Embracing the Future

Embracing the Future

The last ten years have seen Mazars grow into a truly global organisation. Its more than 20,000 professionals now work in close to 300 offices all over the world. They are auditors, advisors, digital experts, business developers, or HR and marketing specialists. Many of them are Gen-Yers, with different backgrounds, but equally big dreams and aspirations. Mobility and the incoming digital revolution are some of the topics that matter to them. In Chile, Egypt, Singapore, and Germany, we have asked about 50 of them (1) to share their thoughts and insights about Mazars, the impact of technology on their work and their lives, and what they believe the future holds in store.

It has often been stated that working in large organisations has its pros and cons. On the plus side, the opportunities for promotions and mobility – be it cross-functional or geographic; on the minus side, the constraints of dealing with heavy and slow-moving structures, where decision-making is a complicated and lengthy process and room for manoeuvre remains very limited.

For the Mazarians we talked to,  it seems the global audit and advisory organisation they belong to is offering the best of both worlds. The opportunity to move and evolve professionally, and the family feel of a small tightly-knit organisation in which people care for each other, and in which the weight of hierarchy is still somewhat easy to bear.

“It is getting pretty obvious that we are a truly global company”, says Felipe Yanez, in Chile. “Mazars is growing and expanding into new markets, such as China. That gives us the chance to interact with other cultures, of being in constant contact with people from other countries.” Global indeed, but still people-centric. “We feel very close to each other”, says Felipe’s Chilean teammate Loreto Larrain. “People have the opportunity to be a part of things here. We constantly learn from one another”, says Macarena Rodriguez. Learning is also of the essence for Amira Abd-El-Mageed Amer, in Cairo: “Mazars has a long history in Egypt”, she says – “There’s a lot of experience and we can all learn from it”.

In Singapore, Gabriel Lim joins its Chilean colleague Felipe Yanez in highlighting diversity as one of the organisations’ true assets: “I enjoy the opportunity to interact with all teams from different countries. That is one of the most interesting things. I do not want to stereotype, but Asians and Europeans and people from the USA all have different perspectives. I think this gives rise to better ideas than a company that would only be full of Singaporeans. I think it helps. Different cultural backgrounds which stem from different upbringings give a different type of analysis whenever a scenario is presented. ”

This matters to Aswini Nadarajah too: “A multicultural environment is something that I wanted to be exposed to”. And she also relishes the atmosphere: “The relationships I have formed within the firm are a big plus. Some of these colleagues have actually become my friends. I actually look forward to coming to work. It is not something that you have to do it every day to get a pay-check at the end of the day. It does not feel like that.” Grégoire Morlaës-Dusautoir, who joined the Singapore office about a year ago, after working for Mazars in China, Indonesia and Paris, offers a similar perspective. “To me”, he says, “It is more than just liking my job. It is about values and principles: solidarity, mutual benefits, helping each other, being one single international team. These are things I believe in.”

Citizens of the World

Whether they live and work in Santiago de Chile, Cairo or Singapore, Mazars’ Gen-Yers want to travel the world. They would love to get the chance to work on other continents. For an overwhelming majority of them, big international cities would be clear first choices. While European cities such as London, Rome, Paris, Barcelona and Vienna seem to appeal to the Mazars people in Egypt, those in Chile tend to favour New York or Toronto, and our Singapore team members would rather live and work in Hong Kong, Japan, Australia or New Zealand.

Of course, there are exceptions to every rule. Unlike her Egyptian colleagues, Reem Abdelaziz Hassan, an HR specialist in Mazars’ office in Alexandria, says her “love of nature” would lead her to “want to live in Santorini, Greece”. And while her Singapore teammates mostly go for Australia, New-Zealand or others South-East Asian cities, Adeline Toh has a weak spot for the USA. “We grew up watching a lot of Hollywood movies”, she says. “So I always thought it would be nice to be able to work in the USA.”

The choices made or the preferences expressed by the Mazarians we talked to may seem unsurprising. After all, Europe is just across the Mediterranean from Egypt, the USA is home to a vast community of Spanish-speaking citizens, and Australia naturally draws people from South-East Asia. Perhaps more interestingly, many of the cities mentioned by Mazars’ Gen-Yers rank among the most liveable in the world. According to the Global Liveability Report 2017 (2) published by the Economist Intelligence Unit, three Australian cities (Melbourne, which tops the rankings, Adelaide and Perth) and one city in New-Zealand (Auckland) are among the world’s best. Vancouver and Toronto, in Canada, also make the top 10, as well as Vienna. By contrast, such prestigious international hubs as New-York, London, Paris or Tokyo rank far behind.

Creative minds

If Adeline Toh would love to live in the US, she is afraid she might not “necessarily be able to apply the same knowledge in another country.” This would raise the question of a potential career change. The variety of jobs Mazarians would consider exerting, should they choose another career path, is quite impressive.

“If I had to choose a totally different job”, says Ambar Veloso, in Chile, “I would be a scientist. A physicist, to be more specific. ” Her colleague Javier Maldonado has a radically different idea: “I would want to be a football player – football is something I really love! ” And to Natalia Velenzuela, something totally different would be “something related to agriculture”. In Cairo, Amira-Abd-El-Mageed-Amer echoes this love for nature. That is why she “wishes she owned a flower shop”. As for Tawfik Sayed Fahmy, he would choose to be a “mechanical engineer”, while Morlaës-Dusautoir, in Singapore, could picture himself as a “land surveyor in Indonesia or South-East Asia”.

Different choices, indeed, but some common trends appear nevertheless. In Chile, Egypt and Singapore alike, being a veterinarian seems to appeal to many of Mazars’ Gen-Yers. The same goes for creative jobs, such as an architect or designer. Some respondents are even very specific. “I would want to be a wedding gown designer”, says Adeline Toh, “or at least a wedding planner. Flowers, gowns, everything coming together”. For the majority of those who would elect to work in a creative industry, it is mostly a matter of doing “something that is not routine, something that involves talking to a lot of people. That is something new and refreshing”, Aswini Nadarajh explains.

Preparing for the future

Looking at the wide variety of alternative career choices Mazarians talk about, one might incur that they are not very happy with their current jobs and want to explore new opportunities outside the company. This is actually quite far from reality.

“I love my job and I do not want to change”, says John Saad, in Cairo. In Singapore, Lim is not as adamant, but states that “as long as Mazars provides me with opportunities which can help me learn and grow – I think learning is the most important thing -, I will have no reason for leaving.” Morlaës-Dusautoir concurs: “I would only leave Mazars if I stopped learning and started getting a little bored. That has never happened in the last 12 years.”

Being attached to Mazars, to its values and their jobs, and not wanting to leave in the near future, does not mean Mazarians do not have plans for the longer term. When it comes to that, unsurprisingly, and in line with the concept of “lifestyle entrepreneurship” (3), most of them are toying with the idea of starting their own business. “I still need to learn lots of things before beginning to have my own business or being an entrepreneur”, says Reem Abdelaziz Hassan, “but I still have this thing in mind – maybe in five or ten years.” Morlaës-Dusautoir agrees and says: “starting my own business and being my own boss is something I have in mind. I do not think it would be hard to do.” Lim has given it some serious thought and goes a little further: “I would like to start my own business. It would definitely be tech-based. The latest one which me and my friends are working on, on the side, is we are trying to build a referral platform. It helps companies build referral programs via gamified systems.”

At Mazars, just like in any other organisation, millennials are the “true entrepreneur generation” (4). But some of them also aim for other challenges. Adeline Toh might “go back to teaching,” because she wants to “keep herself meaningfully occupied and give back to society.” A few years down the line, Maldonado “wants to create a non-profit, to take care of orphaned children. Take them on holiday, to the beach in the summer, to the zoo, or organise football tournaments”.

Hooked on Cell Phones and Social Media

Gen-Yers all over the world are considered to be “digital natives”. They have lived with technology since they were born, and seen its advances as a natural process. For most of our respondents, cellphones are the most notable innovation of the last 10 years, the one that has had the biggest impact on their lives. “Today, you can do everything with a cell phone”, says Loreto Larrain, in Santiago. “You can work, talk to people, be on social media, watch TV…”. Priscilla Sanchez agrees: “We use cell phones for everything these days. If we do not have our cell phone, we forget about meetings, phone numbers, everything. We do not even memorise phone numbers anymore. We do not even memorise emails… I think that cell phones have had the biggest impact on my life. ” And Morlaës-Dusautoir also shares the same opinion: “Cell phones, definitely. The first cell phones had small screens and were almost exclusively used as actual phones, but today, we all carry everything important in our lives on little computers. I believe something like WhatsApp is amazing. When I left home, I was 19. I went to China. I remember I had to buy prepaid cards to call my parents for 25 minutes once a week. It was both complicated and expensive…”

The rise of social media also already appears to have had a strong impact on the lives of Mazars’ millennials, regardless of their country of residence. And for many of them, this is just the beginning. According to recent surveys, Facebook has close to 2 billion users, 1.86 billion of whom use it on a monthly basis and 1.23 billion of a daily basis (5). As for Twitter, it is used every month by 330 million people, 80% of whom access it from their cell phones (6). As expected, Mazarians are no exceptions. From Santiago, Francisco Polo explains: “I think the next innovations will be linked to social media. It would be nice if it was related to something more important, like health, well-being, etc. But I believe it will have something to do with social media and communication among people. It has grown a lot and it will continue to do so.” In Singapore, Aswini Nadarajah enthuses: “Social media, such as Facebook or LinkedIn, are bringing all of us closer. I have 40 cousins. We are all very close-knit, and we are spread out all over the world. Technology has changed our perception of geography – it brings us closer. “

Artificial Intelligence as the Real Disruptor

Social media is not the only technological tool or process that are going to change people’s lives in the years to come. When it comes to imagining the future, Mazars’ millennials are as creative as they are diverse. “In the future, instead of attending meetings personally, we will sit in our rooms and be represented by avatars”, says Natalia Velenzuela. “Some experimentations offer alternatives to public transportation: vehicles that can lift themselves when they are stuck in traffic and just keep going above the other cars”, Macarena Rodriguez explains, while Tawfik Sayed Fahmy thinks about “time machines”, and Soo Yung pictures tech-enhanced human bodies.

For Maldonado though, the true disruptor will be artificial intelligence. “Everyone can understand the potential that it has for business and the economy at large. Many operations that used to be conducted by people are now carried out by computers, and the list continues growing every day.” “More and more jobs will be completely automated and will not need human intervention in the future”, Larrain adds. “The challenge will be to either create new jobs or reinvent traditional ones“, Adeline Toh concludes.

Dealing with Change Relying on Human Creativity

Technology will eliminate or transform a number of jobs. But what exactly is the impact Mazarians expect it to have on their jobs? There again, the answers vary significantly.

Nadarajah believes the impact is very real. “I attended an Innovation Lab recently”, says Nadarajah, “and something hit me very hard: my job could be completely automated in a few years. Technically, I could be replaced with a couple of $40 pieces of software.”

The intrusion of technology will impact many lines of work, in some cases replacing a large part of todays’ jobs, but in most cases changing the nature of human work. Adeline Toh has a nuanced approach: “In my line of work, we deal with a lot of last-minute changes in plans and a lot of layers of understanding that will actually help us to reach a certain destination. Robots will do some of the basics in the next five years or so, but they may not be able to completely take over our job anytime soon.”

Changes will have to be dealt with, and adaptations will be needed, but ultimately human action and intervention will still make a difference. “There’s no denying my job has been affected and will further be”, says Maldonado. “But it does not mean that I will soon find myself -or anyone working in transaction services – unemployed, because the human aspect remains key. We need to watch, we need to talk to people. A computer cannot participate in a meeting. There will always be that human touch in a project.”

Lim concurs: “At the end of the day, no matter how far technology advances, jobs will always be there because there is the advisory mission. In terms of audit, in terms of accountancy, I believe that within the next five to eight years, the traditional meaning of the entire industry will definitely be obsolete. As to advisory, it is always up to humans to interpret”. “You will never be able to build real relationships or have a drink with robots and machines”, Morlaës-Dusautoir concludes. “I simply do not think human creativity can ever be replaced.”



(1) Interviews carried out on location, between August and October 2017

(2) http://www.smh.com.au/cqstatic/gxx1l4/LiveabilityReport2017.pdf

(3) http://business.financialpost.com/executive/careers/why-gen-y-is-eschewing-traditional-career-paths-for-lifestyle-entrepreneurship

(4) https://startupnation.com/start-your-business/millennials-entrepreneurship/

(5) https://socialmediapro.fr/les-chiffres-facebook-instagram-2017/

(6) http://www.journaldunet.com/ebusiness/le-net/1159246-nombre-d-utilisateurs-de-twitter-dans-le-monde/