Consultancy market rebounds as women forge the road to the top

Business RT talks to Anne Belveze, Managing partner of Mazars in Russia, about the audit and consultancy market
With Russia’s audit and consultancy market growing strongly, Business RT spoke with Anne Belveze, Managing partner of Mazars in Russia, about the market outlook, as well as about balancing life and work for a senior businesswoman.

RT: How do you see the market for business consultancy services in Russia in the coming years?

AB: “I think, the market is going to evolve dramatically in the coming years. I think, there will be a lot of accountancy reforms and tax reforms, maybe a convergence to IFRS, which has been the topic that we discussed for many years in Russia. I think, that the market players will have to adapt to these changes.”

Anne Belveze, Managing partner of Mazars in Russia
Anne Belveze, Managing partner of Mazars in Russia
RT: What is your general economic outlook for Russia?

AB: “Russia is a very difficult market to predict, but I’m quite optimistic as we’ve survived two crises with Mazars in Russia. For us it’s a very good market – we’ve seen a 30% increase in our turnover. And, I think, there’s a need for good and stronger market players that are not only ‘Anglo – Saxon’ (US or British). We’ve seen recently that foreign investment is increasing in Russia and for us that’s one aspect of development of our company. And the other one, I think, is that we hope to appeal to major Russian businesses and provide our services because we haven’t really reached the major players consistently. This is something we’d like to develop and be able to offer our services to these companies.”

RT: Does Mazars see increasing small business presence?

AB: “Among our clients, that are mostly big European and international ones, we’ve seen a lot of small and medium size enterprises following. Our first clients were such big groups as Peugeot or Schneider Electric. With a big European company you have small and medium coming after them. I think, in Russia S&M businesses have a real sense of entrepreneurialism and we think they have really great future here in Russia. Mazars is delighted to work with such dynamic companies.”

RT: What is most distinctive about the Russian market for Mazars?How does it differ from other markets?

AB: “I think, the environment in Russia is quite tough, especially in Moscow. The work is very intense and it seems we can never have enough employees for the demand! You need to be always reactive and adaptable and be aware of changing laws and changing regulation. So, it’s professional and intellectual challenge.”

RT: Do you think Russia can become a more prominent financial centre and business centre?

AB: “Russia can definitely become a more prominent business centre, with great demands for audit in the coming years. As for financial centre, I’m not sure, the coming years will be important for such an ambition. We’ve seen some shift from London and, I think, new financial centres will be in South East Asia – it’s Singapore, it’s Hong Kong that are ahead so Russia has some catching up to do.”

RT: How will the push to use IFRS change the Russian business world?

AB: “It’s always difficult to make such a dramatic change, but, I think, foreign investors have a lot of problems because of the Russian GAAP. I mean it’s very bureaucratic, it’s very administrative and usually a financial statement in Russian GAAP doesn’t reflect the economic situation of the company as clearly as IFRS. In our posting we keep books in Russian GAAP but for the head office we need to transform all the statements to make them understandable. It isn’t a problem of translation, but the problem of the way it’s done. So, I think, it’ll make the financial system more transparent and more understandable for foreigners. Of course, this will bring more efficiency and it’ll become easier for a foreign investor to come to Russia.”

RT: Is there enough legal framework promoting and protecting development of S&M businesses in Russia?

AB: “As for the legal framework, I think the trend for the legal framework is positive. But the level of bureaucracy is very high. If you want to do things correctly and be protected, you need to spend more energy in this country. But, what we’ve been saying to our clients is that the legal framework works and it’s not true that people come here and think they can’t achieve their business goals. There are certain fields where it should be improved in terms of intellectual property, counterfeit, but still we are really on a strong footing for tax inspection, for example, where the courts lean in favor of businesses.”

RT: Anne, your biography says that you’ve always kept the right work – life balance: you have a rich education and job profile, have 4 children. What’s your recipe of successfully combining family life and business?

AB: “I do like what I do. When I’m at work, I’m happy to be at work, and when I’m at home, I’m happy to be at home. It takes a long time to find a good balance. You have to be very-very organized and so I am. You also need to know your limits and know when your kids really need you. And I always keep my kids informed of what I do – if they know the reason they accept more – and they know my boss. It’s very good to have all of my 4 children together but I need to dedicate certain amount time to each of them. And I always tell my boss, if I need to go and help my kids. If something happens, I will leave the scene and I will go. But it happened only once”

RT: Do you think any prejudices about women remain in Russian business world? Is it more difficult for a woman in Russian business to become successful? If yes, which are the main issues?

AB: “That’s a topic for a long lasting debate. But, I think, that in Russia there are much more women at high positions than in some European countries, but it’s more difficult for them to reach the very top. It’s quite easy to become a Vice President, but not the President, and of course, I think, that’s the problem of society. And I think a lot of pressure comes on women from a family. I think, it has been very important in our Mazars office and I myself act as a role model. When I saw one of my senior managers pregnant, I thought “Oh my God, another is pregnant.”And she answered: “It’s your fault.” But that’s what we can afford, that’s what we can manage. And, I think, women working with us here in Russia are incredible – they are bright, pretty, they work hard, they always want to learn. And here, in our Mazars office, we always try to feed them with new knowledge, new languages. And I’m very happy with Mazars in Russia, we have a very good HR policy. All of our senior managers started as assistants. They been working here for about 8 or 10 years and soon they’ll become Mazars partners. And they are women. So, in a Mazars office you can become a Russian woman at the top.”

­James Blake, Anastasia Kostomarova, RT