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Working for the deal makers Back  
A chartered accountant by profession, Mark Collins was responsible for setting up KPMG’s Transaction Services division in Ireland in 2000. This division provides deal evaluation, financial and tax due diligence and public reporting (IPO) services in Ireland, and a highlight of such a position is the exposure he gets to many deal types, and to high quality deal makers such as Dermot Desmond and Niall McFadden.
What is your educational background?
I was educated at Blackrock College. I graduated from UCD with a BComm in 1994 followed by a Master of Accounting from the Smurfit Business School in 1995. I qualified (with KPMG) as a Chartered Accountant in 1997.
Mark Collins

What has been your career path to date?
I joined KPMG in 1995 into the Audit practice, specialising in Information, Entertainment and Communications. In 1998, as audit senior, I transferred to our New York office and stepped right off the aeroplane into dot.com mania. I worked on a large number of NASDAQ IPOs over a two year period before returning to KPMG in Dublin to help launch Transaction Services (TS) in Ireland.

TS is the market leader in providing deal evaluation, financial and tax due diligence and public reporting (IPO) services in Ireland.

I have worked in TS since then however, this was punctuated by a six month secondment with working at the office of the CEO of KPMG’s Europe, Middle East and Africa region. This involved travelling around the region working on various international assignments.

I was appointed as a partner in KPMG in November 2005.

Are your peers from similar backgrounds?
My peers in KPMG are typically chartered accountants. On most medium to large transactions we tend to work within multi disciplinary teams which always involve the core financial and tax professionals but often also includes business advisory professionals who provide IT and project management skills in, for example, financial modelling and strategic/commercial due diligence providers. Therefore, the deal team members can hail from a pretty broad background.

However, all transactions are a team effort and I would have very close contact with other advisors to include corporate finance houses and lawyers.

Have you worked abroad? If so where and what did you do? Would you do so again?
I worked in New York for almost two years. This was a very exciting time for the capital markets and I hugely enjoyed the experience. New York is an incredible city with wonderful diversity and opportunities. If it wasn’t for the draw of a certain lady back home, I think I would still be there!

Travelling around Europe, Middle East and Africa gave me further exposure to a range of cultures, management styles and the unique issues and problems that present in various countries.
KPMG promotes mobility of its professionals worldwide and the firm has the international network to delivery on this commitment. If the location and opportunity was right, I wouldn’t be averse to taking up another position in one of our overseas offices.

How would you compare career prospects internationally to those in Ireland?
While locations such as New York and London clearly attract the largest corporate transactions, the professional focus can narrow to specific deal types and/or exclusive dedication to certain sectors.
Domestically, while the deals may not be quite as ‘big ticket’ we do get fantastic exposure to many deal types and to high quality deal makers. In addition, many of our acquisitive plc’s are engaged in significant cross-border transactions. All in all, I think the career prospects in Ireland compare very favourably.
In our case, this is evidenced by the fact that we currently have TS professionals on secondment from London, Barcelona, Dusseldorf and Prague working in our team in Dublin.

Have you undertaken any additional professional training since assuming your current role?
We are continually appraising and attending to our training needs. Recently I have focused quite a bit on the technical side. In particular, I have attended a number of IFRS and US GAAP courses. Some of this is new, but mainly it is to refine and develop existing knowledge.
The most interesting course I was on recently was one we hosted on private equity and leveraged buy outs.
We also do a lot around soft skills courses – I have attended selling/negotiation skills and various communication/presentation courses.

What skills/aptitude would you identify as being key/beneficial to a career in your sector?
The strongest people in our division are technically sound yet maintain a commercial outlook. Attention to detail is a key attribute however, people skills and crucially, an ability to forge lasting client relationships is still probably the critical skill.

What aspects of the job do you like most?
Given that we are not streamlined into specific sectors within TS, we enjoy considerable variety both in the context of industry and deal types. We work on many transaction types with a mix of principals and advisors.
Obviously, playing a central role in a transaction such as a high profile floatation is exciting, but often the best advice we can give a client is to renegotiate or ultimately walk away from a deal. Providing value added services to a sophisticated client base is a constant but invigorating challenge!

We also have a fantastic team within TS in Ireland and it is very exciting to a part of a fast growing unit within a large firm such as KPMG.

What aspects of the job do you like least?
One probably needs to have a certain personality type to enjoy this type of work. Travel and late night pizza come with the territory.

How do you define success in your sector?
To be honest, I’m far too young to be offering definitions of success, but I do think that the respect of your internal and external peer group is the best compliment that could be made about someone in this business.

Is there anyone in particular you admire in your industry?
Many of Ireland’s acquisitive corporates have superb track records. Ireland has a history of great dealmakers like Dermot Desmond, Michael Smurfit, Denis Brosnan to name a few.
I think there is also a new generation of dealmakers emerging such as Niall McFadden and Barry O’Callaghan that I admire.

What advice would you give to others who might like a career in your sector?
Acting with integrity is the cornerstone of what we do at KPMG and is the maxim my internal mentors have always impressed on me.

In what areas are there the most opportunities in Ireland? IFSC/domestic etc.
Given the strong underlying data, we expect continued economic buoyancy and healthy environment in which to do deals. The feedback at our recent M&A Club breakfast was that the AIM/IEX markets are attractive sources of finance, however debt also remains relatively cheap and international private equity houses are showing increased interest in Irish assets.

Our TS colleagues in Belfast are also very enthusiastic about the increased deal flow in the North.

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