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This blog post is written by Federico Giordano, Tax Partner on Secondment from Marchionni & Partners – HLB Italy at Withum.

The HLB International Secondment is temporary work assignments arranged between HLB Member Firms that operate in two different countries.

Many people do not realize that it is possible to explore different career possibilities by temporarily changing roles within the HLB professional network. This is often known as “going on secondment” and is especially prevalent in Multi-National Enterprises (MNEs) where the management is adept at making the best use of the various skills and interests of their key staff.

In the past, Withum has informally sent and received staff among the HLB Member Firms throughout the world. A few years ago, Withum formalized a “Secondment Program” to temporary assign staff to HLB Member Firms to continue to provide its staff with many opportunities to elevate their skills and increase their wins.

What Do You Know about HLB International?

Formed in 1969, HLB International is a world-wide network of independent professional accounting firms and business advisors present in more than 130 countries worldwide. HLB International ranked 13th worldwide among the “Top 20 Networks 2016” published by AccountancyAge (latest combined revenue USD 1,910M) and 11th in Europe among the “2015 Regional Breakdown” published by the International Accounting Bulletin. Withum is an involved member of HLB International.

Why Go on Secondment?

There are various advantages to go on secondment – mainly to improve your career growth by developing your resume and doing networking between professionals of different generations and backgrounds. In addition, to improve your language skills if you decide to move on secondment to a foreign language-speaking country.

It is not about changing jobs completely in order to maximize this sort of opportunity. A secondment program offers professional staff who are content in their current role the chance to try something new in a foreign country, to improve their skills and experience in order to better interact with others.

This is exactly how I see the secondment experience at Withum. I am a tax partner at Marchionni & Partners in Pesaro, an Italian firm with a staff of 35 people, and I provide assistance on international tax matters both for companies and individuals. Staying within Marchionni & Partners is challenging, due to its small size I have to be a multitasking professional able to work individually and as a part of a team and, of course, able to engage and keep clients bringing business.

Moreover, I am a board member at HLB Italy in Milan, an alliance of Italian tax, accounting and legal firms. HLB Italy, with a staff of over 250, with more than 200 professionals and a combined revenue of around EUR 30 million, provides accounting, tax and legal services through its offices in Milan, Rome, Turin, Verona, Florence, Parma and Pesaro. Together with the other board members, we determine the strategic policies and professional standards for the HLB Italy Member Firms and establish the marketing strategies to meet the goals and objectives of the alliance.

I love my job at Marchionni & Partners, but I believe that the move to Withum gave me a unique opportunity to learn about the different working practices, organizational structures and cultures. My secondment is for a period of three months, and is providing me an enormous challenge, both personally and professionally. The “Withum Way” is great and I believe I will gain an important cultural background which might be very important in establishing professional relationships.

A secondment program is a fantastic way to meet people in other areas of practice and with other types of jobs, and find out what they do and what is important to them. It is not easy to stay abroad, out of the familiar surroundings, without support of the close relatives and friends, but an international experience will give you a much more rounded experience so I can recommend it with confidence.

I would like to thank Withum for making my secondment a reality!

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Lonnie BloomThis summer I had the amazing opportunity to work in Perth, Western Australia for four months as a secondee for HLB Mann Judd. My role as senior auditor included planning, conducting and finalizing all aspects of new and reoccurring audits. I also assisted managers with substantive testing and additional procedures necessary to complete their jobs.

Even though I was using new audit software (CaseWare) and worked on clients in a new industry (Exploration & Mining), I felt a sense of similarity when setting up workpapers, documenting analytics and completing long checklists and audit programs. The biggest change for me was getting familiar with the exploration industry and Australian accounting standards. Some interesting facts I noted during my experience were the following:

  • Mining is huge part of Western Australia’s economy. The major commodities include Iron ore, petroleum, gold, alumina, and other various minerals
  • During the mining boom, the mining and the petroleum industry accounted for almost 90 percent of the State’s income from total merchandise exports. In 2009, the industry had a value of $A61 billion. During this time, mining companies held large amounts of cash to pay their employees and on any given mining site, janitors, cooks, and bookkeepers could easily earn over $100k per year
  • Those that have to fly into their mine site are considered Fly in Fly out (FIFO) workers. These miners would fly to their work site for the duration of their roster then fly home when they are off duty. This is typical in the mining industry.
  • The mining industry has been on the decline for the past few years due to unstable resource prices and has caused job cuts and increased unemployment rates. This has also led many companies to seek additional funding and capital raisings to continue their exploration activities
  • An entity is considered a “Mining” company when an exploration and evaluation asset has reached a point when the technical feasibility and commercial viability of extracting a mineral resource are demonstrable. Companies that have not reached this point of technical feasibility but maintain rights to explore the land are considered exploration companies
  • Mostly all of the clients I dealt with were exploration companies listed with the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX). All of my clients were unique but generally had some similar characteristics. Some activities these companies were facing include the following:
    • Revenue – since these exploration companies have yet to “strike gold”, they only reflected minimal revenue (i.e. interest revenue)
    • Capital raisings – exploration companies listed on ASX are selling shares for pennies. It is common to see companies issue millions of shares in order to raise funds which they would use to continue their exploration. Larger companies and wealthy individuals would purchase these shares also in hopes to “strike gold”
    • Large balance sheets – money spent on these exploration sites (tenements) would be capitalized according to the standard, which would be reflected on their balance sheets
    • Impairment – exploration and evaluation assets are assessed for impairment when facts and circumstances suggest that the carrying amount may exceed its recoverable amount. Triggers for impairment include expiration of their rights to explore, substantive expenditure on further exploration is not budgeted or planned, or the entity has decided to discontinue operations since the exploration of specific areas has not led to the discovery of commercially viable quantities of mineral resources. Large impairments were common with my clients
    • Going concern – all exploration clients I dealt with had going concern issues. I grew used to reviewing cash flow forecasts and documenting that the companies would need to seek additional funding in the coming year in order to meet its planned exploration expenditure

Working with new faces and learning the quirks of each manager and partner reviewing your work made things interesting. HLB Mann Judd welcomed me with open arms and made me feel like I’ve been working with the team for years. I am forever grateful for the opportunity and will always remember my experience with a new firm in a foreign country.
The industry was different and the work was challenging at times, but my experience in Australia extends beyond the cubicle walls at HLB Mann Judd, as you will hear about in my next few blog posts.

By Lonnie Bloom, MBA | 609.520.1188 | lbloom@withum.com

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