Sonal Shah is an International Tax Partner at Gerald Edelman
Accountancy wasn’t my dream. Numbers don’t excite me. But there are always different ways of looking at things, and it helps if you have the right guidance. For me that came fifteen years ago when I approached my boss to hand in my notice. I felt my accountancy journey had run its course, but his response was to hand me a new challenge and convince me to stay while I tackled it. I recall that each time he saw I wasn’t being challenged, he gave me something new and extended my comfort zone further. Finally the penny dropped and I realised there was a place for me within the industry. International tax is where I found my perfect fit.
"Building and nurturing relationships is the main driver of my career, and at the core of everything I do."
I represent multinationals, SMEs and individuals, and I learn so much from my clients – their entrepreneurial journeys always interest and inspire me. I’m privileged to help my clients through some of their key moments and milestones, whether I’m assisting them to structure their assets before a move to or from the UK, preparing them for a sale or exit after a successful business launch, providing guidance to successfully expand their business into new markets, or helping them build a property portfolio with succession planning in mind.
Gerald Edelman value their people and pride themselves on equality and diversity. They place a strong emphasis on empowerment, and I’ve felt supported every step of the way towards achieving my ambitions. The focus on fulfilment and happiness at work definitely brings out the best in the team.
Accountancy as an industry is moving quickly, and so are client expectations. Artificial intelligence is rapidly improving within our sector, and digital technology continues to develop apace. Both are transforming the way we work, and no one can afford to be left behind. Where compliance was our driver historically, the bar has been raised and clients are now looking for advisory, consultancy and specialist services too.
"Professionals need to stand out and differentiate themselves. Individuality and creativity matter. But most of all, relationships and creating those deep connections matter. "
In the same way, the battle to attract and retain the best people has never been more testing than it is today. The generations coming up think differently and they’re not afraid of change, so it’s critical to tailor your approach and stay relevant to them. Whilst technical ability remains at the heart of accountancy, a wider skill set is required to achieve success in today’s changing market. Having the emotional intelligence to understand and empathise with the evolving landscape clients are working within is a critical asset, as is infectious energy and belief.
In terms of leadership, I was once a trainee too and I never forget this. Recognising and reaching out to people who may feel undervalued or alienated is crucial, as is identifying and harnessing talent.
"People are the most important part of any business – you must involve them and bring them with you."
Be inclusive, share information, communicate relentlessly, and constantly reinforce your vision, embedding it in everything you do. Transparency and integrity are key assets too, but my ultimate weapons are resilience and being brave. Having difficult conversations as soon as the need arises – whether with clients, employees or fellow partners – is something all leaders should be encouraged to do.
Despite never originally setting out to do this, the world of international tax has enabled me to travel the globe and meet many interesting people. It also gives me the opportunity to share the stage with prominent figures in the world of tax, which keeps me sharp, focused and on my toes.
And what happened to the boss who mentored me all those years ago, whose intuitive approach, support and unwavering faith helped me carve my own path to a role I love? Well I’m happy to say we still work together today, but now side by side as two of the sixteen partners leading Gerald Edelman forward.