What does it mean to “make it” in the world of tax? And what skills, attitudes and opportunities make learners into leaders in the tax profession?
At our Women in Tax National Conference 2019, we caught up with Tax Institute member and former Managing Director of Greenwoods & Herbert Smith Freehills, Tony Frost, to talk about his career in tax and how young professionals could build a strong, meaningful tax career.
A Tax Lawyer and Chartered Accountant, Tony began his career in 1984 as a Tax Graduate and later Tax Manager with PwC. From there, he spent five years taking responsibility for Westpac’s Australian income tax affairs, before returning to PwC as a Tax Partner in 1996.
In 2003, he joined Greenwoods & Herbert Smith Freehills (then Greenwoods & Freehills) as Managing Director, a time Tony considers the highlight of his tax career.
“My biggest achievement in my tax career was being the Managing Director of Greenwood's and Herbert Smith Freehills for seven years. That was an awesome responsibility and a lot of fun every day,” he told us.
Over his 34 year career, Tony has advised clients on tax matters from innovative financial products, to structured finance, mergers and acquisitions, cross border dealings, transfer pricing and tax audits. He has worked with Treasury, the ATO, and the Board of Taxation on tax reform and tax-related submissions.
A career supercharge: the Chartered Tax Adviser (CTA) designation
Tony has also been a valued and active member of The Tax Institute since 1988, volunteering his time and expertise to speak at various events and contribute to our leading professional journal, The Tax Specialist.
Tony gained an internationally recognised Chartered Tax Adviser designation through The Tax Institute in 2012.
“I became a CTA quite late in my career when, as soon as the Tax Institute came up with it, I registered for the designation straight away,” Tony explained.
“It's the premier body. Having been a member for so long, it was clear I wanted to have that CTA designation as soon as possible.”
The Tax Institute is the only body in Australia qualified to award the Chartered Tax Adviser accreditation. The qualification is offered through a tiered structure. To start the program, you must have 6 years of high school instruction in English (or meet English language requirements) and to qualify for the CTA designation, you must have at least 36 months of professional experience. That means any tax professional can enrol and ultimately achieve the designation – whether they are launching their career, or cementing a long-standing position, like Tony.
“I would certainly recommend the CTA designation to any tax advisor. The Tax Institute is the premier body in the tax field in Australia, and the CTA designation is the premier designation the Tax Institute offers, so that's what you want to have.”
He may have attained the CTA designation later in his career, but Tony certainly made a splash once he arrived. In 2016, Tony was a finalist in the Chartered Tax Adviser of the Year category of our annual Tax Adviser of the Year Awards.
“A few years ago now, in a headstrong moment, I decided to enter the Tax Adviser of the Year Awards. I got down to the final three, the event was held in Melbourne… it was a great night, and I'd certainly encourage any tax professional to think about the Tax Adviser of the Year Awards.”
Skills for a changing world
According to Tony, while a changing world means a whole new skillset for tax professionals, including soft skills like emotional intelligence, at the end of the day, technical competence is still the basis of any successful career.
“Everything starts with technical capacity for a tax advisor, and the Tax Institute has got a marvellous range of CPD products and training programs. I've been speaking at the Tax Institute and writing papers for more than 25 years and been a huge supporter of the Tax Institute's CPD program.”
In fact, Tony has authored or co-authored at least 40 journal articles, seminar and convention papers in his time as a member of The Tax Institute, with titles such as Capital management of financial institutions and the related tax issues and Trading one uncertainty for another? Ten years’ experience with the debt-equity rules. He has also presented at events including the 2017 Financial Services Taxation Conference and the 28th National Convention.
For Tony, his experience as a speaker at Tax Institute events has shone a light on one of the most important aspects of such professional development events: delivering practical tips and tricks to the attendees.
“Every conference or event I went to, there was always something I could take away and use in my practice,” he said.
The value of networking for young tax professionals
Technical skills and up-to-date tax knowledge is a must for any tax practitioner – but it’s not the be all and end all of a successful practice, or career. Tony, with a tax career spanning over three decades, knows the value of being part of a tax community. And that all starts with networking.
“Networking is not business development, it's not selling. It's getting out there knowing people for future mutual benefit,” he said.
“There's nothing better than the Tax Institute events in terms of networking, getting to know potential clients, and also your competitors. You want to have good relationships with as many people as possible.”
If networking opportunities haven’t been on your radar, or you have told yourself it’s too early in your career to get serious about building networks, you may want to think again. According to Tony, during his time as Managing Director of Greenwood's and Herbert Smith Freehills, both directors and staff members regularly attended professional development events.
“An important tip for people in my previous position and heads of tax and corporates is to make sure that you spread it around and try and find the best people to attend particular events,” Tony advised.
“People notice if the same people are being sent to the events, and people who have got specializations could be sent to particular events. So, share it around and support the Tax Institute. There are great events for anyone on your team to attend.”
“We encouraged some of our junior members of staff at Greenwood's to go into the zero to five years category,” Tony said.And that doesn’t just apply to learning events. It’s never too early to start making a name for yourself among your peers and the Tax Adviser of the Year Awards are open to tax professionals across the spectrum.
They're a marvellous way of energizing people and acknowledging people's expertise.”
Where is Tony Frost now?
Although he finished his tax career at the end of 2018, the positive attitude towards lifelong learning and improvement is alive and well in Tony. When we spoke to him in 2019, he was back at university completing a Master of Science in Coaching Psychology.
Today, he is Principal at Frost Leadership Consulting, where he offers executive coaching, mentoring, training and consulting services to help leaders achieve their potential during career advancement and transition.
Looking to grow your career in tax? Enrolments for our CTA Program are now open. Put yourself on a course towards excellence, resilience, and distinction in your field. Enrol today.