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Athens Conference Roundup

Athens Conference Roundup

In late October, surrounded by the mythical splendour of the Acropolis and historic Syntagma Square, the leading partners of Praxity’s Participant Firms gathered at the majestic Hotel Grande Bretagne in Athens for the 2019 Global Conference. The conference provides priceless opportunities to network and collaborate with Participant firms from across the globe, and learn about cutting edge developments, research and innovative ideas from prestigious speakers.

Praxity Chair Gordon Krater opened the conference with the Chairman’s State of the Globe. He outlined the history of Praxity and its twelve years of operation, highlighting the 107% revenue growth between 2007 and 2019. Gordon also introduced two new Latin American firms joining the Alliance, thanked Ton Tuinier for his service to the board and governing council, and welcomed newly appointed board and council member Herve Helias. Finally, he explained the significance of the Mazars North American Alliance, namely that its existence will not only allow Mazars to market to their non North American Clients better but, more importantly, sequre the Praxity Alliance to an even greater extent.

Motivational speaker Helio Vogas delivered a dynamic knife-juggling, fire-snuffing, telephone book-ripping presentation to inspire the delegates to be bolder and take bigger risks while minimising the potential fallout, rather than play it safe.

George Lagarias presented a timeline of the Greek financial crisis, its causes and recovery, and Chris Skinner spoke about the 120% increase in global fintech funding from 2017 to 2018, and the development of digital banking services.

In an illuminating session on Inclusion and Diversity, Alisha Watkins and Regan Hall from Plante Moran, Effin Logue from DHG and Laurent Choain from Mazars explained the progressive steps their firms have taken to address these areas.

Alisha and Rogan described Plante Moran’s Women in Leadership program, which provides developmental career opportunities and increases the visibility of women leaders. Their African American Staff Resource Group aims to improve retention of African American staff members, and one of its pilot programs, Champion Awareness and Development, has coached over 100 firm leaders on unconscious bias, diverse staff experience, and related supervisory skill building.

Effin outlined DHG’s inclusion and diversity initiatives, with a focus on awareness, advocacy and action. The firm seeks to unite staff through common goals and a shared purpose, engage in difficult conversations to help team members work through their differences, and embrace the unique viewpoints and attributes of individuals.

Laurent highlighted the absence of women in ‘manager of managers’ positions, and that selection at this level is not always subjective. He stressed that quality, progressive female and male role models must be available to help young women advance.

Dr Ayesha Khanna explained how the speed, accuracy and insight of AI can benefit the accounting industry, and that it’s become impossible to innovate effectively or be competitive without working with data and AI. Dr Khanna gave some remarkable examples: IBM saving 300 million through their retention risk program, an AI doctor scoring 81% on Royal College of General Practitioners exam – on-par with human doctors, and banks like HSBC using AI detection to avoid vast money laundering fines.

Delegates were also shown one of the two ICAEW training films – False Assurance and Without Question. The films act out hypothetical business scenarios which help teams discuss difficult issues at a more comfortable distance from their own work. Additionally, they are a very effective training tool for clients and prospects, which Praxity firms were urged to adopt.

As well as a highly informative panel discussion about successful cross firm projects led by Jason Drake, Lars Hausmann and Damian Sutherland, delegates took part in regional meetings to discuss local issues and developments. Praxity executive director Graeme Gordon also organised ‘Know Your Colleagues’ table sessions, so delegates could establish relationships with particular individuals from locations or sectors which were of particular interest to them.

As the conference drew to a close, there was a tantalising preview of next year’s global conference, which will be held in the mesmerising Mississippi city of New Orleans. Affectionately known as ‘The Big Easy’, New Orleans is a fiery fusion of French, Spanish, African and American culture, famed for unforgettable cooking, juicy jazz, and the renowned Mardi Gras carnival. Delegates can drink in the vibrant architecture, lose themselves in the historic French Quarter, or – if they’re feeling brave – sign up for a ghost tour!  We hope to see you there…