Over the two days of 14-15 May 2020, Russell Bedford International held its first ever Web Conference. More than 200 representatives of Russell Bedford member firms from almost 60 countries joined the conference, which was dedicated to International Tax & Business Development, with all global regions represented.
Global Chair of Russell Bedford, Bruce Saward, opened the conference with a powerful message of support and encouragement to members around the globe, with a reminder that despite ongoing difficulties, the core of the Russell Bedford network is being tested and with incredible success. The network’s very existence is built on a need for members to connect, share knowledge and offer their mutual clients comprehensive global services, seamlessly - that core value system could not be any stronger today.
He said: "We are all involved in the writing of history, people will look back at this time and learn from our experiences. Accountancy is considered a numbers business, but the reality is we’re actually in a people business, and every day we get to journey with our clients and help them navigate the challenges of business; whether it’s tax, regulation, compliance or key life issues – what a privilege that is.”
Day one of the conference welcomed guest speaker, Ed Frank, CEO of Axis Innovation, a global innovation platform connecting corporations and investors with tech start-ups. In his session, Ed discussed innovation as a service, the pace at which technology adoption is accelerating and how to prepare for change.
From the School of Transnational Governance of the European University Institute, Dr.Tatiana Falcão, was our second speaker of the day. With over 10 years of experience in international taxation and policy development, she shared her vast knowledge in her session, ‘Taxing the digital economy: challenges and proposals for reform’. Tatiana discussed the history of BEPS, the unified approach and the impending surge of unilateral digital services taxes.
The first day of the conference concluded with an open forum discussion led by CEO of Russell Bedford, Stephen Hamlet, where members were encouraged to discuss how they were tackling issues in respect of COVID-19, the effects on their practices and the businesses of their clients, and how the accounting profession is positively dealing with such challenges.
Director of Primondell Ltd., an investment management company based in London, Jeremy Mindell, opened the second day of the conference with a session on current international tax issues. An expert in his field, Jeremy lectures in direct taxation, specialising in employment taxation, share schemes and international tax. Jeremy shared guidance on OECD in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic and delivered updates on Digital Services Tax and the EU directive DAC6 on cross-border tax arrangements.
The final guest speaker of the conference was Dr. Sharon Abrahams, a talent development expert who helps professionals and firms improve their performance, productivity, and profitability. Sharon shared her invaluable knowledge on the very topical subject of ‘Emotional Intelligence: The key to building client and colleague relationships’. Sharon shared how emotional intelligence has been proven to be more important than IQ when it comes to greater leadership. She concluded her session with some practical advice on how to acknowledge emotions, which in turn can help us to communicate more effectively.
The conference concluded with a ‘Happy Hour’ networking session that allowed members to connect with their friends and colleagues and have a more informal discussion on their own personal experiences over the past few months.
Stephen Hamlet, Russell Bedford CEO commented: "After what has been a challenging few months for everyone, we wanted to give something back to our members. What started as a simple idea with the intention of replacing a postponed conference, somehow snowballed into one of the most special events we have hosted. Honestly, I can’t give enough credit to our members from all regions, across different time zones, and who participated with such enthusiasm, sincere care and concern. Our members consistently come together to learn, share knowledge and encourage each other, despite the immense individual pressures they are experiencing themselves.”
He added: "What the current crisis has shown us is that yes, there are difficulties to be overcome; however, by moving through this process we seem to be exposing new realisations and discovering new opportunities. In effect, we are growing through this process. And so; we may emerge from this period slightly windswept, but we will have learned so much about ourselves, our colleagues and the new ways that we can shape businesses for future success.”