Hilary Larkin, Lead Partner and Head of Accounting and Outsourcing Services, talks to InBusiness Magazine for their Autumn 2023 issue.
Hilary Larkin’s career journey since joining Mazars in 2008 has taken her from being an audit trainee in the SME division, where she got a solid grounding in how businesses and financials interplay and then moved into the busy work of insolvency and restructuring in the downturn.
She was appointed as Partner in 2018 and most recently as Lead Partner and Head of Accounting and Outsourcing Services on behalf of Mazars in Ireland. She now leads a growing team of over 50 professionals and assists a wide range of clients including, emerging businesses, established domestic businesses and multinational clients, where there is a strong focus on servicing the needs of foreign direct investment (FDI) companies who are establishing operations in Ireland.
Larkin says her career path has evolved along with Mazars’ growth in Ireland. “When I started back in 2008, the firm had 150 employees. Now we are almost at 750, with plans to grow to 1,000 in the short term. This year alone we grew our headcount by over 100”
It’s a much larger firm to the firm she originally joined, but many of the core values remain the same.
“I chose to train with Mazars because I felt I would get a better and more rounded training in a medium-sized firm. From the outset, I gained exposure to a wide range of interesting assignments on a diverse portfolio of clients and never felt that I was pigeonholed to a specific area. I was very lucky to have had some excellent mentors over the years who were always very supportive and promoted succession. They gave me those opportunities that allowed me to develop into leadership roles, there is a great culture in Mazars in that sense. As a firm, we have worked hard to retain those core values, ensuring our graduates receive varied training and have the opportunity to work closely with and collaborate with senior people who guide them from a learning and development perspective.
“As a female leader, my responsibility is to ensure there are no blocks to female talent reaching their potential within the firm. We are investing significantly in our high-potential female talent pool across all levels, offering global leadership programmes, tailored coaching and mentoring and sponsoring.”
“Every client is different and has different needs,” Larkin says. “That ranges from servicing a certain aspect of their compliance requirements to taking responsibility for their overall finance function.”
Another popular offering is secondment services, which are in high demand at the moment with businesses looking to address talent constraints, be that a maternity or sick leave, or a looming deadline that requires additional resources.
“It is a great opportunity for staff to broaden their skill set, gain fresh perspectives and it supports their developmental journey toward assuming leadership roles,” she emphasises.
Many FDI clients turn to Mazars looking for expertise and support in addressing local compliance requirements, or where they don’t have the resources on the ground to get to grips with it.
“It's a bespoke service offering, which varies client by client, but what they are looking for from us is that we understand their business, that we are flexible in our approach, properly resourced, and that we have talent retention to deliver a continuity of service with a dedicated point of contact,” she says.
Not just numbers
While some may think of accountancy as purely about numbers, Larkin says it is also about building strong relationships with clients, understanding their business and being available to advise and support them through decisions as their business evolves. “It is a people business in every sense. There's the relationship side with the client, but there's also the development, mentoring, scaling and retention of the team because, without a strong delivery team, we are nothing.”
Trust is also hugely important. “Our clients have to be able to trust in our ability to service them, and that we will be at the end of a phone to assist them if they are in difficulty.”
The outsourcing team “works hand in glove with our other departments within Mazars”, in particular, the tax and HR teams, to give FDI clients a full-service offering that includes global mobility, gender pay gap reporting and executive recruitment. They also operate as a fully integrated global team across 95 jurisdictions offering multinational clients one point of contact to coordinate their compliance requirements in every jurisdiction.
Digital solutions is another area that Larkin sees as key to remaining competitive.
“It's moving at such a pace, you really need to be up to speed, keeping abreast of developments that enhance efficiency and ensure compliance. Technology is a huge factor in our business and we have made advancements in that regard and are keeping a close eye on advancements, especially in AI, and its potential applications.”
Clients not only demand best-in-class technology but also IT security. “Given the extent of cyber threats that there are at the moment it means that outsourcing providers with the strongest controls and systems are going to be best placed to secure the work.”
Despite rumblings of global uncertainty, FDI activity in Ireland remains strong with 242 investments through IDA Ireland client companies last year, and 139 already in the first half of this year. “Despite economic challenges in general, FDI activity in Ireland has continued to perform over the last 10 years, with 300,000 people now employed by multinationals.”
Ireland remains an attractive FDI destination and Mazars is one of the largest outsourcing and payroll divisions in the Irish market. “At this stage, we have seen every type of issue that can come up when establishing operations in Ireland and have the in-house expertise to deal with it.”
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