Head of Global Mobility UK at Deloitte
Louise Worbey is the Head of Global Mobility UK at Deloitte, a multinational professional services network, one of the "Big Four" accounting organizations and the largest professional services network in the world by revenue and number of professionals. Worbey is responsible for managing the day to day movement of Deloitte assignees inbound and outbound for the UK as well as advising the business in relation to assignments, global mobility, client project workers, International Permanent Transfers and all things related to strategic use of global mobility.
In this in-depth interview, Louise discusses her career and how she got into the industry via tax; explains that this is a period of transition for her as she starts a new role at KPMG; stresses the importance of keeping a sense of perspective; tells that the role of mobility in the Big Four organizations has changed tremendously because of technology; and admits that moving is emotional issue that you need to have that point of contact within mobility to help you navigate.
Brian Friedman: Hello and welcome to The View from the Top podcast, brought to you by Benivo. My name is Brian Friedman and I am the strategy director at Benivo, the world's leading welcome as a service mobility tech company. Today's guest on The View from the Top is Louise Worbey. Louise is currently the Head of Global Mobility for Deloitte UK. I say currently because Louise is moving on and will be starting a new role at KPMG in just a couple of months. Like many others in the global mobility profession, Louise got into the industry via tax. She started her career as a tax consultant with PWC before moving to KPMG, but Louise has actually spent the vast majority of her career at Deloitte. Firstly as client-facing senior tax manager but laterally in an in-house role as UK Head of Global Mobility. Having worked both as a client-facing mobility tax professional and in her current in-house role, Louise has a unique and in-depth understanding as to how professional services firms operate globally and will hopefully share some of her perspectives with us today. So, Louise, we're delighted to welcome you to The View from the Top and many congratulations on your impressive achievements and your career to date.
Louise Worbey: Thank you very much, Brian.
Brian Friedman: So, Louise, great having you here. Let's just start off, obviously it's a period of transition for you, but could you tell us a little bit about yourself, your current role, and indeed your new role at KPMG?
Louise Worbey: Sure, well as you say, I'm currently Head of Mobility for Deloitte in the UK, so that's taking overall responsibility for the relocation of Deloitte UK staff and partners as well as supporting our other Deloitte member firms who send their employees and partners to the UK for a host of reasons. It's a role I've had now since late 2012. And the remit of that team has grown tremendously in that period of time. As you say, it is a period of transition for me. I've been growing the team, developed, and decided that now is the time for me to take up a new challenge, so my new role at KPMG is actually working for KPMG International, so it's more a global perspective rather than a UK-centered perspective and less operational. So I'm looking forward to the challenges that will provide and having an insight into the world of KPMG mobility after spending so long at Deloitte.
Brian Friedman: You started your career at some point, early in your career, you were at KPMG, so it could be like going home in some ways.
Louise Worbey: I had a very brief year at KPMG between when I qualified and when I started at Deloitte, but actually left primarily because I was getting married and the commute was a little bit too far, it was KPMG in one of the region offices. So it will be very intriguing for me to see how the firm has changed and evolved in the last 20 years.
Brian Friedman: And how do you see the difference, obviously you've worked both sides as a tax consultant at various firms and in the in-house role, what do you see as being the difference between the consultant and having an in-house role, especially within a large professional services firm?
Louise Worbey: The main difference has actually come down to things like structure. We are a member firm organization, we are a partnership, and that brings specific challenges, that when you're working with clients who are more of a corporate entity, it creates a real differential. The professional services world is very much the client is critical, the client is everything, understandably, and that puts a particular lens and focus on the way that you deliver services. Now the ideal approach for any professional services firm should always be that their internal account absolutely embodies the best global mobility because that's the world mobility and the advisory services that you want to sell to your clients, so the two should work really closely in harmony. And I've seen, across the years, how mobility has gained prominence in both the client-facing and an internal aspect within all the Big Four.
Brian Friedman: And I suppose that in your world, the professional services firm, obviously everything's charged by the hour, in some cases maybe even by the minute, and therefore, it's really vital that assignees get on the ground running as soon as possible and they're not wastinga lot of time, good chargeable time. What do you do to make sure that when people move, either the junior levels or, indeed, the partner level, that they are up and running in their new environment as swiftly as possible?
Louise Worbey: I think it's critical to really understand the driver behind the move and the expectations beforehand because although, you're absolutely right, speed to deployment is often critical for our project work population, if we are relocating, perhaps, a senior partner for client reasons, market development, then actually, the real critical point is more the success and you don't want to necessarily be rushed and getting them embedded, getting the family set up, better to have that longer term successful return on investment for that assignment. So, whilst it is important, we look at all aspects from how we can partner with our vendors in relocation to ensure that they have pre-assignment visits, time is maximized to really be efficient use of their day. It very much does depend on the driver behind the move, but you're right, we have to consider the time and cost factors throughout.
Brian Friedman: Perfect. And what made you decide to move from the client-facing role to an in-house role? How did that move come about?
Louise Worbey: For me it was a couple of factors. I think I'd reached a point in my career where I'd been out for various periods of time on maternity leave, I'd had a short six-month assignment myself, which gave me a very different perspective, but also I got to a stage with tax work that, there's only so many filing deadlines you want to put yourself through, there's only so much growth and potential before you're looking for the next challenge. And I was always very curious when I did that with our assignees on the client-facing side, about the overall mobility experience, the end-to-end side of things, rather than just the pure tax perspective. So the opportunity to move into the internal role and see absolutely everything from candidate selection, planning, pre-assignments, immigration, relocation, the complete end-to-end and how that links with talent, leadership, succession planning.
Brian Friedman: Okay, tell me, you must have met a lot of people in your career, both on the client side and within the organizations you work for, and indeed, earlier in your life, in terms of teachers and educators. But who is it that has inspired you in your career and in particular, what lessons did they teach you?
Louise Worbey: I think going back to my early years, as you say, teachers and educators, I have a particular recollection of a very inspirational headmaster in my primary school days where he was very much a great advocate for the benefits of education and what education andhard work could bring you, which was definitely something that was being echoed to me in my environment at home. I think I've also been very lucky that from the very start of my career, even at PwC, I saw a number of what I would call strong female role models. We all know that gender is a key issue, that the balance is a topic of conversation, and rightly so. But for being, I guess, an impressionable fresh face new graduate into the Big Four for the first time, some of those very strong female partners were very inspirational in their outlook and their approach. Most of that continues to this day with some of the partners, particularly the female partners that I have worked with and have the privilege of working with at Deloitte. They've taught me a whole variety of things that helped shape how I approach what I do on a day-to-day basis.
Brian Friedman: And you, in turn, what lessons would you pass on to people who are sort of contemplating a career in mobility today?
Louise Worbey:I think one of the key things I would say is keep a sense of perspective, which may sound rather common sense, but if I look back at the times in my career where I have regrets or where I think that I should have taken a different direction, it's usually been at a point where I'd lost perspective. On our team, on the worst of our days, where something's happened,someone's been very challenging or days when things just aren't coming together, we try and convince each other you have to keep perspective because mobility is so emotive and you can't view it as just another person, just another case, just another move, because it's not for the individual, what they're going through and what they're experiencing is something very unique. But, without understanding the importance to the individual, what is the worst that can happen? Mobility is very, very rarely a kind of life or death situation and by keeping a sense of perspective, it really does help to focus the mind, help with your own stress levels and work/life balance and see where you're adding value, what you're doing. So I think it is something throughout my career that there are times I've needed to just stop, regroup, think, and get perspective to clear my thinking. I would also say that if you're luckily in a position where you can put a team together, I would actively seek out different personalities and blends and dynamics to bring to the team for a fresh perspective. I had a fairly senior hire into my team, an individual who was fantastic for the role, but I was just not convinced of how we could work together, totally opposing styles, totally different personalities, it actually turned into one of the best working relationships I've had. We complemented each other at work brilliantly, and it's a friendship that continues to this day.
Brian Friedman: Oh, that's excellent. and, well in particular I'm hearing perspective, and also, surround yourself with people who you can work with even if their styles are different. So what would you say the biggest change is you've seen, over your career, from the way the firm is organized or the way that we're doing the work or the things that your assignees wish for, demand, use of technology, et cetera, what would you say are the biggest things that you've seen?
Louise Worbey: Well I think technology is actually a key issue, a key comment. The role of mobility in the Big Four organizations has changed tremendously. Technology's changed how we do business, what our clients expect of us, and mobility as a function has to evolve. Our day-to-day remit now is seeing individuals who are empowered by technology to work more remotely, to work more agilely, and that's often at odds with the compliance landscape, which has gotten more and more complicated. So, mobility is having to put its arms around areas of the business we've not traditionally been associated with. And we're doing more commuter type arrangements, more short-term moves, rather than the traditional long-term tax equalized moves that were there at the beginning. So technology has played a role in that, but I think we're probably not even close to the tip of the iceberg of where technology's gonna take us next.
Brian Friedman: Yeah, hear to that, and certainly everything we hear about, AI and virtual reality and robotics and things like that, just tells us the world's gonna be very different in a few years time. Let's move on from technology to start to amount people. We hear a lot about next-geners, millennials, who are increasingly beginning to dominate the workforce, what would you say is the main difference, if anything, between today's new starters and your generation, earlier generations?
Louise Worbey: That's challenging. I think there's also a lot of different perceptions about millennials, those who are currently coming into the workforce and what they want and there's been numerous studies on it. We have to spend time really sitting down and talking to graduates, to those who are newly qualified, and find out exactly what they want, what they see as their future. The image we have of the young generation who are ready to take on any global experience that comes to mind, to build a career portfolio that shows on a CV exactly all the global experience they've had, it's true for a percentage, but not something that we've seen across the board. Interestingly, when we held some focus groups, one of the findings that I find most surprising was how highly our groups of younger starters were discussing pensions. And that was because their parents drilled into them that, look it's all very well being global and taking opportunities and moving from company to company and realizing what you want, you need to think about planning for the future. I think there are a lot of perceptions out there about what these individuals are like. You need to get under their skin a bit, absolutely, it is changing. But, again, as we say, the commuting arrangements, the short-term assignments, the mobility experiences, they're always fostering a global mindset, which you can use, you can leverage and you can develop your career with whether you're a junior or senior level.
Brian Friedman: You used the word experiences there, and I appreciate the word can be used in different context and certainly many young people certainly want to experience another culture as part of their career, but everyone is talking about experience. People talk about customer experience, they talk about employee experience, and increasingly people talking about assignee experience, what do you do or what would you like to do to maximize or to enhance the assignee experience?
Louise Worbey: I think I'm probably a bit of a traditionalist on this one in that I really do come back to the point that moving is emotional, whether you're doing it for the first time as a young fellow professional, or you're doing it for the third or fourth time with a family, it's such an emotional issue that you need to have that point of contact within mobility, that person you can go to, and help you navigate through. Or, even if you're someone that likes the self-serve mentality and approach of dealing with things, someone that can at least get you started in the right direction. The experience journey for many people involves significant hands getting involved, whether it is your communication vendors, your HR teams, the partners you're reporting to on a day-to-day basis, mobility, immigration, there are so many people and that holy grail of having a single point of contact, I think, is incredibly difficult. We still use the phrase, again, single point of coordination for mobility. But, again, having that one person, rather than having everything completely tech-enabled to ask those questions or to highlight those issues as things you may not have thought about, I think is still very important. I think technology coming on, we see it as an enabler. I can see it having significant benefits but I really still fundamentally believe that to get the best experience for an assignee, you need to have those people to people interactions, you need to build those trusting relationships.
Brian Friedman: Absolutely. It was interesting, I was talking to somebody on one of these earlier podcasts and he said he saw their mission to the moving company, or relocation management company rather, their mission was to deliver joy. And the idea being that it is such an emotional time for people, when they're moving across borders, but you're just trying to make them just a little bit happier as you do it.
Louise Worbey: Absolutely. I think the idea of almost take a ticket, and pass it all through a technological process, it's not what most individuals want, but again, we can't expect a one-size-fits-all, we have to adapt to those who would perhaps, again, the younger professionals who may prefer a self-serve idea, but they still want to know that there's somebody there they can speak to if they need to.
Brian Friedman: Absolutely. And obviously there's more budget for some levels of moves than others.
Louise Worbey: Yes.
Brian Friedman: So let's move on. Let's talk a little bit about politics, if I may. We're in a time of arising populism and we're beginning to see a real conflict with populism and globalization. I think many of us grew up in an era where globalization was seen as both inevitable and a good thing, it made the world wealthier. And people talked about off-shoring work to wherever, India, Philippines, Eastern Europe, and that's sort of the way the world was going. But obviously we then had other people saying well, whilst globalization might make the world a wealthier place, it's not making me, personally, wealthier and my job's being taken by somebody from outside my country. As a result of that, we've had things like the rise of populism in the United States and the United Kingdom and other countries, France, Germany, Spain, many other countries. How do you see this impacting your world, the world where maybe more and more borders are being put up to stopping globalization in terms of tougher immigration controls, political pressure maybe to globalize less rather than more, is that having any impact on the world that you're living in, being at least the intersect between your nation being populist and your corporation being globalist?
Louise Worbey: It's definitely a challenge. I've seen, over the course of my career, particularly around the immigration space, as you say, the complexities, the various locations that have tried to apply immigration rules to protect local labor to clearly identify immigration to be used for specific skillsets or levels. That is probably going to continue, certainly in the short-term. And dare I use the word Brexit, the complexity that could come from the immigration landscape post-Brexit will be significant. So from a mobility perspective, there's the route that says mobility will continue as it is, but it will become far more complex and costly to transact. Or the philosophy that the flip side of it will be less of those traditional moves, less of the long-term moves and using technology for remote-working, agile-working, off-shoring, robotics, shared services, it's a difficult balancing act. And I think it comes down to the culture of the organization you're working in, how you're going to adapt and respond to that. There are corporates who, again, their clients expect them to be there, their customers, their shareholders expect them to deliver work in a particular way. Mobility will always be there to serve the overall business of the organization, that will be driven by what the leadership ultimately want.
Brian Friedman: Right and you touched upon artificial intelligence and robotics. Do you have any sort of thoughts about how, specifically how that might come in and start impacting our world?
Louise Worbey: My experience with that is certainly limited, in all honesty, Brian, but I have seen it already in operation in terms of the functionality of responses to HR help lines, even mobility FAQs, trying to keep individuals in different time zones connected. It's an area that is massive and I know there's far more to explore. It's not something that I've had the opportunity to get very hands-on with yet, but I am looking forward to the opportunity to do that in the future.
Brian Friedman: Okay. And let's talk, obviously you look after quite a substantial population of moves each year, in fact I didn't ask you, roughly how many moves do you do a year? -
Louise Worbey: Well our current on-assignment population is around about 500 assignees, and 1000 project workers. So there is constant turnover within that as you would imagine. The numbers flex virtually daily.
Brian Friedman:And so with that, you're obviously working with any number of different vendors, either directly or indirectly down the supply chain.
Louise Worbey: Yes.
Brian Friedman: And I appreciate you're in a very special situation regarding your tax vendor, so I won't ask you to comment on that relationship, but in terms of working with other vendors, what is it that attracts you to a vendor and what is it that sort of gets your goat a bit? What makes a good supplier, a good partner?
Louise Worbey: I think that's a key word, is partner. For me, it's being able to be open and honest about what we are trying to achieve, the ways in which we want to do it, the levels of service that we require and expect for the price that we're prepared to pay. But also being able to develop that relationship such that we have done this in the past, we were coming up against a particular issue, trying to decide how to change policy in a particular area and had a very open and honest working session with our supplier to say, okay, we've got some thoughts, how would you approach this, how could you help us? And working in partnership to come up with a solution that worked for both.
Brian Friedman: And where are you on the, some organizations like to keep pretty much everything, in terms of managing things,in-house and not really to outsource very much. Others say actually, we want to have a very lean head office and outsource everything to a vendor manager, where are you on that sort of spectrum? How much do you think is right to keep in-house and how much do you think is right to sort of pass on to others to manage your supply chain for you?
Louise Worbey: I think I'm in sort of a unique position, but perhaps comment the other Big Four as well. For us, obviously, we cannot, as you rightly pointed out, we could not outsource our tax or our immigration work because we have that level of expertise within the firm. So, whilst we still have that internal client relationship, that's something that would never be outsourced. We are very reliant on providers for other various destination services, the shipping, the actual process of relocation. But for any organization, I think, again I come back to what's the right fit, what's the ethos, what's the value of mobility in that company? What do leadership want from a mobility function? Are you looking at a significant number of project worker type scenarios where it's all about speed to deployment as quickly and efficiently as possible? Are you more of a nurturing organization that wants to handhold your VIPs? You have both sets. I've seen a trend in outsourcing everything. I've seen that work and things being brought back in in various organizations. It does come down to what's the key driver behind mobility for that particular organization. How is it valued? What's it used for? Professional services are often in a difficult position with that because I almost say that we are operating four businesses in one. We're dealing with audit, tax, consulting, financial advisory. You have different needs for mobility at different times. So finding a one-size-fits-all philosophy and vendor partnership, supplier outsourcing relationship, that can be quite challenging.
Brian Friedman: There was a time when everybody tried to have as few policies as possible. Either they might have a long-term policy, a short-term policy, maybe a commuter policy, but I think there's also been a bit of a trend away from that, getting more sort of region-specific or more flexible, where are you on that? In your ideal world, how many sorts of policies and programs would you actually ideally like to have for what is effectively a pretty complex organization like yours?
Louise Worbey: I'm personally an advocate of having as few as possible. We've had many discussion on the merits of flexible approaches versus traditional policies. It's a difficult area for Deloitte in particular, again, because of our structure. We have our global policies that are led by DTTL, our global organization, we then have some U.K.-specific nuances to those policies, which can provide complications. We have some specific programs and regional policies. But Deloitte U.K. became part of Deloitte Northwest Europe in June 2017, and Deloitte as a whole is moving to a more regionalized structure. So that again, brings in, do you then have a regional policy? The direction for Deloitte as an organization is certainly towards more of a regional policy approach. But going back to the point we were talking about compliance, complexity, immigration rules, et cetera, regionalization at a corporate level or a member from operation, is still going to be underpinned and driven by the different geographies involved and the rules they have, tax, immigration, et cetera. So, you can end up with multiple policies but I have found, in my experience, that it works most appropriately when you can actually have as few as possible. There's less room for negotiation, discussion, and exception.
Brian Friedman:Okay, we're pretty much out of time actually now. It's been fabulous chatting with you. I'd just like to ask you one last question, if I may, which is this, you're sort of on the verge of moving as we speak, from one organization to another, a question I normally ask is, what would be your top three objectives for the year, but I don't know if I can ask you that question, but somehow can I ask you the question what are or might be your top objectives for yourself over the next few months?
Louise Worbey: It's an interesting question for me at an interesting time. I guess for me the objective is to really get a full and deep understanding of the landscape at KPMG and again, making sure I'm aligned with leadership and their expectations of what they want from mobility within the organization. We like to think through the recruitment process you understand that, but I don't think it's really until you're there on day one that you can really start delving deep into that level of detail. I'm certainly impressed today with the overall determination to have mobility high on the agenda. I also think that whatever organization I'm in for the next 12 months that the post-Brexit landscape for the U.K. is gonna be a key factor both for what that does for question complexity, the economy, so getting to grips and helping to steer mobility function through the landscape, whatever that may look like, will be a significant objective.
Brian Friedman: It certainly is a very, very unique time, both in our country's history, and indeed, in your own career (laughs), so it's very, very interesting time to be speaking to you. Louise, I'm afraid we're out of time, so I really just wanted to thank you for taking part. It was fabulous chatting with you today and let me wish you all the best in your new role.
Louise Worbey: Thank you very much, Brian. I appreciate it.
Brian Friedman:And thank you to all our listeners for listening in to the podcast today. There'll be another episode again next week. My name is Brian Friedman, this has been The View from the Top. Thank you all everybody for listening in.