8th April 2015
Thomas Althoff is a Partner of RLT Ruhrmann Tieben & Partner with five locations in Germany, while basing himself in Duisburg. Recently, he replaced Erik Emillson as MGI’s International Committee member representing Europe and also became Deputy Chairman. Here he talks about his experience.
What do you think are the main goals for MGI in 2015?
The most important thing from my point of view is managing the implementation of the hybrid. Now that we as members have the choice of joining also the network, it is important that all the steps and procedures linked to that are made clear and transparent to all MGI members. Everyone involved, especially the Technical Committee and the Network Liaison Committee, is putting a lot of effort in and I think we are on track. The cooperative way it works right now is important, since we had an intense debate and a very decisive vote in Chicago.
MGI, as it will look like soon, should remain as personal as it was in the past. Therefore, after all the formal and organisational discussions in the last 2 years, I think we will need to listen and focus on what members want and need to make MGI an important piece of our businesses. This has already been a big topic of discussion within the European Coordinators Committee so far.
One other big goal for the organisation should be to get in touch with good firms that might be interested in joining. This is on the agenda for the Area Coordinators and I think that it is very important to keep the group as a whole vital and capable.
What do you think the Alliance will look like in five years time?
That is difficult to say with respect to the hybrid. I would assume that new members would tend to join the network. That is at least the impression I got when speaking to potential candidates. We will see. However, it was always said and should be clear to everyone that whether your firm is part of the network or not, we all share common principles and goals in dealing with fellow members and their clients.
In general, I think we will see more efforts and initiatives to promote communication and cooperation between members. Given the growing number of cross-border activities of our clients, I think that this is essential to get used to work with others to get good service for our clients and make the most of our membership.
The local approach with eight different and strong areas, in some areas even with circles, will still be there to keep us personal, flexible and capable of addressing local needs.
How are you finding the experience having recently joined the IC and EC?
Being new to both of these groups, I first tried to figure out 'the flow' within the IC and the EC by watching and listening to everyone. However, integration is made easier with the professional and cooperative attitude everyone brings to the table. It is more a 'we', rather than 'me and you'.
Wearing two new hats in addition to those of (a) our firm RLT, and especially my base in Duisburg, (b) the German one and (c) the Central European one, at times I found it quite challenging to give time and thought for whatever topic might arise at the right occasion and to the necessary extent. But I am getting into this special groove.
In what ways do you think MGI could offer more to its members?
It is important to be aware of what is going on in the market. Therefore, for MGI it is important to support the exchange of ideas and best practices. I see that more as a motivational task, rather than formalising rules about certain procedures.
The same applies when looking to support our ability to work with people from other offices, countries and clients. Finding the most feasible way to do so will be interesting, since we should not forget about the type of firms and clients we serve and try to target.
What do you think are the main challenges for the accounting, audit and tax sector in the coming years in Europe?
We will need to keep an eye on European regulatory developments and the effects it has on our businesses. Furthermore, the trend to build bigger units is continuing in a highly competitive environment. Therefore, adapting our own service range and quality to client demands is a big issue. It's particularly important when considering the internationalisation of business, the change of workflow and processes, and the more sophisticated use of IT systems these changes bring along. That, however, also bears opportunities - even if we see new players enter the market of standardised work, which do not naturally come out of the classical accounting business.
What are the main challenges for your own firm?
I think the same applies, however, I should add that probably the biggest challenge for us, and in general, is to find and develop our own team and train them with the required skills. So, HR is a really big issue.
Now let’s find out a little more about yourself. What are your main interests outside work?
Sports, especially Handball, Football and Golf. On the other hand I also really like good food.
Art is another passion of mine, although I am completely without talent in painting, photography or making music - but I do like to observe and listen.
Last, but not least, friends and family.
What books are you reading at the moment?
“The Big Miss”, which is a book written by a former coach of Tiger Woods and Howard Jacobson’s “The Finkler Question”.
What three famous people, alive or dead, would you most like to have dinner with?
Stephen Hawking, Daniel Kahneman and Alicia Keys.
For more information or to contact Thomas, visit the firm’s website or MGI member profile page.