B. Commerce (Accounting & Finance)/LLB (Honours) 2008
Matthew Whittaker is Director in the EY Private Clients Tax team. His key areas of expertise include income tax, FBT, GST and not-for-profit tax issues. His teams work with clients across Australia in a range of industries to help them get to where they want to be and meet their tax obligations along the way.
Matt has a particular passion for working with not-for-profit organisations and social enterprises and has developed a specialised tax skillset in this area. He enjoys helping these passionate entrepreneurs to achieve their business and social impact goals. As an EY Growth Markets Champion, Matt connects entrepreneurs and middle market businesses to EY's breadth of world-leading capabilities to help then grow sustainably and achieve their ambitions.
Before joining EY, Matt worked at PwC for 3 years and briefly for Dixon Advisory doing admin services while studying at ANU.
Matt’s responses to questions from CBE students
What drove your professional passion in tax-related fields and how did you realise it?
I have always had an interest in working in the accounting/finance space ever since my grandfather explained to me as a child that he went to Disney World for work conferences (he was a partner at PriceWaterhouse in South Africa). I don’t think that those conferences occur anymore but I did find through work experience and holiday jobs that helping clients navigate both the tax systems and the business world was a challenge that interested me.
Once I started as a graduate I have organically moved between different areas of tax and found that the benefit of being in a small office within a large firm is that every year has very different challenges. It is these challenges that keep me passionate for my tax fields as I now get to work with large multinationals and government and then also get to work with small charities and start ups that make a difference to many in their local area. I enjoy that tax opens up the door for broader conversations and allows me to build trust so that I can provide value to my clients.
Another driver in my professional passion is the team I work with and the way EY values my contribution. A great team makes a real difference in the enjoyment I get from work. At EY I have been able to request a year working in Sydney, I have taken a career break to travel for 3 months and I am about to take my second period of paid parental leave for 3 months to look after my second child. These little things add up to keep the energy levels high in my day to day work.
As a Director, what are your expectations of team members who are aiming for the next promotion?
The view I have always taken with my career is that if you add value to your team you will generally be noticed and I have been fortunate to work in teams that have been willing to acknowledge the value I bring.
Some aspects that I think are important are:
- Ability to communicate with the team and your clients – we often work with difficult concepts and we need to break these down so that they are understandable.
- Being a leader to your junior staff – I am only as good as the team below me and so I expect that if someone wants to be promoted they will take the time to build their juniors up in confidence and skills and celebrate the achievements of their colleagues.
- Ability to learn from feedback – we are not perfect and feedback should be seen as an opportunity to grow and improve. Generally people give constructive feedback and it takes a lot to accept feedback well and grow as a tax professional. I think this should always be a work in progress.
- Curiosity – when you stop being curious about the law, your clients’ business, what your team is doing and the broader industry and economic issues then you start to get complacent. I want people to ask why they do the things they do.
Interns and vacationers at Big 4 consulting firms can be offered graduate roles following their placements. Any tips and tricks for would-be interns and vacationers at EY?
Get to know the team and work out if it is a team you could work with. There are so many requirements to get in that you should have the confidence that you can be a valuable addition. You may not be working on client engagements the whole time (security clearances and knowledge limitations) but take time to understand why you are doing the tasks you are given and show the interest you have in the business. Be yourself.