Hi, I’m Deirdre Lyons and I work in Tax / Wealth Structuring in Davy Private Clients.
Deirdre, tell us about your college degree
I did a degree in Law and French at University College Cork before completing an LLM in Corporate Governance and Public Policy at Queen’s University Belfast.
When did you decide you were interested in tax as a career?
In the course of my masters, I realised that I was becoming more interested in the business-related aspects of my studies. Tax seemed like a good way to incorporate an interest in law within a commercially-driven and business orientated context. I liked the idea of problem-solving and reasoning skills being applied to resolve issues for the benefit of clients.
Aside from your academic knowledge, what skills from your degree did you find would help you in your career in tax?
I think skills like communication and teamwork are hugely important since it’s rare that a client issue can be resolved by one person alone. You are constantly drawing on the experience and expertise of colleagues.
I think the skills of reasoning and analysis that are emphasised in a legal education are also very important. You instinctively think back to the policy reasons behind various tax laws and I think that makes the process of legislative interpretation more straightforward and intuitive.
How did you go about looking for a job in tax?
I initially applied for a summer internship position with PwC. They suggested I instead interview for a graduate position, which they offered me and I accepted.
I have to say that coming from a legal background I wasn’t hugely familiar with the usual tax and accountancy “milk-round” process so for me the recruitment process was a journey of self-education, speaking to people who worked in the area and getting to know what a career in tax involves in practice.
So, you qualified as a Chartered Tax Adviser (CTA) – tell us some more about that
Once I had decided on a career in tax, it made sense to pursue the most recognised qualification in tax in Ireland and internationally.
I liked the variety of the subjects on the qualification, which meant that I could go into multiple different areas afterwards. I also liked the commercial focus. There was lots of support from lecturers, tutors, and the education coordinators. Communications from the Irish Tax Institute were regular and helpful.
I find I use a lot of the skills and knowledge I gained on the qualification - both the technical knowledge itself, and skills such as analysing legislation, research, business writing etc.
Deirdre, you now work in Davy – tell us a bit about your role there
Having left PwC in 2013, I now work in the Private Client department of Davy Wealth and Asset Management. In broad terms we help clients protect, grow and preserve their wealth both in the present day and as it passes through the generations. Tax is one component of a robust Wealth Management strategy, both in terms of guiding our clients on their specific issues and developing tax-efficient structures and platforms for investment, financial planning and succession.
What type of work are you involved in on a day-to-day basis?
In the last five to ten years my firm has moved away from a pure investment offering towards a broader wealth management model. I am part of a team of technical specialists with particular expertise / qualifications in areas relevant to Wealth Management e.g. pensions, tax, protection policies. Our role involves advising and guiding our client base in relation to these issues – ideally integrating our own areas of expertise into a holistic financial plan, backed by a quality investment proposition.
A typical day involves a mixture of client meetings and follow-ups, and work on particular structures and platforms e.g. our charitable platform for individuals wishing to establish charitable foundations. This latter aspect involves development of operational procedures, creating marketing materials, presenting to interested parties. Davy as a firm do not provide tax advice, we work closely with many tax and legal firms across the country to ensure that the solutions we bring to clients are of the highest quality and that our expertise and knowledge remains useful and current.
Can you tell us about a challenge that you faced in your current role and how you dealt with this?
In the last year I worked with a team to build a robust investment platform for non-Irish domiciled individuals. This was challenging because it involved bringing together a number of sometimes competing aspects and trying to maintain an optimal investment offering, within the confines of the existing tax, legal and regulatory regimes. We solved this through coordinated work of various departments within the firm (investment selection, compliance, tax) and through clear prioritisation of the goals we wanted to achieve for our clients.
How did the Chartered Tax Adviser (CTA) qualification assist you with your promotions?
After working in PwC for 5 years, I left to join the Davy Private Client team. Since then I’ve been promoted to recognise the aspects of my role which cover business and structure development. The Chartered Tax Adviser (CTA) qualification has been a great help, both in terms of the technical training necessary to do my job and the commercial focused nature of subsequent talks and CPDs. It has also helped me build up a large network of contacts outside my current and previous employers.
How do you balance your career and personal life?
I think it’s good to prioritise actions in work, to focus on adding value as opposed to just being busy. At the start of each week I identify key goals I want to achieve for the week and block off dedicated chunks of time for them, as well as some time for more strategic thinking and action.
I think it’s important to enjoy life outside of work so that you can bring ideas, focus and energy to work in the time that you are there. In this regard, I have always kept up hobbies like sport and reading.
Finally Deirdre, what are the career opportunities in your sector?
Many investment houses are moving towards a broader wealth management offering where guidance on tax matters is an important component on protecting, growing and passing on the family wealth. This should provide opportunities, as should the increasing complexity of the tax and legal landscape for investments.