January 18, 2018 - Comments Off on My First 18 Months in Recruitment

My First 18 Months in Recruitment

Before joining the world of recruitment, I had a number of preconceptions of what it might be like.

I was expecting a driven and fast-paced environment where I would constantly be learning and challenging myself and in that sense it has lived up to and exceeded my expectations.

What surprised me was how much of a ‘people’ job it is. I spend all day speaking with different people from all over the world and helping them in one way or another, whether it’s assisting a client to find the perfect person to join their dream or working with a candidate to find their dream job. It’s a big fat recruitment cliché but it’s a great feeling to help change someone’s life for the better and to give them an opportunity they might never have given a second thought, or to help them find the perfect person to enhance their team.

I am sure there will be many more lessons in recruitment (and in life) to come – but here are a few things my first year and 6 months have taught me:

1.      Quality not quantity

It is better to share 1 great CV with your client than 3 average ones, or to represent your candidate for 1 great job you know you they will love than put them forward for 3 they’re not quite right for (and probably don’t want).

Clients and candidates will remember you and you should make sure it’s for the right reasons.

(This can be difficult when you work in a KPI driven environment – see my Director Ian’s blog – https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/single-most-important-kpi-ian-james/)

2.      Honesty is always the best policy

Whether it’s telling a candidate “I’m sorry I’m not working on anything right for you at the moment” or telling your client “She’s interested in the role, but you should be aware she is also interviewing somewhere else”.

Any deviation from the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth will come back to bite you. Your candidates and your clients will always appreciate honesty and transparency and people who like and trust you will want to work with you again and tell their friends and colleagues about you.

3.      Don’t be afraid to ask loads of questions

….or to say “I don’t know”.

I remember my first couple of weeks in recruitment as being busy, exciting and interesting but also overwhelming and confusing. Swallow your pride and ask every single question that comes to mind no matter how silly it might sound in your head (loads of mine were silly when I asked them out loud as well…)

4.      Listen Carefully

Ask your clients – What are they looking for? Why have they struggled to fill this role? What kind of service do they want from you? Ask your candidates – Why are you unhappy in your current role? What’s your ideal next role? Do you have any doubts or concerns?

If you ask all of the right questions from the word go and really listen to what they are saying and how they are saying it you will understand that person and their needs much more fully.

In turn, if your clients and candidates feel you are listening carefully and care about what they are saying, they will trust you more and be more honest.

5.      If you’re not 100% sure – get a second opinion.

I often ask my Director – “This is what I think I should do/say, what do you think?”

When you are so heavily involved in a process, and invested in your candidates’ and clients’ interests, sometimes you have blinkers on. Taking a step back and having a fresh pair of eyes or ears can make all the difference and help you see things from a different perspective.

6.      Make all of your communication Clear, Concise and Friendly

Before I press send I ask myself few things:

– Is my email clear about what I am trying to communicate and what information/action I am looking for from the other person?

– Can I communicate the same message in fewer words?

– Am I managing to get my point across without compromising on politeness and professionalism?

7.      Find the right working environment for you

Every recruitment firm is different, and your success in this industry and enjoyment of your job will depend on how well your own values and personality fit with those of the people you are working for and with.

At Milburn Lewis we have one and only one KPI – interviews on the board and it’s up to you (within reason!) how you meet that target.

We run our own desks in every sense. Though there is always help and advice on hand if you’d like it, decisions are our own to make and instincts are our own to follow.

If this sounds like an environment that would suit you we are currently hiring for several roles. If you are interested in starting or furthering your career in recruitment then reach out to either of my directors for a confidential conversation.

ian.james@milburnlewis.com paul.cuthbert@milburnlewis.com

May 26, 2017 - Comments Off on The Future Workplace, and the Role of the Recruitment Industry

The Future Workplace, and the Role of the Recruitment Industry

The world is in a constant state of flux. Nowhere is this statement truer than in the work place. In recent years, we have been forced to evolve to meet the challenges of work in the twenty-first century. Deloitte Switzerland recently published a study that concluded, “organisations face a radically shifting context for the workforce, the workplace and the world of work… creating a unique opportunity for HR to help leaders and organisations adapt… to new models of work and careers, and help the company as a whole adapt to and encourage positive changes in society, regulation, and public policy”. Here at Milburn Lewis, we agree with Deloitte but feel that the recruitment industry also has a role to play in helping leaders and organisations adapt to these changes.

Deloitte attribute this evolution within the work place to advances in technology, which continue to increase in frequency and complexity. Several academic studies have found that human beings are able to adapt to new technologies with relative ease. Organisations and businesses, however, find this much more difficult. “Individuals are relatively quick to adapt to ongoing innovations, but organisations move at a slower pace,” according to Deloitte. This often results in the retention of antiquated, industrial age structures and practices within even the largest and most successful companies.

If you work for an organisation that fails to embrace the technological demands of the twenty-first century, it will undoubtedly have a negative effect on your work life, career development and personal life. Deloitte makes this point very well by highlighting the link between a company’s failure to adapt to new technologies and public policy issues, “such as income inequality, unemployment, immigration, and trade”. We are continually told that technology is meant to make our lives easier, and it does in most cases. It is now time for business leaders around the globe to recognise that technology can make companies and organisations stronger, fairer and a vehicle for wider societal change.

Of course, Deloitte is right, HR professionals will be leading figures in this drive towards reform. However, we believe recruiters can – and must – play a vital role in helping our clients achieve this end. This can be done various ways. First, we can no longer shy away from having informed, frank and honest conversations about these issues with our clients. By developing a comprehensive understanding of our markets, we can help ensure our clients are aware of the latest technologies, and the benefits they might bring to their organisation. Secondly, we can identify and introduce candidates who understand and have experience in the latest technologies, who exhibit an interest in innovation and moving away from the status quo, who aren’t just the ‘ideal candidate’ but someone who can help move things forward. Lastly, we can do something simple – practice what we preach. All too often in recruitment we reject technology in search of a quick deal. There is a wealth of technology across the recruitment industry, all of which can help increase our productively, open new markets and generate profits. We just need to be willing to change, just a little bit.

Despite what people say on LinkedIn, the recruitment industry can be a force for good. Like we said in our recent blog, “recruitment firms can no longer afford to provide a narrow service of finding candidates, submitting CVs and hoping it results in a fee”. Milburn Lewis is dedicated to helping our clients move forward and evolve to help make them more competitive, equal, attractive and profitable. And by providing a more comprehensive and broad service, we hope – and expect- that it will only mean good things for us.

March 24, 2017 - Comments Off on Going Beyond the Placement: The New Era of Recruitment

Going Beyond the Placement: The New Era of Recruitment

In response to changing client demand, Milburn Lewis is actively providing market intelligence to clients.

To quote the legendary Bob Dylan, “the times they are a-changin.” This is even more true today than it was when it was written in 1963. Milburn Lewis has written extensively about the need for change in the recruitment industry, and we have also practiced what we preach.

Let’s be honest with ourselves, recruitment is no longer simply the task of introducing professionals to clients. Rightly, in our opinion, clients now expect more for their money and that has led to a vacuum that Milburn Lewis is happy to fill. Big 4 clients now want unparalleled access to informed and engaged consultants, unbiased counsel on best recruitment practices and accurate market research.

Not every recruitment firm has the talent, ability and, frankly, the desire to provide such a service. We believe that this is a reason Milburn Lewis has been so successful. Unlike many international recruiters, our consultants are experts in their chosen discipline, having spent years developing professional networks and market knowledge. Milburn Lewis also boasts an outstanding research function, which not only assists consultants in identifying exceptional professionals but also has the methodological training to undertake advanced market research projects.

Milburn Lewis is founded on the simple belief that, “good recruitment is all about relationships”. We believe that this is why we have been able to acquire Big 4 clients around the globe. Our desire to go above and beyond our competitors has allowed us to foster those relationships.

It’s a tough time for business. Even the largest companies – including the Big 4 – are recognising that it is a challenging time, with a challenging economy. Our clients engage Milburn Lewis to identify the most skilled professionals for their business. However, they must also be able to attract that talent during the interview process. As a result, we have observed our Big 4 clients becoming increasingly concerned with how the market perceives them.

This is an area in which we are actively assisting our clients. As one of our key clients develops its presence in a non-traditional service line, it is critical for them to understand the perceptions potential employees have of them. Milburn Lewis has been approached to assist with this understanding due to its industry knowledge, research function and desire to undertake such work.

In executing this research project, our senior consultants are utilising their vast networks to identify the most pertinent professionals to this study. Our researchers are applying a mixed-methods approach, utilising their skills in both qualitative and quantitative methodologies to ensure our clients have the fullest picture.

Having the ability to provide this service is invaluable to both our clients and candidates. We are able to acquire a fuller and deeper understanding of the markets we are active in, which allows us to provide the best service possible to not only our clients, but also the professionals we speak to every day.

Recruitment firms can no longer afford to provide a narrow service of finding candidates, submitting CVs and hoping it results in a fee. We as an industry must continue to evolve and adapt to the growing needs of our clients. It is only by embracing this change that we are going to maintain the solid relationships that good recruitment is based on.

October 22, 2014 - Comments Off on The Importance of Asking Intelligent Questions

The Importance of Asking Intelligent Questions

Years ago in London I ran a team of recruitment consultants. The business was growing quickly and we had a regular turnover of recruiters in and out of the business. It was a part of my role to interview potential hires.

One day I came out of a meeting and ran into the MD in the hallway. She asked me about the candidate I’d just met.

‘Great.’ I said. ‘Interesting guy, good experience.’

‘OK.’ said my boss. ‘What questions did he ask you at the end?’

I had to think hard about this. I realised he hadn’t asked me anything at all.

‘None?’ said the MD, her eyes widening. ‘Leave him out of the process. If he doesn’t want to know anything about us, he can’t be that interested.’ And that, the MD being a decisive character, was the end of that.

You might think that seems a little harsh, but on reflection, it seems about right to me. You’d never build a social relationship with someone who only talks about themselves and never asks you how you are, would you?

An interview process is a two-way conversation. The employer is assessing the candidates suitability for the business and, across the table, the candidate should be asking questions to find out if this is the right move for them.

So far, so obvious. What kind of questions should you be asking?

I tell people I’m helping to think about three types of questions before heading into an interview.

1. Questions about the role
2. Questions about the firm/employer/organisation/team
3. Questions about the interviewer

Questions about the role
I’m not talking about the obvious things here like ‘What will I be doing?’ ‘Who will I be reporting to?’ Try to think about more interesting angles than that. What will be the most challenging aspect of this role? What do you expect this person to achieve in the first 6 months? Ask about the personalities of the team you may end up working with.

People I work with are adults. I try not to insult them by telling them not to ask about how fantastic the comp package is, how amazing the Christmas party is…so I won’t patronise you either. Suffice to say that these questions are there for you to find out about your potential employer, not to find out what’s in it for you. That comes later.

Questions about the firm

You’re going to research this company and its industry before the interview, aren’t you? Utilise what you learn from news articles, the company website and any other sources you can find to ask some intelligent questions about the business. Where do they see growth coming from? A competitor has just acquired another competitor – how does this affect their outlook?

The interviewer likes talking about themselves as much as anyone else. You’d be surprised to learn how many people I give this advice to and how very, very few use it. I can say this with some certainty, because when people do ask these kinds of questions, clients mention it in their feedback and always in a positive way.

Questions about the interviewer

Not everyone is comfortable or confident enough to ask the interviewer questions about themselves. But, much like the idea behind questions about the firm, people like to talk about themselves. Asking the interviewer how long they have been with the firm or why they like working there will help you build rapport and perhaps even help you stand out from the crowd.

One final point. Unless you have nerves of steel and the memory of an elephant, I would suggest writing down your questions before you go into the interview. You may think it will look silly opening up a list of questions during the meeting, but to the person across the desk, it will appear to be the actions of someone organised and interested in the role and company.

February 16, 2017 - Comments Off on US GAAP: Why More Americans Want To Move To Europe Than Ever Before

US GAAP: Why More Americans Want To Move To Europe Than Ever Before

Today, millions of American citizens soar above the Atlantic Ocean for holidays, business trips and, in many cases, a new life. Over the past five years, we have seen a significant increase in the number of American professionals applying for opportunities in Europe. At the same time, the skillsets found in the US have become sought after by many of our clients – a win-win situation.

US GAAP is a perfect example of one such skillset. In the era of globalisation, the need for US GAAP expertise is no longer confined to North America, but also in the capital cities across Europe. In recent months, senior consultants at Milburn Lewis have been inundated with US GAAP roles from our clients. The opportunities are out there but what are the benefits of making such a monumental career move?

US GAAP in Europe, and what it can offer

By its nature, US GAAP is ubiquitous in the US. The term refers to the generally accepted accounting principles adopted by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), meaning that every US-registered business must adhere to its standard when filing with the SEC.

As a result, there are millions of US GAAP professionals, all competing for the best roles, top locations and most sought after promotions. Speaking to US-based candidates, we have found that this has fostered an ultra-cut throat culture, one that makes it extremely difficult to progress ones’ career.

With more and more US companies moving into European markets, the need for US GAAP experience has never been greater. Unsurprisingly, however, there continues to be a shortage talent with the right level of US GAAP exposure. Our clients frequently state, unequivocally, that their preference is for professionals who have US-based experienced, which means sourcing directly from the US market.

When chatting to US GAAP professionals, our consultants are often asked, ‘What can I get in Europe, that I can’t get in the US?

We believe the fundamental benefit of making a European move is that your skillset and experience instantly become more marketable. Instead of being one of millions with US GAAP expertise, you are now one of hundreds. No longer are the top firms and top roles out of your grasp. We have also found that US GAAP professionals find opportunities for promotion much more forthcoming.

Professionals we’ve placed have found that Big 4 firms offer strong salaries and benefits, as well as access to similar multi-national clients they would find back home. Of course, don’t be under the illusion that European Big 4 firms offer a utopian working environment – it still requires commitment and hard work, but we believe that the rewards outweigh the challenges.

On a more personal level, making an international career move will expose you to the diverse cultures found throughout Europe. From Westminster Palace in England, to The Lourve in Paris, Europe has a rich and profound history, which has captivated millions of people from around the world. No matter what your interests are – art, music, sport, literature or architecture – there are a myriad of things to do, and places to visit. You will be exposed to different cultures each and every day, benefiting not only your career but you as a person.

Milburn Lewis is in the business of international recruitment. We have strong relationships with Big 4 firms globally. And when we ask our clients what they look for in their next hire, often the response is: international experience.

In a world that is becoming more global in nature, gaining exposure to different countries and cultures is a significant part of a resume. For US GAAP professionals, European Big 4 firms offer not only international experience but also a chance for real career progression.

If you are interested in exploring US GAAP opportunities in Europe, please don’t hesitate to reach us at daryl.summers@milburnlewis.com.

February 09, 2017 - Comments Off on ‘Conduct Risk’, the buzzword for regulators and, soon, recruiters.

‘Conduct Risk’, the buzzword for regulators and, soon, recruiters.

The ‘Great Recession’ shook the financial world to its core.

For many years, ingrained culture of recklessness in the world’s largest financial institutions brought the international economy to the brink of catastrophe. Through no fault of their own, millions of consumers were forced to weather unimaginable pain, as unemployment, foreclosures and personal bankruptcies skyrocketed.

Consumer trust in financial institutions imploded, whilst anger towards these same organisations exploded. Rarely has the conduct of an industry been exposed to such public scrutiny as the banking sector in the years after the Great Recession. Furthermore, one can argue that never has an industry been found to have fallen so far below the professional standards expected of it.

The distrust has only been compounded in recent years. In 2011, the payment protection insurance mis-selling scandal broke, costing several financial institutions more than £18 billion provisions; and in 2014, the Libor scandal became public, shattering the last morsel of public trust and resulting in various multi-million pound/dollar fines imposed on offenders in Europe and the United States (US).

In the United Kingdom (UK), the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) is committed to ensuring that these sorts of situations do not arise again and it has made clear that it will intervene and impose penalties where is sees unacceptable risk to the fair treatment of customers. To date, it has issued fines into the billions of pounds to both large and small institutions. In the US, regulators are acting with the same resolve. No one, it seems, is immune.

Consumers in the UK, US and Europe began to demand change. Regulators made the restoration of good conduct in financial institutions a top priority, one that would require: “an enterprise-wide effort which cannot be achieved simply by treating it as a compliance matter…. It requires banks to face up to their true culture, employee attitudes and beliefs—to enter as well as exit markets, to rethink product and service design, to measure what has never been measured before, to enable as well as prohibit and finally, also to recognise the change will be a long haul”.

To achieve this end, the FCA created a new term: conduct risk. The concept has now risen to the top of firms’ and regulators’ agendas and likely to remain there for the foreseeable future. However, the inherent problem with the concept of conduct risk is its primitivity, there is not yet a mutually accepted definition of its scope and boundaries.

What is Conduct Risk?

Firstly, it is important to point out that not even the FCA has a master definition for conduct risk. This was done on purpose, because… “a firm’s conduct risk profile will be unique… there is no one-size-fits-all framework that can be put in place to assess it”.

In its 2011 Retail Conduct Risk Outlook, the FCA defines it as, “…the risk that firm behaviour will result in poor outcomes for customers”. Good customer outcomes may be defined as customers getting financial services and products that meet their needs.

Conduct risk is commonly associated with regulatory areas of treating consumers fairly, financial crime and market abuse, whistleblowing, bribery and corruption, conflicts of interests and remuneration and incentives. In recent years, however, it has been defined more broadly to include business models, culture, product development and governance, ethics, integrity, sales and marketing practices and competition.

The management of conduct risk is different from other kinds of risk. By its very essence, it is pervasive. It respects no departmental boundary. It touches on activities rarely – if ever – reached by other risk measures, demands deep cultural and behaviour change at the heart of an organisation.

Deloitte states, conduct risk is broader than ‘Treating Customers Fairly’, since it focuses on risks to market integrity and to client outcomes in both the retail and wholesale sectors, and should go bound measuring compliance with conduct of business requirements.

It must not be confused with reputational or operational risk, which are concerned with potential damage to the firm, rather than potential damage to the client or market. Its realigning the focus of financial institutions, forcing a fundamental, cultural change in how firms approach their work and their responsibility to consumers and the market.

What Conduct Risk Means for Recruiters?

Like other areas of risk, conduct risk will likely become a highly lucrative recruitment market. Milburn Lewis has certainly witnessed an increase in our Big 4 clients seeking professionals in this discipline. We predict that over the next two years, we’ll see significant growth within the Big 4 firms globally.

Deloitte, for example, recently published 10 principles of strong conduct risk, which they believe serve as a sound foundation for conduct risk across all financial services. The Big 4 clearly see opportunities in this area and appear to be willing to invest in finding exceptional talent.

It is here that the real opportunity for recruiters lies. Getting ahead of the curve is key, however. We must embrace this new market and learn the needs of our clients. Conduct risk is in a state of flux, one that presents challenges not only for our clients but for us as recruiters as well. And it is going to a cultural change of our own to make the most out of this exciting market.

Gone are the days when we can, “pretend to know what we’re talking about”. Consultants working in conduct risk must sincerely engage with the market, learn its distinctions, challenges and developments. Only by doing this can we predict the future and, therefore, be ahead of our competitors.

Milburn Lewis is taking this serious, responding to market shifts and taking necessary steps to become a market leader in conduct risk. This month, we welcome Hashim Mohammed to the team. He brings a wealth of knowledge on risk recruitment and will lead our development into this area.

If you are interested in exploring conduct risk opportunities in Europe, or elsewhere, please don’t hesitate to reach us at info@milburnlewis.com.

January 26, 2017 - Comments Off on Data Analytics – Insight in Turbulent Times

Data Analytics – Insight in Turbulent Times

In these challenging times, businesses – small, medium and large – are looking for ways to improve their insight and decision-making to ensure their continued growth and success. Given the complexities of doing business in the twenty-first century, companies are relying on robust data analytics to support growth and intuition. The value of data analytics is best articulated on PwC’s website: “[Data Analytics] can add business value to every part of the value chain and every area of business decision-making”.

What are Data Analytics? That’s what I asked myself 12 months ago, when I was first asked to source candidates in the Swiss market. What I did know was it is a thriving market, one that has helped keep Milburn Lewis extremely busy over the past 18 months. We felt it appropriate to explore what we know about the complex, interesting and intriguing world of Data Analytics in this, our latest blog offering.

Over the past 5 years, Big 4 firms around the globe have focused heavily in building exceptional Data Analytics offerings. And this doesn’t appear to be slowing down. If anything, our clients appear to be speeding up recruitment in this area, but are being hindered by the age-old problem in recruitment – access to the best talent.

Deloitte defines data analytics as, “the practice of using data to drive business strategy and performance. It includes a range of approaches and solutions, from looking backward to evaluate what happened in the past to looking forward to do scenario planning and predictive modelling.”

To put it even more simply, I understand data analytics broadly as applying an algorithmic or mechanical process to derive insights. For example, running through several data sets to look for meaningful correlations between each other.

Elementary definitions aside, don’t be fooled, there are a myriad of ways to utilise this technology. And the Big 4 firms are across them all. It is this breadth and depth of data analytics that makes recruiting within the market such a monumental task, one that requires exceptional research, strong relationships and a commitment to engaging fully with industry leaders and practitioners.

The two incarnations of data analytics that our clients are most focused on are: Forensic Data Analytics and Risk Data Analytics. Across Europe – particularly in Central and East European countries – we are witnessing exponential growth in these two areas.

Forensic Data Analytics

As the complexities of business and government continues to grow, the desire for advanced forensic data analytics rises. It is more important than ever to protect business and assets from fraud and other threats. Forensic data analytics helps organisation that are – for example – challenged with a growing volume of electronic data; struggling with identifying, collecting, preserving and producing structured data in a timely and efficient manner; or worried about fraud risks, accounting issues and expense management.

Milburn Lewis’ Big 4 clients offers services within Forensic Data Analytics:

  • Proactive and reactive fraud analysis and fraud risk assessments using risk ranking methods.

  • Forensic in the Audit (FITA) engagements

  • Anti-money laundering (AML) investigations

  • Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) investigations

  • Contract compliance testing

Risk Data Analytics

In today’s dynamic and challenging business environment, organisations are ever more reliant on the supply of accurate information. According to PwC UK, business leaders cannot simply afford to base important decisions on traditional static risk assessments. Instead they need continuous and insightful risk intelligence monitoring which creates an enormous opportunity to secure and potentially enhance their future.

Organisations are looking to increase ‘risk intelligence’ by clearly defining, understanding and managing their tolerance for and exposure to risk. Advanced analytics capabilities enable clearer visibility into the challenges associated with managing the many types of risk. This is important in key areas, such as operations, regulatory compliance, supply chain, finance, eCommerce, and credit. By using analytics to measure, quantify and predict risk, leaders can rely less on intuition and create a consistent methodology steeped in data-driven insights.

Utilising data analytics, the Big 4 may help you answer questions like:

  • How can we better understand various external and internal factors that have an impact on risk and investment?

  • How do we validate whether our risk models are effective?

  • How can we better manage pricing and cost fluctuation risks and their impact on our balance sheet?

  • How do we identify and manage the key risks in our supply chain?

  • How can we better understand potential risk by utilizing more holistic information about our business?

  • How can we use our data to better optimise risk management processes and technology?

The Future of Data Analytics and How We Can Help

Data analytics is here to stay. And we have found it to be a highly profitable market but we must approach it with some caution. Like eDiscovery and cybersecurity, data analytics is a highly complex market, one that requires more from recruiters than “business as usual”.

The market is too competitive and too complex for that kind of recruiting. Data analytics is the now and future, and we must equip ourselves to ensure that we have the know-how to meet the inevitable demand for candidates.

We as recruiters must honestly engage with the market, making a sincere and serious attempt to have a better understanding of the distinctions, challenges, and developments facing our clients and professionals. By achieving this we will be able to better identify the talent our clients desperately need.

If you are interested in exploring data analytics opportunities in Europe, or elsewhere, please don’t hesitate to reach us at info@milburnlewis.com.

December 12, 2016 - Comments Off on Three questions for Americans moving to Europe

Three questions for Americans moving to Europe

Milburn Lewis is a recruitment business that conducts intercontinental searches for our clients, the Big 4 and other international accountancy firms. Most of the professionals we work with are not just considering a career move, but also a relocation. It is our goal to make the process as smooth and stress-free for everyone involved.

Over the past twelve months, we have seen a momentous increase in North American professionals considering a move across the Atlantic. Captivated by the prospect of exceptional career growth, access to new markets, and an excellent work-life balance, talent is streaming into Europe from the United States and Canada.

At the same time, Big 4 firms across the continent are embracing this migration of talent. Recognising the knowledge, skills, and innovation these professionals can bring to European firms. Our clients continue to seek out North American professionals across the spectrum of disciplines, including audit, tax, cyber security, and forensic technology, to name but a few.

Considering an international career move can be an incredibly difficult journey, one that is fraught with dangerous turns and unforeseen obstacles. For this reason, we encourage anyone considering such change to ask questions. And they do, lots of them.

We thought it would be helpful if we answered the three most common questions we get from North Americans considering a move to Europe. Of course, there will be others, and we encourage you to send those to info@mulburnlewis.com. One of our recruiters will be happy to get in touch and answer any further questions you might have.

1. How difficult is it for North Americans to move to Europe?

When most talk about Europe, they are referring to the European Union. Although Europe has a single Ryder Cup team, politically and economically it is made up of 28 sovereign states with their own histories, cultures, languages, governments, and parliaments.

Member states of the European Union include Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and (for now) the United Kingdom.

We also include Switzerland and Norway in discussions with professionals. Despite not being members, migration and trade in both these states are closely bound together in their respective relationships with the EU. As such, Switzerland and Norway must apply similar rules to those of EU member states.

One of fundamental tenets of the EU is ‘freedom of movement’. Unfortunately, this only applies to EU citizens. Immigration by ‘third-party nations’ is a matter for individual governments and parliaments found throughout the capitals of Europe.

It is therefore important to think in a strategic, long-term way. Don’t simply think about the next twelve or eighteen months. Think about where an opportunity will lead you five or ten years from now.

It appears to us that the most popular destinations are those with the largest markets – the United Kingdom, Switzerland, and Germany, for example. These cities are perceived to offer professionals the most career progression, with the highest salaries. And, to some extent that is true. But these markets are intensely competitive, with firms having access to an abundance of “local” talent to choose from.

It may be easier to think out of the box, to not restrict yourself to the obvious choices. Estonia, Czech Republic, Latvia, Luxembourg, and Poland are all options that offer career advancement, thriving economies, access to EU markets, cosmopolitan cultures, and an outstanding work-life balance. But most North Americans overlook these locations for the “traditionally attractive” destinations.

By broadening the scope of your search, you are only increasing the likelihood of a successful outcome. Through our work in the region, central and east European countries can be more advantageous for North Americans looking to break into Europe and its markets.

Big 4 firms in CEE countries find it easier to obtain the necessary visas for professionals from non-EU countries. The reasons for this are two-fold; a desire for top-level talent and continued economic stimulus in the region. Professionals will find that exploring these countries can lead to a quicker, easy process, as well as all the benefits associated with an international move.

2. What are the tax liabilities likely to be in Europe?

There are many variables to consider when exploring an international move, the most important being whether it is financially beneficial. There is no point travelling half-way round the world if you’re going to be economically worse off. And given that both American and Canadian citizens may still be liable for taxes back home, this is something we urge professionals to give this serious thought.

We have found that people instinctively look at where the salaries are highest – the U.K. and Switzerland, for example – and focus their search in these locations. Again, this might be a mistake. Yes, it is a fact that salaries are lower in the CEE region. But if you look at the wider picture, CEE countries might be a lot more lucrative than one might initially think.

EU member states, as well as Switzerland and Norway, have autonomy over their domestic tax affairs. Therefore, tax rates across the EU vary from state to state. In Sweden, Finland, and Denmark, the top rate of tax is above 50%. Whereas, in Bulgaria, Albania, and Hungary it is around 10%.

Indeed, salaries in London and Zurich are higher than in Tallinn and Prague but so are income taxes. In the CEE region, manager- and director-level professionals in the Big 4 can expect salaries of around €50,000 and €90,000 respectively. But they can also expect a tax rate of below 20% in CEE countries.

Too many professionals automatically discount the traditionally less attractive locations due to the salaries. We humbly urge you to reconsider. The CEE region, and other small European states, can result in more disposable income than one can expect in Europe’s largest cities.

3. I’ve heard the cost of living is significantly higher than back home?

This is one of the most common questions for North Americans moving to Europe. Like in the U.S. and Canada, there is great diversity in the cost of living. If your desire is for the skyscrapers of London, or the mountains of Zurich, then you can expect prices equivalent to New York or Toronto.

On the other hand, cities like Warsaw, Poland and Budapest, Hungary are quickly becoming Europe’s hottest destinations for Big 4 professionals. There are several reasons for this; over the last twelve months, the Big 4 firms have announced their intention to continue investing heavily in the CEE region; access to the wider EU market, including London; and a much lower cost of living than other European countries.

Let’s take Budapest as an example. To rent a one bedroom apartment in the city centre would cost around $415 per month. For those with families, one can expect to pay around $800 per month for a three-bedroom apartment in the same area. Compare this to London, the zenith for many Big 4 professionals. One bedroom city centre apartments are notoriously difficult to find and when you do, you can expect to pay no less than $2100 per month. The cost of a three-bedroom apartment in city centre London will cost upwards of $4000 per month.

These higher costs continue across the board, from utilities to groceries. Ultimately, what this means is that only the most senior professionals can consider living close to the city centre. Whereas, others are forced to accept long and expensive commutes into the office, limiting one’s work-life balance.

On the other hand, countries like Poland, Estonia, and Hungary, allow professionals to focus not only on their work, but also on living. To quote Richard Branson, Founder of the Virgin Group, “Work-life balance is all about making sure you take time to live…” Choosing the right location can go a long way towards achieving this goal.

Concluding thoughts…

Choosing to make an international move is daunting. But there is a reason more North Americans are making Europe the next stop on their professional journey. In an increasingly competitive market, employers are looking for those who aren’t afraid to step outside of their comfort zone. That’s why our clients want professionals who have worked abroad, who have proven their ability to adapt and grow in new surroundings.

We strongly encourage Americans and Canadians alike to consider moving to Europe, it has much to offer both professionally and personally. But we want to point out that moving to Europe shouldn’t limit you to London, Zurich, or Paris. There are countries and cities across this great continent that have much to offer Big 4 professionals, many of which are often overlooked.

By exploring the CEE region, and other smaller states in Europe, North Americans will find unparalleled career opportunities, whilst enjoying an exceptional standard of living in some of the world’s most historic and beautiful cities. If you are interested in exploring opportunities in Europe, or elsewhere, please don’t hesitate to reach us at info@milburnlewis.com.

November 16, 2016 - Comments Off on Milburn Lewis – Making the Move Blog. Part VIII – Riga, Latvia

Milburn Lewis – Making the Move Blog. Part VIII – Riga, Latvia

Milburn Lewis is a recruitment business that conducts cross-border searches for our clients, the Big 4 and other international accountancy firms. Most of the professionals we work with are not just considering a career move, but also relocation.

This week, we are concluding our three-part series exploring the Central and East European (CEE) region by travelling to Riga, the capital city of Latvia.

Riga has a great deal to offer professionals looking to gain exposure to international markets, whilst simultaneously growing and developing their career. With an exceptional work/life balance, a cosmopolitan culture, and iconic scenery, we have enjoyed helping professionals make the move to Latvia for many years.

Welcome to Latvia

The Republic of Latvia is an independent, sovereign state in the Baltic region of Northern Europe, one of three Baltic states. Like the other two Baltic states in the current series, Latvia is relatively small when compared to other countries across Europe. Latvia offers both young and seasoned professionals an open and growing economy, competitive business market, and easy access to the European single market.

Latvia is bordered to the north by Estonia, Lithuania to the south, Russia to the East, Belarus to the southeast, as well as a maritime border with Sweden. Due to its location, history, and picturesque landscape, Latvia is increasingly becoming one of Eastern Europe’s prime tourist attractions.

Like most of the countries we have explored in our ‘Making the Move’ blog, Latvia is small when compared to most world states at only 65,000 km2 (25,000 sq. mi). This means that Latvia is comparable in size to other small European states, for example Lithuania and Croatia. The total population is around 1.9 million, with about 14% of residents being characterised as ‘foreign born’.

Given the high proportion of ‘foreign born’ residents and increasing tourism levels, Latvia is becoming more and more multicultural. Latvians make up 61%, whilst Russians account for a further 25%. Jews (5%), Germans (4%), Poles (3%), and Belarusians (2%) are the next largest ethnic groups. This is very like the ethnic makeup of Estonia, which we looked at last week.

There is one official language in Latvia: Latvian. Under the constitution there are also two languages that are considered ‘indigenous’ and are spoken by a relatively small percentage of the population: Livonian and Latgalian. Per the Latvian 2011 census, 62% of residents use Latvian as their main language. Unsurprisingly, given the country’s Soviet history, there is also a high proportion of Russian speakers – around 37%. English is also widely spoken across the country, so we encourage those professionals who only speak English to not be put off considering Latvia as their next destination.

The Republic of Latvia is a parliamentary republic, with its national parliament (Saeima) based in the country’s capital, Riga. Its head of state is President Raimonds Vējonis, and its head of government is Prime Minister Māris Kučinskis. The current government is a coalition between the centre-right parties of Latvia: Union of Greens and Farmers Party, Unity Party, and the National Alliance Party.

On the 1st May 2004, Latvia became a full member state of the European Union. This affords all Latvian citizens EU citizenship and all the benefits that come with it, including freedom of movement. As a condition of membership, Latvia adopted the Euro as its currency and the The Latvian Lat was officially replaced on 1st January 2014.

The Latvian economy is characterised as being an ‘open, advanced economy’ by the International Monetary Fund. According to the Human Development Report 2011, Latvia belongs to the group of very high human development countries. Its total GDP is $48 billion, which equates to around $14,000 per capita. Prior to the great recession of 2009, Latvia was saw exponential economic growth of around 10%; however, the country did suffer a significant recession in its aftermath. Latvia has responded well in recent years and is currently seeing solid growth of around 5% per year. With its public debt at 35%, and a deficit of €200 million, Latvia does offer a competitive business environment that is receiving significant external investment from some of the world’s largest companies, including the Big 4.

Living and Working in Riga, Latvia

Riga is the capital and largest city in the Republic of Latvia, with almost 1.2 million people living in the metropolitan area and around 700,000 in the city centre. Riga is quickly becoming one of Europe’s most attractive cities because of its diverse population, museums, opera, theatres, festivals, bars, and restaurants.

Riga is particularly well-known for its opera, museums, and galleries. These include the Latvian National Opera, established in 1918; the Latvian National Theatre, established in 1919; the Mikhail Chekhov Riga Russian Theatre, established 1883; and the Daile Theatre, opened for the first time in 1920.

Although Riga is the largest city in Latvia, it is one of Europe’s – and indeed the world’s – smallest capitals. Spread over only 304 km2 it is somewhat comparable to Edinburgh, Scotland and Montreal, Canada. It has excellent public transport links, which includes of buses, trams, and trolleybuses that serve all areas of Riga.

Latvia, as well as offering an exceptional work/life balance, presents professionals with outstanding opportunities for career development. In recent years, we have seen Big 4 firms have all announced their intentions of investing heavily both in Latvia and the wider CEE region. Given that the Big 4 firms all have office in Riga, it certainly looks like opportunities will only increase in this beautiful city.

Like most European cities, there is a healthy immigrant community in Riga, attracting professionals and tourists from across the world. It is therefore highly likely that wherever you come from, you will find someone from your country of origin. Regardless, the feedback we have received from professional we have helped move to Latvia continues to highlight the welcoming nature of the Latvian people. And it is for these reasons that we believe Riga is a great choice for professionals looking to make an international move.

The Practicalities: Right to Work

Latvia has been a member of the EU since 2004. Therefore, citizens of EU member states do not require a visa or work permit to travel, reside, or gain employment in Latvia.

If you are a non-EU citizen, or ‘third-party national,’ the process does become slightly more complicated. However, most immigration experts highlight Latvia has one of the best options for non-EU citizens wishing to make the move to Europe. To live and work in Latvia, non-EU citizens are required to obtain a residency card. Currently there are two main kinds of residence permit issued by the Republic of Latvia: Permanent and Temporary.

If you are not personally connected to Latvia or anyone already there in a way which would entitle you to a residence permit (i.e. EU Citizenship, Family reunification, Family immigration, Latvian Ancestry etc.), then there still exists in Latvia three major ways to receive a residence permit:

  • Residence permit based on the purchase/acquisition of real estate.
    • If you are willing and able to purchase suitable property or real estate in Latvia, then you might have the option of a 5-year residence permit based on real estate purchase
  • Residence permit based on investment.
    • If you have funds to invest in a new or existing business in Latvia, then a residence permit based on business investment might be an option for you.
  • Residence permit based on company sponsorship
    • If you are offered employment by an approved Latvian business sponsor, then a residence permit based on employment might be an option for you.

Although the process is longer and more complex than it is for EU citizens, the information provided above does highlight that there are many options available to those non-EU citizens wishing to develop their career in Latvia and across the CEE region.

Practicalities: Cost of Living in Riga

Like most former Soviet states, the cost of living in Riga is relatively low compared to other cities and states in the European Union. In Riga, the main expenditures will be accommodation, transport, food, and, of course, taxes.

The relatively low cost of living is extremely attractive to professionals looking to gain valuable skills and experience outside of the larger markets such as London, Paris, and New York. For professionals we have helped move to Riga, the largest single expenditure has been accommodation. Rent for a 1 bedroom apartment in city centre Riga is around €360 per month, whilst a 3-bedroom in the same location is roughly €650 per month. For those who prefer to live outside the city centre, you’ll find a 3-bedroom apartment/house for about €400 per month.

All residents in Latvia are required to pay income tax. The current (flat) rate of tax is 24% on all income. Although this is often reduced using a large range of tax allowances in including a standard allowance of €900 per year, with an additional €1980 per year for every dependent. Social security contributions are levied on all employment income and are mandatory for most workers. The employee pays 11% of the wage, while the employer contributes 24.09%.

Although this might appear to be a relatively high tax environment for some, residents do benefit from several social benefits, including free universal healthcare. It should be noted that one can also elect to purchase private health insurance through several different providers.

Concluding Remarks: Riga, Latvia

Latvia is a city that offers Big 4 professionals the opportunity to advance their career, whilst simultaneously achieving an exceptional standard of living. If you’re committed to a move to Latvia, or simply curious to know more about our clients and the roles available, email info@milburnlewis.com.

November 07, 2016 - Comments Off on Milburn Lewis – Making the Move Blog. Part VII – Tallinn, Estonia

Milburn Lewis – Making the Move Blog. Part VII – Tallinn, Estonia

Milburn Lewis is a recruitment business that conducts cross-border searches for our clients, the Big 4 and other international accountancy firms. Most of the professionals we work with are not just considering a career move, but also relocation.

We are traveling to Tallinn, Estonia for the second in our three-part series exploring the Central and East European (CEE) region.

Tallinn offers an outstanding location in which to grow and develop your career. With a fantastic work/life balance, a thriving economy, and a cosmopolitan culture, we have enjoyed helping professionals ‘Make the Move’ to Estonia for several years.

Welcome to Estonia

The Republic of Estonia is a sovereign state in the Baltic region of Northern Europe. One of Europe’s smallest nations, Estonia is comparable in size to the Dominique Republic and Denmark. Estonia offers professionals a competitive business climate, a resilient and stable economy, and easy access to the rest of the European Union.

Estonia is widely considered to be one of European’s primary tourist attractions. It is bordered to the north by Finland; to the west by the Baltic Sea; to the south by Latvia; and to the east by Lake Peipus and Russia. The territory of Estonia consists of the mainland and over 2,222 islands and islets located in the Baltic Sea.

Like countries previously featured in our ‘Making the Move’ series, Estonia is small when compared to other world states at only 45,400 km2. The total population is around 1.3 million, with around 8 percent of residents being characterised as ‘foreign born’.

Estonia is a multicultural country, one that has a relatively large population of immigrants and tourists, as well as a diverse ethnic make-up. Estonians make up 68 percent, whilst Russians account for a further 25 percent. Given Estonia’s location and history, one might not be surprised to find out that Ukrainians, Belarusians, and Finns are the next groups. Citizens of other states make-up 8 percent of the population.

There is one official language in Estonia: Estonian. Under the constitution there are also two regional languages, which are spoken by a small proportion of the overall population: Võro and Seto. Given the country Soviet history, around 66% of the population speak Russian. This is followed by English (46%), German (22%), and Finnish as the main foreign languages.

The Republic of Estonia is a parliamentary republic, with its national parliament (Riigikogu) based in the country’s capital, Tallinn. Its head of state is President Kersti Kaljulaid, and its head of government is Prime Minister Taavi Raivas. The current government is a coalition between the liberal Estonian Reform Party, Social Democratic Party and conservative Pro Patria and Res Publica Union.

On 1st May 2004, Estonia became a full member state of the European Union. This affords all Estonian citizens EU citizenship and all the benefits that come with it, including freedom of movement. As a condition of membership, Estonia adopted the Euro as its currency. The Estonia Kroon was officially replaced by the Euro on 1st January 2011.

The Estonian economy is characterised as being an ‘advanced economy’ by the International Monetary Fund. It’s total GDP is $35 billion, which equates to around $29,500 per capita. In 2015, Estonia’s growth was only around 1%; however, the Estonian economy has recovered considerably better than most European states in the aftermath of the 2009 recession. Its total debt is only 10% of GDP, which has resulted in a competitive business environment that is receiving significant external investment for some of the world’s largest companies, including the Big 4.

Living and Working in Tallinn, Estonia

Tallinn is the capital and largest city in the Republic of Estonia, with over 542,000 people living in the metropolitan area and around 443,800 in the city centre. Tallinn is frequently referred to as one of Europe’s cultural goldmines due to its diverse population, museums, festivals, bars, and restaurants.

Tallinn has over 60 museums and galleries within its city limits. Laudvaljak, the Estonian Music Festival, is hosted annually and attracts thousands of festival-goers from around the world. The Tallinn Black Nights film festival brings glitz and glamor to Tallinn every year with some of Hollywood’s A-list actors choosing to attend this growing event. And, of course, there is a wealth of bars and restaurants to meet everyone’s taste.

Although it’s the largest city in Estonia, Tallinn is one of Europe’s – and indeed the world’s – smallest capitals. Spread over only 159 km2 it is comparable to Toulouse, France and Cardiff, United Kingdom. It has excellent public transport links, which is made up buses, trams, and trolley bus that serve all districts in Tallinn.

As well as offering an exceptional work/life balance, Estonia also presents professionals with fantastic opportunities for career development. In recent years, the Big 4 firms have all announced their intentions of investing heavily both in Estonia and the wider CEE region. This is particularly evident in the cyber security and data analytic areas, which have seen significant investment over the last 18 months.

Like most European cities we’ve explored, there is a healthy immigrant community in Estonia, attracting professionals and tourists from across the world. It is therefore highly likely that wherever you come from, you will find someone from your country of origin – making Estonia a great choice for professionals looking to make an international move.

The Practicalities: Right to Work

Estonia has been a member of the EU since 2004. Therefore, citizens of EU member states do not require a visa or work permit to travel, reside, or gain employment in Estonia.

If you are a non-EU citizen, or ‘third-party national’, the process does become more complicated. However, it is important to highlight that it is a lot easier for third-party nationals to gain a work permit in Estonia compared to some EU countries in Western Europe. If a professional is offered employment in Estonia, the prospective employer must be on an approved sponsors list and must apply to the Estonian government for the required visa and work permit.

If successful, the professional will be issued ‘short term residence’, which lasts up to five years. This can be extended once; however, after five years’ eligible candidates can apply for a long-term residence – after meeting certain criteria set out by the Estonian authorities.

The Practicalities: Cost of Living in Tallinn

Like other former Soviet states, the cost of living in Tallinn is reletively low compared to other cities and states in the European Union. In Tallinn, your primary expenditure will be accommodation, transport, food, and, of course, taxes.

The relatively low cost of living is extremely attractive to professionals looking to gain valuable skills and experience outside of the larger markets such as London and New York. The single largest expenditure in Tallinn will be accommodation. Rent for a 1 bedroom apartment in city centre Tallinn is around €460, whilst a 3-bedroom in the same location is roughly €740. For those who prefer to live outside the city centre, you’ll find a 3-bedroom apartment/house for about €500.

All residents in Estonia are required to pay income tax. The current rate of tax in Estonia is 20 percent; however, there are several reductions one can take, which means that most individuals end up paying much less than the original figure. Employees in Estonia are also required to contribute through their paid income to ‘social tax’, ‘unemployment insurance’, and the ‘funded pension payment scheme’. The social tax has a maximum levy of 33 percent, unemployment insurance 2.8 percent, and pensions 2 percent.

Although this might appear to be a relatively high tax environment, residents do benefit from a vast of social benefits, including free healthcare. It should be noted that one can also elect to purchase private health insurance through several different providers. For those who are thinking not only about their career but starting a family, the Estonian government grants one parent 100 percent of their former salary for 18 months in the way of maternity pay. This is available to those who have gained long-term residency after 5 years living and working in Estonia.

Concluding Remarks: Tallinn, Estonia

Tallinn is a city that offers Big 4 professionals the opportunity to advance their career, whilst simultaneously achieving an exceptional standard of living. If you’re committed to a move to Estonia, or simply curious to know more about our clients and the roles available, email info@milburnlewis.com.

info@milburnlewis.com
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