On Leaders’ Insights this week, Eileen Devereux of Taxback.com reminds us that embracing change is the only way forward in the finance industry.
Eileen Devereux is the commercial director at Taxback.com, a company she has been with for more than a decade.
Devereux has a demonstrated history of working in the financial services industry at home and abroad. A qualified sales professional, she is skilled in the areas of sales, partner management, customer relationship management and market research.
She holds a bachelor’s degree in business focused on economics and finance from the University of Limerick.
‘I am passionate about identifying strategies and finding pathways for growth that maximise mutual goals and win-wins’
– EILEEN DEVEREUX
Describe your role and what you do.
I’m the commercial director of Taxback.com. We are an Irish-based company dedicated to helping customers file fully compliant returns and secure refunds on any overpaid tax, at home or overseas.
On a day-to-day basis, I’m involved in a variety of functions, from projects spanning new product launches, service efficiencies and front- and back-end development, to client and customer relations and management. Having worked in commercial sales and client relations for more than 10 years, I am passionate about identifying strategies and finding pathways for growth that maximise mutual goals and win-wins.
How do you prioritise and organise your working life?
With offices across the globe and direct reports in Australia, the US, Peru and the EU, I think agenda-setting is crucial when you are meeting people all day. I set my daily goals and, where possible, stick to a timeline that will allow me to hit all those marks.
I travel a lot and I think this fosters good organisation skills. I’ve learned how to use my commutes to my advantage – so, if I’m waiting in a departure lounge for my delayed flight to take off, I’ll always use the lag time as an opportunity to get work done. On a daily basis, my morning and evening commutes are used to clear my inbox.
What are the biggest challenges facing your sector and how are you tackling them?
Over the years, the philosophy that ‘challenges are opportunities’ has rubbed off on me. For me, the key challenge is ensuring that our business continuously meets clients’ service expectations. People nowadays are typically time-poor, which means our end-to-end client experience needs to be as lean as possible.
Since joining Taxback.com in 2008, our client processes have changed exponentially from what was a heavily paper-based solution, to what is now a fully digitised solution. We invest heavily in client feedback to ensure the business is constantly aware of trends that are developing on a market-by-market, or service-by-service, level.
Aside from continuously changing consumer trends, we are also faced with staying abreast of taxation policies in all the markets we operate in, ensuring our teams and software are, at all times, up to date with all jurisdictional polices, and that business planning is mindful of same. The rise of the sharing and gig economies over recent years is a good example of this. The growth of platforms such as Airbnb, Deliveroo, Uber etc, has opened the floodgates for start-ups in every area of life, from car- and park-sharing platforms such as GoCar and Parkpnp, to crowdfunding and peer-to-peer lenders such as LinkedFinance.
It’s opened up a whole new economy in Ireland, and a new market for us by proxy, in which a large number of PAYE workers who are now earning a sideline income have an immediate tax-filing obligation.
What are the key sector opportunities you’re capitalising on?
The main focus for our business at the moment is the expansion of Sprintax.com, our specialist US self-prep solution for non-resident aliens. Sprintax was initially launched to assist international students and scholars studying in the US. The software allows non-resident aliens to complete their federal and state tax returns. We are currently in the launch phase of a complementary software called TDS (Tax Determination Software), which will support universities with tax withholding calculations for scholarships and other income.
Here in Ireland, we are working closely with sharing-economy operators, health insurers and private landlords.
What set you on the road to where you are now?
When it came to crunch time to fill in my CAO many moons ago, I was unsure what career path I wanted, so I opted to keep my options open and pursued a business degree.
After four years in University of Limerick, I secured a role with Taxback.com in Kilkenny, which very quickly saw me transferring to Australia. The experience and exposure I gained in my early days with Taxback.com cemented the pathway to where I am today.
My time spent working in business development in Australia was very formative. I was fortunate to be given the autonomy to manage the region and I learned a different way of doing things, within a new business culture and environment.
What was your biggest mistake and what did you learn from it?
I don’t believe there are really any true mistakes – just times where we take alternating approaches and realise perhaps that one works better for a particular situation than another.
‘I think it is fair to say that none of us gravitate towards change but if there is one constant in business and life, it is change’
– EILEEN DEVEREUX
I have learned that effective delegation and communication are paramount. I am blessed to work with a fantastic team of individuals across all functions. Over the years, I have learned that communicating the bigger picture to all team members results in an empowered and motivated team that all pull in the same direction.
How do you get the best out of your team?
I would say that the best way is to lead is by example. If I can show up every day and give it my best, I hope it will encourage my team to do the same. Communication, again, is central, and I do believe that working towards facilitating an environment where ideas, issues and challenges can be heard is vital.
STEM sectors receive a lot of criticism for a lack of diversity in terms of gender, ethnicity and other demographics. Have you noticed a diversity problem in your sector? What are your thoughts on this and what’s needed to be more inclusive?
There has long been a gender and diversity imbalance within the business world as a whole; however, I’m very proud to say that I work in a company where the number of females in senior roles outweighs the males.
The Taxback Group constantly advocates for diversity within teams, regardless of gender, ethnicity or other demographics. Here, all staff are championed and encouraged to be their very best. Taxback Group has been a Great Place to Work (GPTW) for the past number of years and is heavily invested in the external culture audits run by GPTW annually, as they provide staff with a confidential channel to feed back to the business.
Who is your role model and why?
As clichéd as it may seem, my role models would have to be my parents. Being reared on a farm from a very young age, I was used to doing my fair share of work around the house and the farm. Once I hit my teens, I was sent off on my bicycle to work minding local kids, working in kitchens and restaurants and, throughout college, behind the bar in the local pub.
All of this instilled a strong work ethic in me, for which I am very grateful to my parents. I believe that this exposure at a young age to service industries and client-facing roles has giving me the skills to succeed in my career.
What books have you read that you would recommend?
I recently reread Who Moved My Cheese. I think it is fair to say that none of us gravitate towards change but if there is one constant in business and life, it is change. Our business is constantly evolving, be it through technology, external factors, resourcing or market trends. There are always changes in business and I think Who Moved My Cheese is a classic, quick read that help us keep a positive mindset towards change, and to remind us to anticipate and embrace change as much as possible, as it always coming.
What are the essential tools and resources that get you through the working week?
Personally and professionally, I like to structure my week. Having a clear set of objectives allows me stay on top of each area of the business (and life). Where possible, I schedule meetings and/or calls with my team early in the week, in which we regroup on the past week and set a clear set of goals for the coming one.
A couple of days a week, I’ll try to either get to the gym prior work or plan for a Bikram yoga session en route home to recharge. Lots of coffee helps, too!
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