alliantgroup’s Technology, Legislative & Policy Summit took place June 13th and 14th, 2018 at our Houston headquarters.
During this event, over 100 VIP guests came to hear from renowned experts in the fields of technology, economics, business management and tax policy. From discussions covering everything from business management strategies on how to attract and retain talent to the rising importance of cybersecurity to the latest legislative and policy changes affecting American businesses, a few key themes emerged during the event:
“Our goal as a company when hosting these events is to ensure our CPA and industry partners have the most current information they need to better educate their clients, businesses and associations. I look forward to these events because I am always so impressed by our panelists’ insights and the great discussions we are able to have.” -Dhaval Jadav, alliantgroup CEO
“The cultural change is happening.”
Frank Tirelli, alliantgroup’s Vice Chairman of Professional Services, former Chairman and CEO of Deloitte Italy and former Vice Chairman of Deloitte U.S., stated this simple fact as he addressed the crowd during the summit’s executive roundtable event.
During this discussion on attaining, training and retaining top talent, Tirelli expanded upon the cultural paradigm shift that has occurred within professional services firms, noting that the main priority to ensure their success is the need to inspire and develop the incoming millennial workforce. According to Tirelli, developing a culture of the “best and brightest” starts with structuring your human resources efforts and investing in a corporate culture that fosters career development.
“The best HR strategy in a professional services firm, is a revenue enhancement strategy, and the best strategy you can have is a human resources strategy.” -Frank Tirelli, alliantgroup’s Vice Chairman of Professional Services
According to Tirelli, the “best and brightest” talent is what every single Fortune 1000 firm or company claims to have, but in reality, 80 percent of the talent available have all the necessary pre-requisites to be successful at their jobs. What will differentiate a company from the competition are the concerted efforts pursued by management to develop their professionals into the “best and brightest”.
While Tirelli’s experiences come mainly from the professional services sector, those in attendance noted that the importance of cultural investment spans across industries—and its benefits can be particularly important in attracting, retaining and developing younger professionals who often times are looking at other factors outside of just compensation. According to Tirelli, while expanded corporate perks and benefits are helpful in recruiting talent, the most successful organizations ultimately find and develop their employees by creating an environment to foster their long-term success. This lesson applies universally across all sectors, but is particularly relevant at the moment to STEM-based industries that are competing over a shallow pool of domestic technical talent.
Indeed, many in attendance voiced their struggles regarding the lack of available talent in the current marketplace, specifically within industries that focus on technical labor such as manufacturing and technology. Along with business strategies that will help retain technical professionals, the long-term solution presented from a policy perspective during the roundtable was one of education.
“We now have more open positions for jobs than we have people that are unemployed…The problem is, there is a mismatch. The kids, students, people, who are looking for jobs do not have the expertise for these roles.” -Rick Lazio, Former U.S. Congressman
Exposing children and young adults to a wider variety of career paths that more align with STEM-based careers was a recommended strategy to bolster the ranks of technical professionals, instead of pushing students into more traditional “professional” roles. The growing need for STEM and other technical related roles will continue, and companies will need to learn to adapt their recruiting and human resources strategies to be more palatable to this new generation of professionals.
The advancement of technology, big data and the Internet of Things has had profound socio-economic benefits, ranging from greater connectivity to enhancements that have improved efficiency, productivity and quality of life around the world. However, as highlighted during the event’s cybersecurity panel, technology has advanced at a faster pace than cybersecurity measures—and this development holds potentially severe consequences for both public and private institutions.
During the panel, the first U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security and alliantgroup Chairman of Cybersecurity and Technology Tom Ridge noted that by 2025 there will be an estimated 20 to 25 billion devices hooked into the internet. Every day the world is becoming more interconnected and with increased connectivity and greater reliance on mobile technologies comes additional points of vulnerability—and the potential for greater damage from cyberattacks launched by criminals, nation states and other bad faith actors. This is the new reality of the digital world and both public and private entities (from government agencies and multinational corporations to small and mid-size businesses) must be prepared to place a higher priority on implementing cybersecurity measures within their organizations.
“People spend a lot of time thinking about the promise but they don’t think about the perils associated with the technological tide that unites the global community…The digital sun is never going to set…it is just going to get hotter and hotter, which means we will become progressively more vulnerable.” -Tom Ridge, the First Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security
In fact, small and mid-size companies are often the most vulnerable targets with regard to cyberattacks. During the panel, Chuck Wilson, the Executive Director of NSCA, noted that 68 percent of small businesses experience a cyberattack. According to Abacode Cybersecurity CEO Michael Ferris, 60 to 70 percent of small to mid-size companies that experience a massive security breach are out of business within six months.
Given these startling statistics, the panel stressed the importance of investing in preventative cybersecurity measures and recovery protocols. Along with starting with a cybersecurity assessment, the panel emphasized the importance of implementing company-wide policies that encourage employees, from the C-Suite down, to maintain proper “cyberhygiene” and exercise good judgement.
“You have to manage the risk before it manages you. And the leadership in developing the culture of that risk begins at the top.” -Tom Ridge, the First Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security
On the second day of the summit, former Assistant Secretary for Tax Policy at the U.S. Department of the Treasury Mark Mazur sat down with alliantgroup’s Dean Zerbe and Steven Miller to offer his insight on the passage of last year’s sweeping tax reform bill. During this panel, Mazur referred to the legislation as “the most consequential tax reform” the nation has seen since 1986. However, it terms of evaluating the legislation’s long-term effects, Mazur stated that he felt it was too early to cast any judgement on the bill’s ultimate economic impact. While Mazur estimates the bill will cut taxes for an estimated 80 percent of Americans due to a combination of factors (ranging from corporate and individual rate reductions to the elimination of corporate AMT and the loosening of individual AMT restrictions) it is still to be determined if the legislation will stimulate business investment and economic growth.
“Companies that got a tax cut at the end of 2017, they have not had enough time to do all their investments…It’s too early to tell in terms of the economic benefits.” -Mark Mazur, Former Assistant Secretary for Tax Policy at the U.S. Department of the Treasury
The topic of the tax bill as well as the GOP and the administration’s broader economic policies were key themes discussed throughout the second day of the summit, with former Alabama Governor Bob Riley and former Missouri Governor Kit Bond offering critiques of the tax bill and the administration’s trade policies. While Riley and Bond expressed their support for rate reductions, they voiced their reservations about the bill not being as beneficial to pass-throughs as it is was corporations and expressed their frustration with the bill adding further complexity to the tax code.
“My accountant can’t tell me what I need to do to reduce my tax liability…No one in here can tell me. We don’t know what to invest in.” -Bob Riley, Former Alabama Governor
With regard to trade and the administration’s recent decision to implement steel and aluminum tariffs, former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns joined Riley, Bond and the rest of the panel in critiquing the policy and the administration’s more protectionist slant on trade, noting that the tariffs and the resulting trade war will ultimately have a negative impact on farmers and rural America.
“It really exacts a heavy toll in farm country.” -Mike Johanns, Former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture
In addition to trade and tax policy, alliantgroup’s experts discussed other major policy items such as the timeline for a new Farm Bill, the administration’s policy toward North Korea and the expectations for new IRS regulations that will clarify certain aspects of the tax bill.
To all our industry partners and CPAs for making this event one of our most memorable yet.
Contact us today to learn how you can become a partner.