60 second interview with Nic Arnold, PwC

Date: 10 Dec 2019

Bumblebee Design

Citywealth spoke to Nic Arnold ACA, CTA about her career in the private client tax space and how she helps her clients cut through complexity, make decisions and protect their wealth for generations to come.

Tell me about your role.

I’m a private client tax adviser. It’s my job to help my clients manage their lives in today’s complicated tax world. Whether I have looked after a family or individual for many years, or I am consulting on a specialist project such as the purchase of art, I need to make sure that the advice my client receives on tax and any other matters, is relevant, clear to understand, and most importantly, able to be acted upon.


What does a typical day look like for you?

I really don’t have a typical day. It depends on whether I’m overseas seeing a client or representing PwC; in the office with the team or sometimes working from home where I can plough through a to-do list as long as my arm. The common themes are that I’m managing the progress of client work, building our private client practice or managing our team. For clients I will always be challenging how much progress has been made, what are the issues we should be looking out for, is the client happy, is the team happy? Nothing stands still in the private client space.


What challenges do your clients face and how are you helping your clients to overcome them?

My clients are thinking more carefully about how they manage their private wealth and spend their money. Across the board they are asking more questions and demanding better answers. They are thinking less about the here and now and more about the context and future implications of their spending and how their wealth is perceived and preserved. This doesn’t mean they aren’t enjoying their money; it just means that they are applying a level of governance to their private wealth and lives that would have historically been reserved for their businesses and investments. The purchase of a Superyacht for example, while still an asset of the heart and perhaps the pinnacle display of wealth, is nevertheless embarked upon with the question – ‘who do I need to talk to in order to ensure I get this right?’


Tell us about interesting client instructions.

My work is most interesting when I’m helping a client manage the many moving parts of their lives; or when they’re taking a new direction and need to work out where the challenges will come from. Tax is an important part of this, but we need to ensure that the tax tail doesn’t end up wagging the dog. If this becomes the case you’ll end up with a solution that isn’t sustainable. In fact, despite being a tax adviser, my work is most interesting when I’m ensuring that tax is simply understood and managed well, not at the centre driving a project.


What is your proudest professional achievement?

Interesting question. I’m dyslexic, so I’m quite proud of being a tax adviser at all – passing exams did not come easily to me and I’ve ended up with lots of them under my belt (actually, I must be proud of that as I always put my letters after my name). What I’ve found over the years about being dyslexic is that I think differently, and I can cut through a lot of the complexity to get to the heart of what really needs to be understood and decided upon. I’m also pretty proud of building up the luxury asset expertise at PwC. I look around the room at team meetings and think, wow, all these amazing minds have come together to go to market under my leadership: how fantastic.


What do you consider to be the most important attributes for a leader?

Authenticity and self-awareness. Have you read ‘Why Should Anyone Be Led by You?’, it is excellent and I have encouraged many of my mentees to read it as it explains how being a leader isn’t about being more ambitious, intelligent or cut-throat than anyone else. It’s about understanding where you’re going, why you’re going there and showing others why they’ll benefit from coming with you.   


Who do you most admire and why?

The first person who jumped into my head when I read this question was Sabrina Cohen-Hatton, Chief Fire Officer who I was listening to on Desert Island Discs recently. She had the most awful teenage years and was homeless on the streets for a while. Her story is amazing and makes me feel very humble. Ellen McCarther is pretty amazing too, can you imagine being alone in the Southern Ocean at the top of a mast sorting out a problem? When I think about this question more broadly, the answer is that I deeply admire all the parents who have children with severe illnesses or learning needs. The emotional resilience and need to dig deep to deal with your child’s struggles is something that many won’t appreciate unless they’re in the thick of it.


Where was the last place you travelled to for work or pleasure?

I’m writing this on a plane back from Madrid where I was running a PwC tax course for our EMEA tax managers. It was a great course that celebrated and strengthened the connections between our offices. But as is often the way, it was three days inside a massive hotel that I seemed to be permanently lost in. A little more fresh air was obtained at the top of the Old Man of Coniston in the Lakes where we were for October half term. That was wonderful.


If you weren’t in the wealth management industry, what else might you be doing?

Gosh, are we talking fantasy careers? I’d be a female Sir Ranulph Fiennes (even with the missing fingertips) or part of a mountain rescue team, or anything outside knee-deep in mud. But if we’re talking what might I realistically have been, I would say that Nic in her parallel universe is an award-winning architect.


How do you relax after a long day?

There is nothing better than snuggling on the sofa with the fire on watching a movie with my family. I bought my son Max a poster of ‘100 must watch movies’ and we’re working our way through it together. There are some classics, so I feel like I’m educating him at the same time as relaxing. Always multitasking.

May I add a post script? Do you mind? A dear friend of mine gave Citywealth a 60 Second Interview a while back. Alistair Peel. Last summer Ali took his life. Before, every now and again I would think, ‘I must sort lunch with Ali’. Now I think about him every day. We have such busy lives, but if there is someone you know you should get in touch with but there never seems to be the right moment, go ahead and do it. It’s Christmas after all. And if you ever feel you need to talk to someone @samaritans