Company of the Week: EY – The Manifold of Working with International Taxation
My name is Hanna Aro, and I’m a tax professional and manager from EY. I had actually never thought of working with taxation until it became my profession through a coincidence. I want to share what I believe is important for succeeding in consultancy business and moreover, why starting your career for example in international taxation will in fact furnish you with a broad variety of skills – skills that are in no way limited to understanding tax laws.
I have always enjoyed learning by reading, which helped me to choose business law as major. At the same time, I did not want to give up on the interest in mathematics and statistics and so I studied my minor in economics at Aalto University as well as the University of Helsinki. By the time I started writing my Master’s thesis the economic downturn in Europe was visible, reflected in employment figures, and I was not sure how to successfully combine business law with economics in the job market. Heikki Niskakangas was at that time a professor at tax department and I asked him for advice regarding with which thesis topic I could gain knowledge that would be the most valuable in the job market, today and in future.
He confidently encouraged me to choose a subject within international taxation and more specifically transfer pricing. He was right; I have been working with international taxation now for five years.
The qualities I have noted that are valuable are surprisingly diverse. First, whatever work you do alongside your studies will be valuable. I believe that different kinds of work experiences teach you the most. In any business you work in, management consultancy skills are present. The choice of studies is not decisive when it comes to professional strengths or weaknesses – half of my colleagues are business and half law school graduates.
Studying business does help you to understand how MNEs work, are run, create value in their business and stay competitive in global market. That will be a great asset in international taxation. To cope with international taxation you also need to make sense of the figures, know the numbers in other words. Tax laws will help in providing you with the framework but you will not understand the materiality of the challenge your client is facing if you are not able to tell about the client’s business purely looking at their accounts.
Solely knowing your field of expertize is not sufficient either. As consultants, we need to be professionals in customer service. We need to have excellent people skills and adopt different kinds of roles depending on whether interacting with a client or for instance finding your own role in the team. However, hardly anyone will master all of the qualities upon graduating. After five years in the industry, I am afraid I will never master all of them. Nevertheless, the best part of this job is the unforeseen diverse set of skills it will teach you. In the end – and in my view – becoming multi-skilled to work in management consulting comes much from pure passion to challenge yourself, being critical towards your own thinking, simple aspiration to gain expertise while at same time acknowledging that someone else will always know better.
Manager, International Tax Services & Transfer Pricing
M.Sc (business law), Aalto University School of Business, 2013