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Our Last Day in the Netherlands

 

Today was a bittersweet day that had some of us excited to return home and sad to be leaving this fantastic country. It started with a lecture on investor relations from Kris Douma. He was very entertaining and easily kept everyone engaged. We discussed crises in the business world and how investors and managers deal with them. One of the main take-aways I learned from the session was cultural difference in the mindset of the Dutch and Americans. When making decisions, the Dutch tend to take more nonfinancial risks into consideration than Americans. The Dutch have a saying: “Just because something is legal, doesn’t mean it is right.” I have enjoyed learning about the many cultural differences on this trip.

After our morning lecture, we had lunch with the accounting students from the Nyenrode Business University. Their teacher this year was Ferdy, who we heard from on Wednesday. It was interesting to hear about their school and work life. They go to school one day a week and work full time the other four days. Their program is seven years long and started when they were 18. Our table talked about language barriers and school differences.

The last half of our day, we had presentations. We were all split into buddies near the beginning of the trip and were assigned a topic to present on today. We stated what we learned, how it related to past courses, and how it will help is academically, professionally, and personally. The topics were international tax, auditing, sustainability, auditing challenges, financial reporting, the Authority of Financial Markets, and the reporting process. Govert was the judge and the first- and second-place groups won a prize from the Nyenrode bookshop. It was refreshing to see how much information we all took in throughout the trip.

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The day ended with a farewell dinner with Sophie and Govert. We ate at Lakei on campus and enjoyed a great steak dinner. It was nice to have one last dinner with everyone and show our thanks to our hosts. This trip was an unique experience, and we all learned so much. I am sad to leave the Netherlands, but our last term awaits.

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Written by eproulx@uoregon.edu

I started the MAcc program September 2014 and will graduate June 2015. Last year I graduated from the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs where I obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting. I am excited for our study tour to the Netherlands and looking forward to the adventures that await!

Day 4: Lecture on Regulatory Environment and Trip to KPMG

Our day 4 started from a great lecture in the morning. The topic for today’s presentation was financial reporting supervision and enforcement in international accounting. Ferdy van Beest, who is from Authority of Financial Markets (AFM), presented the aim of AFM and the way in which they are trying to accomplish goals in the Netherlands. Ferdy is an energetic speaker who always encouraged students to ask him questions and made students get involved in this serious topic. He stated that the goal of AFM was to create a better market in the Netherlands. However, AFM was still confronted with some challenges to achieve its goal. For example, collecting sufficient evidence was one of the most important thing for AFM. Beyond that, balance between firm-level and country-level regulation is the other problem they needed to consider. He also spoke about some companies in the Netherlands using integrated reporting, which included a scoring list with mandatory and voluntary components. At the end of his presentation, he mentioned that companies seemed to postpone taking impairment losses, hence suggesting that the financial results are distorted. AFM could not fine them since it was hard to measure without certain information. It seems like AFM still has some challenges when it regulates and enforces the process of financial reporting in the company. We really enjoyed Ferdy’s passionate speech and most of MAcc students even said he was the most interesting speaker during this business trip.

After lunch, we headed to KPMG in Amsterdam. As the previous leading audit firm of Philips, KPMG addressed the challenges they face in auditing an international listed company, and the lecture on external regulation was given by a partner and audit manager, who is also a UO alum. One issue the partner raised is that audit firms must be trusted. He stated that one audit challenge that the auditor faces is the potential punishment from negative news on social media. When one or two auditors fail on audit quality, the whole audit firm would be exposed to negative news. So the audit firms face the challenge of building relationships and trust with stakeholders and potential investors. Our alumnus also gave us some suggestions on how to deal with culture shocks, work pressure, and difficulties from his own experiences on KPMG’s rotation abroad. This presentation was a great opportunity to gain knowledge that could help us to begin our future career path.

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Written by Joyce

I am currently a MAcc student at UO and I really enjoy the time here.

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Day 3: Randstad, Nike, and the Employee Store

Randstad: Sustainability 

Hallo from Amsterdam day three! This morning the MAcc students visited Randstad, which is an HR services firm that provides jobs for about two million people annually. The topic for today’s presentation was on sustainability. Group Sustainability Officer Marlou Leenders on integrative reporting, sustainability reporting, and provided a case study for MAcc students to present on.

Today, traditional financial reporting is not sufficient enough information for stakeholders. Stakeholders want information on risks, opportunities, environmental efforts, strategy, the social environment, as well as financial performance. Randstad spoke about how important this is for their business model in order to create the most value for shareholders. We then discussed a case study where Marlou had us decide whether Randstad should keep a specific sustainability key performance indicator on which they currently report. This interactive learning opportunity was a great way to involve the MAcc students with important ongoing discussions currently happening at Randstad. We then enjoyed a wonderful lunch in the Randstad office and headed off to the Nike global headquarters in Amsterdam.

Nike: Accounting in Europe 

“If you have a body, you are an athlete.” Nike started off bold. Engaging us with an inspirational video and of course none other than an introduction to the history of Nike speaking about Phil Knight (Uncle Phil) and Bill Bowerman. Courtney Keating, a MAcc graduate and current european accounting manager for Nike, started off this presentation and was kind enough to set up one of the most intriguing discussions of the trip. There were five different topics presented on during our time at Nike. We had Lars Stratveit, Nike iD buyer, speak about the culture and heritage of Nike, as well as the process of Nike iD and what buying from vendors looks like for the company. Suzan Arendsen, director of WE tax, spoke about taxation at Nike and how the Dutch tax authorities are favorable to work with.

Then Erin and Scarlet, the PwC auditors of Nike came to talk about their audit procedures for Nike. They touched on risk assessment of their audit, the use of specialists, the audit planning timeline, and their experience living abroad. It was interesting to hear both the Nike and PwC side. What was even more exciting for me was the fact that I worked with Scarlet this summer during my internship at PwC in San Francisco. Such a small world. Then Justin Allen, retail accounting manager, spoke about Nike’s focus to move towards digital and the growing trend of Nike’s direct-to-consumer business in Europe. Then came THE BIG SURPRISE from Nike.

The final presenter was no one other than the CFO of Nike in Europe, Bart Boekraad. Bart spoke about what it means to be a CFO and how he deals with international management. He touched on the challenges of operating in certain countries and how Nike copes with the current political unrest and economic situations. I also asked him what advice he had for us as young professionals going into the workforce. His answer was that we need to be able to work well in a team, that soft skills are extremely important, as are believing in yourself, staying committed, not over-planning, and not being afraid of new opportunities.

We finished off the day by getting access to the Nike Employee Store. We all bought way too many clothes and shoes. I mean you don’t get that opportunity every day, so our mindset was JUST DO IT!

Written by Gabrielle Sanders

Current candidate for a Masters of Accounting degree from the University of Oregon. After graduation I will be pursuing a career in public accounting with PwC in Portland.

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Financial Reporting and Tax Havens

The day started out with clear skies as we headed to breakfast. We discussed our doubts about the forecast for the day: 100 percent chance of rain. The forecast proved accurate before it was lunch time. We were told by our lecturer from Akzo Nobel that this rainy weather was quite common here, just as it is in Eugene.

After breakfast we were seated in an adjacent room overlooking a calm pond overshadowed by old trees. Erika from Akzo Nobel met us at 9:00 a.m. to give insights on the complexity of financial reporting through different jurisdictions, accounting standards, and cultures. Some of the important topics included dealing with pension plans and how the latest laws have changed the cash balance for the company, leading them to borrow from the bank to pay dividends.

Shortly after noon we ate lunch on campus and prepared for our ride to Loyens & Loeff. The building was five stories high, and featured an open middle area in which all the offices overlooked the entrance area, a lunch seating area which also has been used for bands or symphonies, and clear elevators going up on the corners. We were greeted by three employees who discussed the reasons many international companies use the Netherlands for tax purposes. They showed a video illustrating the emotions regarding the political climate surrounding using tax havens to increase profits. Both sides were addressed from the perspective of taking money from the government and tax payers, to the perspective of the hindrance in remaining competitive when in a high tax rate country when other companies located in lower tax countries are able to reduce their tax expense, making them more profitable.

We ended our night with a 30-minute walk to a great restaurant that had the best salmon I have ever had, and more desert than anyone could finish. It was a great ending to a great day.

Written by Steve Griswold

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Off To A Great Start

Monday of the Netherlands trip marked the first official day of the program. The day was completely jam-packed with events, but it was still a good time. The day kicked off with Govert introducing us to some of the changes that the Netherlands is going through with regards to risk management. Next was Marcel who was a director of risk management at PwC in Amsterdam. He was a very energetic and passionate about the subject so it made the talk very interesting. I think he was so passionate about it due to the fact that risk management is somewhat of a new concept to the Dutch it seems, thus his profession was just taking off. He went over the various trends that are happening in risk management, and they really had to do with the fact that the world is so connected these days, which ends up making businesses more accountable for their actions across the world. He also stressed that your perception of the problem isn’t always the best, thus diversity in decision-making groups is very important. It was a very enlightening conversation and was made all the more interesting due to his enthusiasm.

After Marcel finished up his talk, we went to Deloitte in Utrecht where Mathijs spoke to us about the differences between a rules-based accounting approach and a principles-based accounting approach. The differences seemed to stem from the fact that rules-based will lay it out for employees where principles-based requires much more judgment from the employees due to the fact that the accounting rules don’t provide as much guidance in situations. Thus the talk centered around that and what might be the best potential system in the future. Mathijs stressed that it can never be all rules or all principles, but more of a middle ground between both systems. The Deloitte office in Utrecht is unbelievable though, it has a room that embodies the company’s new found emphasis on innovation. The company believes that Google and Apple are its biggest competitors rather than PwC, KPMG, and E&Y. I found this idea to be very interesting and intriguing. As you can tell from the futuristic look of the room, they truly believe in this initiative.

After our visit to Deloitte we climbed the Dom Tower in Utrecht. It was about 465 steps and 90 meters high. It provided a beautiful view of Utrecht and the surrounding areas. It was also ideal that we were able to make it up there fairly close to sunset as well. After trekking back down the 465 steps we then went to dinner at Raak where everyone ate glorious chicken skewers and pasta with pesto and portobello mushrooms. The night finished with crème brûlée and chocolate brownies, which were to die for.

 

Written by nbarton