TEI Roundtable No. 38: The Tax Department of the Future; The more things change (and they definitely are changing), the more things will change some more.

Date01 July 2022

What does the tax department of the future look like? Not easy to predict, right? At the TEI Midyear Conference, we gathered a stellar panel to discuss crucial questions that impact every Institute member. Below is an edited transcript of half of that discussion, but not to worry. You can find the entire edited transcript on our website. The session, moderated by Anthony Sciarra, included these participants: Louis Mestier, Wayne Monfries, Natalie Santiago, Jenn Bowers, and Sunil Pandita.

Introduction to Roundtable Discussion

Anthony Sciarra: Good morning, everyone. I hope that you've had a wonderful couple days here at TEI. Before we get started, I just want to take a quick second to thank all the TEI staff and leaders for all the hard work and effort that goes into pulling this together. As a former in-house tax leader, the resources and the collaboration that come out of these conferences is just tremendous. So, thank you to all the TEI staff and leaders for the effort. My name is Anthony Sciarra. I'm a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers, and my practice focuses on tax department operations, whether that's people, process, or technology. I'm here today to moderate what I think is going to be just a phenomenal panel. We've got great representation from the lens of in-house tax leaders. We've got great representation from the lens of executive tax recruitment as well as from a technology perspective. What we hope to do today is really give an update. Where do we stand? What are we seeing? How are our organizations differing in how we're approaching return-to-work? How is technology playing a role, not only in our staff that we have in our operations today, but in how we recruit and who we recruit? With that, I'll turn it over to our panel to do some quick introductions.

Louis Mestier: Louis Mestier, senior director of tax for Cook Inlet Region Inc. Been a member of TEI for over twenty years, and we have completed the TEI Corporate Tax Department survey, so I'm going to serve as a resource for that on the panel.

Wayne Monfries: I'm Wayne Monfries, the global head of tax for Visa. I'm also the senior vice president for TEI and happy to be on this panel to provide context for the tax department of the future. I noted that none of the men are wearing ties on here, because the tax department of the future, on return to work, is no ties [laughter].

Mestier: That's right.

Monfries: We're just not going to wear it anymore.

Sciarra: There was a real question this morning when I woke up, whether I put jeans and a jacket on, or an actual suit.

Monfries: Wearing a tie in this panel would probably be against everything we're going to talk about [laughter].

Natalie Santiago: I'm Natalie Santiago. I work on the team at TaxSearch. We're the largest executive retained search firm in the country that works exclusively in tax. I've been working in that space for about seven years now. Excited to be here.

Jenn Bowers: I'm Jenn Bowers. I work for Fortive Corporation, which is based outside of Seattle, Washington. I've been a member of TEI for something less than twenty years--maybe like five. But I'm telling lies; it's more than five. Also, happy to be here.

Sunil Pandita: Hi, everyone. My name is Sunil Pandita. I'm the president of the corporates division for Thomson Reuters. As you all know--you all are our customers--we serve the Big Four, but we also serve every corporation in the world from direct tax, from indirect tax, property tax, transfer pricing, you name it. I am the newbie on this panel; this is my first TEI ever. So, I'm excited. Last couple of days have been a lot of fun. Thank you for your partnership and your insights.

What's Changed?

Sciarra: Just to give you a little behind-the-scenes view on how we prepped for this panel, every time we tried to talk about the agenda, we just talked about all the issues for an hour. So, we've sort of done this conversation a number of times, and every single time, it's gone in a different direction. What we're hoping here is to take the cover off on really what's top of mind. But what's top of mind for this panel is not top of mind for everything. So, if you're thinking of something that we're not talking about, please do come up to the microphone and let us know so we can address it and have that conversation. Why don't we get right into it--Jennifer, how has your function changed? How has your view on running your function changed, whether that's retention, recruiting, training, all of the above?

Bowers: A lot of things have changed. I took my role as head of tax just before the pandemic started. So, I had this opportunity where I needed to present myself as a leader to the team. At the same time, I couldn't see any of them together in person. Then, also reorganizing my team--I waited until last summer to do that because I got my bearings with the team before changing the team organization. One of the things I wanted to do in my new role was to have more frequent touchpoints with the team, which is dispersed globally. So, I was going to travel more, but that didn't happen. Instead, we set a cadence of a virtual meeting with the global team twice a month; we reduced that to once a month as time went on. I also created touchpoints with different leadership teams within my organization. We ended up with an opportunity to connect and figure out what everyone is doing and plan together. It unified the team in a neat way. So, I was brought in [to lead] and at the same time we ended up changing how we work together from a virtual perspective. Overall, as we are coming out of this, we're bringing back those elements of in-person collaboration--which I still think are important for an organization. You get more creativity when you're together in the room versus all the work we tried to do virtually. It was OK, but it's better in person.

Sciarra: Wayne, from your perspective: We talked a bit about the in-person meetings, but you had some interesting tidbits to share on strategy around making the whole experience as inclusive as possible also.

Monfries: Yeah. I think that we've learned that being virtual does work. I started my job at Visa in the pandemic. For two years, I've been virtual, and I haven't really met many of my team or many of my colleagues at the company. What I've learned is, we used to have these global meetings, and you'd have five people in a conference room, and one or two people on the phone or on video, and the people on the video never felt like they were as invested in the meeting as others. So now we've learned that being on camera and everybody's the same size box, everyone feels invested in the meeting. So, for my global meetings, I'm going to continue to have them virtually even when we happen to be in the office. We'll just sit at our desk and do it rather than have five people in a room and two people on video, because we want to retain that ability of inclusion and people feeling like they are being heard equally as someone sitting in the room.

Mestier: What you're talking about is technology here, right? And so, to cite the [TEI Corporate Tax Department Survey], six in ten respondents say their company implemented some new...

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