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Melody Chiu

DNA of a Tax Leader

Melody Chiu headshotMelody has been working in the PwC financial services tax practice since 2001 and was admitted to the partnership in 2014.
Her experience includes key roles in the audits of and the provision of tax services to major asset management organizations, finance and leasing companies, including start-up companies.
Melody has advised major financial institutions on various cross-border tax issues including acting as PwC’s liaison with the Canada Revenue Agency on developments in Canada’s withholding tax rules. She provides technical oversight and project management for a number of PwC’s largest advisory and compliance asset management, finance and leasing engagements, and has experience coordinating PwC tax professionals for specializing in various areas.
She is a member of the Investment Funds Institute Canada’s (IFIC) tax working group and authored an article on the taxation of non-residents in Canadian investment funds in the Canadian Tax Journal. Melody speaks at various industry seminars including the IFIC Tax Symposiums, Acumen’s Taxation of Corporate Finance Financial Structures conferences, and Federated Press’s Understanding Canada-U.S. Taxation Course.
Melody is a graduate of the University of Toronto with a Bachelor of Commerce and is a Chartered Professional Accountant, Certified Management Accountant.

Partner, Financial Services, PwC Canada

What is the biggest obstacle you’ve faced along your career path and how did you overcome it?
I didn’t have the direction I needed around the mid-level of my career. When I became a tax manager I didn’t know what I wanted to do next. Partnership was something I hadn’t really thought about, partly because I knew there would be obstacles down this career path as a woman. However, my superiors told me I had the potential to get there and encouraged me to give it a try.
The key for me was always working hard and being successful in my current role. I established an internal reputation for capability and efficiency, which naturally lead toward success. As I achieved results at each level I was dealing with more senior clients, and engaging with more staff and company leaders. The support from my superiors was integral, but they were supportive because I proved I had the abilities.

What attributes/characteristics do believe are integral to the role?
As a partner people leadership becomes as important as technical skills. You need good mentoring and organization skills. You are only as good as your team so you need to invest time into them, and into yourself so you have the ability to mold and develop them effectively.
 

What is your advice to someone who is moving up the ranks in the field and wants to pursue a management/executive career?
There are two main things I think you need to move up in the tax function. Firstly, be open to taking more responsibility on projects. If you see an opportunity to try something new or take on a bigger piece of a project then put your hand up. Your managers won’t always know that you’re ready to take on a larger role unless you make it clear.
Secondly, I think having the right soft skills, in terms of managing and communicating with staff and clients, is very important. Communication skills are a big part of success, but you also need leadership skills, a positive attitude, and strong business acumen so you can be a business leader, not just a function expert.

How important is it to be exposed to all areas of the business?
Overall business understanding is very important. It will drive your personal success, but it will also drive business results. By knowing my client’s business and issues, I may not personally be able to help on all issues, but I can introduce other specialists that can assist. Knowing the client’s business also enables you to provide workable solutions. That’s where you truly add value to the client’s business.
 

What’s your favourite part of your job?
I really like helping people solve their problems and move forward, both internally and externally. Finding a great solution for a client is so satisfying, as is mentoring staff and seeing them progress. It’s that process of assessing needs or potential, putting a plan in place, and then seeing the results at the end.  
 

What is the one thing you have to have to be a Tax Leader in your opinion?
You need business acumen. Knowing the clients’ businesses is critical for success, so you can find the right solution, rather than taking a one-size-fits-all approach or an approach that solves the tax issue but creates a business issue.
 

Has networking played a role in you achieving your career objectives?
Yes, networking ensures you have a great profile and you’re part of the groups that matter for your career and brand.
 

Is there anything you would have differently looking back at your career path?
I think I would have done a secondment to a different city or country to broaden my business understanding and experience. I’ve been able to gain that knowledge through other means, but working in another function for a short time would have accelerated that growth and been a career advantage.
 

Is there anything that the next generation should know?
People don’t realize being a partner is not the last hurdle, you have a whole host of new expectations and room for growth even within that role. It’s still a lot of work, but just a different type of work

What advice would you give to the next generation of professionals aspiring to become a Tax leader?
I see a lot of professionals today who want to try new things and get a lot of different experiences, but I think that can be difficult for some career paths because you won’t develop any specific expertise.