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During my articleship and elsewhere, I had noticed that in Accounting/Tax/Legal etc, people  transitioning from Govt to professional firms, and from professional firms to private sector, faced issues in settling in. The common reasons I noticed was taking a too conservative  approach(asking disclaimers/warranties etc), consistently making unfavorable interpretations and thereby shooting down transactions, and also spending time trying to identify problems rather than solving issues.

All these traits may help in succeeding where one is the policeman(like statutory audit/Govt) but not where one is the trusted internal advisor. After all, firms can well outsource their advice on tax/legal/regulatory matters, to professional firms on a full time basis. But they prefer to have these functions in house hoping that the resultant time savings will make up for the added cost. Also, unlike the audit/Govt sectors where one is dealing in a peer-peer mode, the private sector setup would be that you are one of a select few specialists. with your coworkers having at best part knowledge. So instead of wasting time on elaborate explanations to reduce that information asymmetry gap, be sure to answer the problem from a business perspective, and be brief.

So I would suggest that people in the private sector, should not have the mindset of fault finding/being too conservative. Professional skeptism is essential(thereby safeguarding the employer's reputation) but focusing on cosmetic defects and going into a fault finding mode without setting up systems/solutions to resolve them, is a sure recipe for disaster. When your co workers find that they are spending more time battling with you than with their external advisors/auditors, you can be sure that your appraisal will not make you happy.

For example, suppose a bank sales team approaches its internal lawyers to approve a proposed transactions structure. Exhaustive legal analysis shows that it is a grey area. A professional response would be to give a written opinion full of boilerplate/reasoning basically leaving the decision to the sales team. Or even worse, the lawyers may decide to play safe and veto such doubtful transactions. Instead, they should(in my view) work closely with the sales team to understand the transaction rationale, client needs and then work out a solution which reflects the substance, and which is safely within the white line. This would need going beyond the comfort zone and developing an overall holistic view, but I think the rewards would be worth it.

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(Bharti Airtel)
Category Career   Report

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