next five years—and several heads of tax said the trend is moving faster than expected.
"It’s really stepped up in the last couple of years," says Anna Elphick, VP Tax, Unilever. "Tax authorities don't just want a faster turnaround for compliance but access into a company’s systems. It's not unreasonable to think that in a much shorter time than we expect, compliance will be about companies reviewing a return that's been drafted by the tax authorities."
Trend 4: Data simplification and lower-cost resourcing are top priorities
Tax leaders said that simplifying data management (53%) and moving to lower-cost resourcing models (51%) must be prioritized if tax is to become more proactive at delivering strategic insights to the business. Many tax teams are ensuring that they have a seat at the table as ERP systems are overhauled, which is paying dividends: 56% of those that have introduced NextGen ERP systems are now highly effective at supporting the business with scenario-modeling insights. Only 35% of those with moderate to low use of NextGen ERP systems said the same.
At Stryker, “we automated the source P&L process for transfer pricing which took a huge burden off of the divisions," says David Furgason, Vice President Tax. "Then we created a transfer price database to deposit and retrieve data so we have limited impact on the divisions. We are moving to a single ERP platform which will help us make take the next step with robotics.”
Trend 5: Skillsets are shifting
Embedding a new data infrastructure and redesigning processes are critical for the future tax vision. Tax leaders are aligned — data skills (45%) and technology process experience (43%) are ‘must have’ skills in a tax department of the future, but more traditional tax specialist knowledge also remains key (40%). The trick to success will be in tax leaders facilitating the way these professionals, with their different backgrounds, can work together collectively to unlock lasting value.
Take Infineon Technologies, which formed a VAT technology and governance group "that has the right knowledge about how to change the system to ensure it generates the right reports", according to Matthias Schubert, Global Head of Tax. "Involving them early was key as we took a greenfield approach, so we could think about what the optimal processes would look like and how more intelligent systems could make an impact
Trend 6: 2020 brought productivity improvements
Improved productivity (50%) and accelerating shifts to remote working (48%) were cited as the biggest operational benefits to emerge from COVID-19-driven disruption. But, as 78% of leaders now plan to embed either hybrid or fully remote models in the tax function long term, 34% say maintaining productivity benefits is a top concern. And, as leaders think about building their talent pipeline and strengthening advisory skill sets, 47% say they must prioritize new approaches to talent recognition and career development over the next two years, while 36% say new processes for involving tax in business strategy decisions must be established.