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One minute with... Shivani Lala

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What’s keeping you busy at work?

Since the inception of the Vision Fund in May 2017, we have been extremely busy. At the end of June 2019, SoftBank Investment Advisers, which manages the Vision Fund, had invested in over 80 of the world’s most transformative technology companies. We’ve grown from just a handful of people back in 2017 to more than 400 employees today. We’ve grown all of our functions, including tax, and I now lead a team of 17 professionals across four countries. My goal continues to be recruiting qualified international tax professionals to build a dynamic global team, as well as drawing up robust processes and controls to meet with our stringent governance and compliance requirements. It’s also important for us to stay on top of the technical developments in all the different jurisdictions in which we operate. 

What do you know now that you wish you’d known at the start of your career? 

At the beginning of my career, I focused on my specific tax role, worked with other tax specialists and read tax specific research. I’ve now realised the importance of always thinking about the bigger picture. I am constantly seeking to build connections across the whole business, be it with our top team of investors, our legal experts, or our communications professionals. 

Please provide a practical or technical tip on your area of expertise. 

I encourage my team to think of themselves as business people with expert tax knowledge, rather than solely tax advisers. If you work at an investment firm, then you should see yourself primarily as an investor, with the goal of building the best possible tax structures that will optimise the firm’s  investing activity. Rather than staying put in the tax office, the tax team should be actively involved in strategic, structuring and investing discussions with various parts of the business. 

If you could make one change to tax law or practice, what would it be? 

Around seven or eight years ago, advisers were churning out papers focusing on tax planning and financing structures to drive down the ETR, push down debt or seek double dips. However, with the introduction of GAAR, DOTAS and the OECD’s BEPS initiatives, I believe tax has found a place in the boardroom and become a commercial item for discussion. The focus has shifted to transparency, governance, controls, processes and being good tax citizens, all of which I am a big advocate of and believe has been hugely beneficial to our work. 

While I welcome the initiatives around BEPS and the alignment of tax concepts internationally, it would be a welcome relief to see some of these developments, such as BEPS Action 6, being implemented quicker with some global guidance. There is currently a lot of uncertainty in this area, which makes it difficult for asset managers to confirm the potential tax implications of certain holding structures to external investors.

And finally, you might not know this about me but... 

I love to dance. I started Indian classical dancing when I was six, and I danced all through my school and university life in Mumbai. I’d like to get back to that and spread that joy outside of India. I have a secret dream to start a Bollywood dance school for kids here in London. I think it is important to work in something that you are passionate about. After the excitement of tax, I look forward to following my second passion of dance! 
Issue: 1458
Categories: One minute with