Millennial interviews: the senior manager

This week CCH Daily has a chat with Iona Stretton, senior manager in EY’s tax practice, on the challenges she faces when getting individuals to understand the implications of new technologies and her fear of seeing age old, thriving businesses collapse due to them not staying up to date with technological changes

Iona Stretton, 29, joined EY in 2009 as a tax advisor after studying Economics at the University of Bath. In 2014 she was made a manager and has both ACA and CTA credentials.

In January 2017 Iona joined EYX, an internal team focusing on innovation. EYX works with clients and startups to support innovation and create business value using key disruptive technologies such as blockchain, artificial intelligence, augmented reality and robotics.

What made you go into accountancy?

There were three keys things that I wanted out of any career. The first was that I wanted to work with original, engaging and talented people. I also wanted to feel that whatever I did I was making a difference and I wanted to be the best that I could be. My summer internship placement was at EY, which was nine-and-a-half years ago now. As soon as I joined I met some amazing people in really diverse teams and the clients I went out to meet were really fascinating.

I think in summary an accountancy role just got me excited. It is a profession where I always have new challenges and can continue to stretch myself.

What has been the toughest challenge you have faced?

I think it is definitely the role I am in now. EYX focuses around emerging technologies such as blockchain, artificial intelligence etc and what it means for EY as a 150 year old business as well as what it means for our clients. One of the toughest challenges in my role is trying to get people at EY to understand the implications of these technologies.

People at EY have become very successful from getting things right first time so moving to a culture that is more innovative and encourages people to try something new and to fail at it and try again, it is difficult to try and bring them on board. My role focuses on how we move people to this new culture, which is really challenging.

What is your dream role?

I think I am very lucky in that I am probably in my dream role right now. My role is extremely broad in that I go from one end of the spectrum where I have to think about new technologies and how it will affect a business.

For example, if you take a manufacturing business which has traditionally produced goods I have to think about 3D printing and what this mean for the business if its customers all have 3D printers. Will it send them goods or instead will it send its design for customers to then 3D print it in their country. If the business is in a different country what does this then mean from a tax perspective? What are the implications for tax authorities who cannot collect the tax from the border?

At the other end of the spectrum I think about other things such as given robots genders and whether that is right or wrong. For example is it right that Alexa, Amazon’s personal assistant, is associated as a female?

My role is so diverse and it has certainly opened up my mind so I am very lucky.

What is your favourite part of your job?

Meeting so many people, whether it be internal or working with clients. I love hearing about people and what they do. Before I joined EYX I never knew that EY had teams that are looking at using drones within audit or that we have other teams looking at blockchain to verify whether designer bags are authentic.

…and your least favourite?

I am an optimistic person so there are very few things that I dislike. Time and time again we are hearing about established businesses who were in their prime and doing very well but now they are no longer with us because they did not adapt to the change in technology. This is not a dislike but instead one of my fears which leaves me thinking about how we make sure EY adapts and transforms with the times.

What is the most important skill to have?

There are two that I live by. The first is to get involved. If you are interested in something let people know, put your hand up and get involved. It is a common belief that the most senior people in the firm know what they are talking about and are the most up to date and aware. However, more and more often we are seeing that actually people in junior roles have far more awareness of certain things.

The second is to get outside your comfort zone. It is very easy to sit in your comfort zone and do the same thing day in and day out but you are not growing or maximizing your potential.

Are you under 30 years old and in the audit, accountancy or tax industry? Want to be grilled on your role? Get in touch here.

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