Adriana Calderon works in the accounting and finance niche of transfer pricing, advising corporations operating across multiple jurisdictions on how to effectively trade within the corporate family while meeting best practice legislation – and she’s recently launched Transfer Pricing Solutions’ first offices in Asia.
But it’s not all about the numbers for Adriana. A keen dancer, a vocal advocate of education and a believer in empathy and understanding, Adriana is adamant that the human side of any business is just as important as the bottom line – although they’re not mutually exclusive.
How did you come to specialise in transfer pricing?
I’m from Latin America and my background is in law, but I wanted to travel the world. My idea was that I would do my Master’s in international tax, but ten years ago I never ever imagined transfer pricing would become such an important field! So it was a bit of ‘right place, right time’. I moved to Melbourne University, Australia, to do international tax, and I started specialising in transfer pricing.
How did you get involved with Transfer Pricing Solutions?
It was really interesting, because when I met director Shannon Smit I was in a bit of a situation. I couldn’t work full time because I was a student, and the Big Four accountancy firms would only offer full-time jobs. Shannon was able to offer me the perfect solution.
What challenges has your business faced?
Because this is our first year of operation in Singapore, our main challenge is to convince the industry that we can be a credible alternative to the Big Four. People can tend to think that if you’re not one of the Big Four, you have no defence against the tax authorities – and that’s actually not true. We have great relationships with the tax authorities. So I think that’s the challenge at the moment. To gain the trust of the market, so they understand that we can be an alternative, with the same reliability, at the same level and with the same assurances.
Tell us about how workspaces affect your business, particularly setting up your new branch in Singapore.
Sometimes people tend to think that because you don’t have an office you may not be serious and professional, and I think that’s what Regus lets you do. If a client is asking for a meeting, I can call today and they’ll find space for me tomorrow morning. They come to the office and they see we have the signage, and they see that the receptionist knows us. You can show that you’re a professional, serious company, without having to have a permanent office. That’s important because this business is about trust.
Do you like working in a small business?
Oh, definitely. Initially I needed that flexibility to study, then I wanted to do a full-time job, and that’s when I worked for the Big Four, but I left again when I wanted a family. I needed a flexible place that allowed me to work remotely, where I don’t need to sit down 8 to 5, where I can drop my kids to school. That’s why I went back to Transfer Pricing Solutions.
Being in a small business lets you be flexible, and you don’t have the whole politics of the big corporates behind it either. You feel like you’re working with friends, almost like working with family, which allows you to have a real work-life balance.
Why is the work-life balance important for you?
Meeting other people re-energises me. I do meditation and yoga, but one of my latest hobbies is dancing. As a Latin American I love dancing, and I’m lucky enough that my husband also enjoys it! So I like to fit that in around the kids and my business.
I also think that meeting other people can give you perspective, and help you be more empathetic. When you’re in tax and you’re always talking about numbers, you can sometimes lose perspective about the people behind that. So when you hear stories about the challenges people face in life, it makes you more empathetic in your work, and also makes you give people the benefit of the doubt and be positive.
You also teach seminars, workshops and conferences – why’s that important to you?
We don’t believe that being selfish with knowledge is the way to go. We like to educate our clients. And I believe that the more education we offer people, the keener they are to work with us.
The other thing is that when you go to these workshops, you get the perspective of the client, who will tell you what they want and what their challenges are. You can combine all of that to be able to serve your clients with useful solutions that mirror what they want.
Top tips from Adriana:
- Be informed. Find good advisors, people you can trust, and don’t be afraid to pick the brains of other people to be ready for anything.
- Find ways to always keep yourself motivated. I sometimes go to speakers who are from other industries, all industries, fashion, engineering, anything, because they are all inspiring, they all face similar challenges, and that motivates me.
- Be persistent and fight for your ideas. You live what you do, so don’t be afraid to share what you do everywhere. Spread the word of what you do and be proud of your achievements!