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Comment: Just how valuable are they?

Kevin Arnold

By Kevin Arnold, CEO of Nexia International

One of the common challenges that all international networks face is the ability to engage with members effectively.Getting 'buy in' and motivating members to get the most out of a global network is a critical success factor.
At Nexia International, our strategic plan recognises the role that committees and special interest groups play in achieving our developmental aims. We have created a number of committees and groups, some of which are sector focused,for example, onspecificareas of tax,and others with a broader focus, such as marketing and business advisory services. Throughout last year,we worked closely with our member firms to facilitate collaborationvia these groups.

The benefits
Committees and special interest groups are best described as communities of expertise. They provide forums in which individuals from member firms, representing a range of jurisdictions from around the world, can share their knowledge and diverse experiences for the benefit of all firms within the network. This is achieved through the creation of website portals, telephone conference calls and, most importantly, face-to-face meetings.

It is essential that our members provide a consistent and high-quality level of service to clients - regardless of location. Committees and special interest groups can support this ethos in three key ways:

1. By helping to identify the right local and global expertise within the network to advise on a particular client assignment
2. By promoting effective knowledge sharing and best practice communication techniques across the network
3. Through standards mapping and benchmarking across jurisdictions

Committees and special interest groups can also provide a useful vehicle for members to demonstrate their capabilities with a view to growing their business. Member firms can participate in a number of ways, including:
- developing common methodologies and frameworks to be shared with the network
- sharing best practice and developing toolkits
- delivering specialist training for members
- producing thought leadership that reflects the expertise and knowledge of the members
- capitalising on networking opportunities between members.

Future challenge
One of the crucial challenges that lies ahead is how best to support the continued growth and engagement of these committees and special interest groups. Fundamental to their development is effective communication between members through the sharing of knowledge, best practices and experiences.Clearly defined roles and responsibilities help to clarify the purpose and deliverables of specific committees or groups, avoiding duplication of work. Commitment, energy and motivation from individuals and member firms are essential if a group is to maintain momentum and remain current and responsive to market trends and member needs.

A central role
We believe that the Secretariathas has a key role to play in driving the continued growth and engagement of these groups. We are well positioned to facilitate communication between members and oversee the co-ordination of activities including establishing structures, roles and responsibilities, and allocating resources. We can also raise awareness of committees and special interest groups both internally and externally.

We have recently carried out a major restructuring exercise designed to ensure that our configuration and expertise matches the challenges ahead. While it is still early days, our experience suggests that committees and special interest groups have a major part to play in meeting the needs and aspirations of both our network and its members, providing them with a mechanism through which they can influence Nexia International's future growth.

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