A day in the life of an R&D Tax Advisor

Justin Arnesen_Ayming

This article was originally published on Cityjobs.com

At 31, Justin Arnesen is already the Director of R&D Tax & Grants for the global consulting firm, Ayming. Born and raised in Johannesburg, South Africa, he moved to New Zealand to play football when he was 22, and soon landed a consultancy role with Deloitte. In 2015 he moved to London where he joined Ayming. Here he tells us what a typical day in his job is like…

What time does your alarm go off?

Justin Arnesen: “5.45am!”

When do you usually arrive into the office?

“7.15am. I need the quiet time before my team arrives.”

What’s the first thing you do once you arrive? (After making yourself a cup coffee or tea, obviously.)

“Living in the digital world, like everyone else, I pick up my emails before getting into the office. When I get to my desk I jot down my priorities for the day and start focusing on what really matters.”

What happens at lunchtime?

“My team is pretty big – 30 people – so I always ensure that I take a break, around 30 minutes, when the majority of them are in the kitchen.”

What your typical workload?

“I’m generally quite busy with the following:

1. Prospects – trying to win new business with my sales and business development team. Our preferred approach is different to our competitors – more sophisticated selling is required.

2. Clients – high-level commencement and introductory meetings to set the scene and understand the opportunities, challenges and risks. After that, unless it’s a very complex situation or major client, I pass the baton over to my management team; I have seven managers.

3. Legislation – understanding the opportunities, challenges and risks.

4. Internal meetings – anything from HR discussions, guiding/coaching my team (in turn learning myself), identification/implementation of process improvement mechanisms, budgeting/finance/invoicing etc. And

5. Deliverables – we essentially get paid for our opinion and I need to ensure that our view is valuable and justifiable. The R&D incentive ‘game’ is not black and white; it’s many shades of grey.”

What’s the best thing about what you do?  

“What gets me fired up and keeps me going is broken down into two main areas: Educating clients, so taking them along the incentive (R&D tax relief and government grants) journey; and watching my staff grow and meet their personal goals.

“With regards to clients, at Ayming we believe that incentives like R&D tax relief and government grants should change a company’s future behavior, so the company can take on more projects, or riskier projects, and build incentives into their decision-making. In other words, we encourage companies to be proactive when it comes to incentives; to build their application for a tax relief or grant into the project from the word go, rather than trying to retrospectively apply R&D tax relief or a government grant afterwards, which is how most of our competitors work.

“What we do at Ayming is understand the specific pressures of a business. We educate our clients in terms of the incentive landscape – so what’s available, why it’s available and the complexities surrounding the specific incentive. I always say to clients, once you understand the incentive landscape, you will be able to use this insight to positively affect your decision-making.

“As for my staff, my background means that I see incentive consulting slightly differently to some of them. This has been quite challenging at times. However, we as a team have grown and are constantly evolving – no two deliverables or methodologies should ever be the same.

I obviously nudge and encourage my team to buy into a proactive approach (the Ayming Way) and shy away from the reactive and retrospective approach used elsewhere. I nudge them, but I love it when they work it out for themselves. Ultimately, I love challenging my staff, throwing them in the deep in end, with direction, but knowing that they will ask if they are lost.”

Are there any downsides?


What time are you home usually home?

“Between 6.30 and 7pm.”

What do you know now that you wish you’d known when you were leaving university? 

“Like everything in life, talent only gets you so far. With hindsight, I know now that effort gets you further – at least in my opinion. I guess that at some point I realised that if I wanted to be successful, I needed to put in the effort. I never want to look back in life and think to myself that I could have done more (put in more effort).”

What single piece of advice do you have for today’s finance and business graduates? 

“Once you find what you want to do, don’t just treat it like a job. It must become your life if you want to be successful! Also, know what you are good at, but more importantly, know what your weaknesses and blind spots are.”

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