Celebrating #IWD: Interview with Henny Abdel Malek-Verboom, Global Head of Tax in fintech

Author Rebecca Sheehan
March 19, 2024

International Women’s Day (IWD) is dedicated to highlighting the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of females in the workplace.

To celebrate IWD this year, we interviewed a series of successful women – discussing their careers and empowering others to get ahead in their industry.

Inspired by this year’s theme, “Investing in women: Accelerate progress”, we sat down with Henny Abdel Malek-Verboom, Global Head of Tax at Adyen – a fast-growing and listed Dutch fintech player.

Henny is based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, and has held pivotal tax roles for renowned businesses. Before Adyen, she was Head of Tax at Rituals and European tax lead at Uber. In her early career, she worked as a Tax Lawyer at Baker McKenzie after kick-starting her career at Deloitte.

“I never thought that the huge investment I’ve made in my own personal development for the last 10 years would have a multiplier effect in my life, including my career.”

Beyond her impressive professional trajectory in tax management, Henny is deeply invested in personal growth, meditation and yoga. As a yoga teacher, she guides individuals on journeys of self-discovery – all while balancing her corporate responsibilities with her role as mother.

Driven by a passion to serve, create impact and foster personal and professional growth, Henny continues to make strides in both the corporate and personal development realms.

Can you tell us about your role? What you love most and do you have any career highlights?

As Vice-president, Global Head of Tax Adyen, I lead a team of tax professionals. My role is to manage the tax affairs of the group with my team. I believe that a leader exists to serve the people, instead of the people that need to serve the leader.

I never thought that the huge investment I’ve made in my own personal development for the last 10 years would have a multiplier effect in my life, including my career.

“As I delved into the world of tax law, I fell in love with it and discovered its surprisingly creative aspects which captivated me even more.”

At some point in your career, your technical knowledge is not enough anymore to go next level. Many other skills are needed. I would like to advise people to not underestimate this and to invest their time in personal development as well.

The highlight of my career is the impact I’ve been able to make on the people I’m leading and how I’ve seen them grow into their full potential. I see this as the reason I’m here on this earth and I’m thankful that I can live this mission as a leader through my tax career every day.

Why did you want to become a tax professional?

I initially embarked on the path to become a criminal lawyer, largely influenced by what I saw on TV.    

However my father, offering sage advice, suggested tax law as a promising career option for its financial stability and potential for independence – especially for a woman.

“The aspect I value most about working in tax in-house is the need for creative and out-of-the-box thinking.”

As I delved into the world of tax law, I fell in love with it and discovered its surprisingly creative aspects which captivated me even more.

Contrary to common perception, tax offers ample opportunities for creativity and innovative problem-solving. This might not be obvious to a young female graduate choosing a career and who wants to find also creative fulfilment.

I soon realised that tax is a function that has a meaningful impact on a business. Tax is a truly international discipline, which is exciting to me. Tax also offers great commercial exposure and the opportunity to think strategically across different business functions.

What do you value most about working in tax?

The aspect I value most about working in tax in-house is the need for creative and out-of-the-box thinking.

Success in this field hinges on our ability to find novel solutions to complex problems. Often, the best tax solutions may not align with broader business objectives, necessitating a delicate balance and innovative approaches and ideas. This constant demand for creativity keeps the work engaging and rewarding.

“I try to be a “new generation tax leader”, embodying authenticity, compassion and a willingness to challenge conventional norms.”

I also value and find huge fulfilment in my leadership role and managing my team.

What key skills do you think tax leaders need to be successful?

To thrive in tax, professionals must possess strong creative problem-solving abilities (out-of-the-box thinking), stakeholder management skills and the capacity to simplify complex concepts. These skills enable us to have a seat at the table and communicate effectively with diverse stakeholders, ultimately driving successful business outcomes.

I try to be a “new generation tax leader”, embodying authenticity, compassion and a willingness to challenge conventional norms. This type of person leads from the heart, gives praise/feedback and prioritises the wellbeing of their team over personal accolades.

There is a huge benefit of being open to hiring people different from themselves, and to have the courage to do that. This will sharpen your own ideas.

“People can’t intuitively understand what you’re accomplishing; you have to articulate it.”

It’s so easy from an unconscious bias perspective to hire people similar to yourself but this poses a risk to the greater good of the team and the company. It’s paramount to embrace diversity in hiring practices and foster an environment of inclusivity and innovation.

Don’t go for the safe or known option when hiring your team. Also do not be afraid to hire someone smarter than yourself! Have the self-security to do so, and to know what you are good at and not good at. It will bring new ideas you could not have come to yourself. This is better for the team and for the group, and it will help you grow further as a leader.

I try to adopt a “founders mentality”, prioritising the collective good of the business. I like to reflect and ask myself when making leadership decisions, what if this were my own company? What is the best decision?

Would asking yourself this lead you to making a different choice? I find it generally does. It also makes me feel more passionate about that choice. Thinking of it as my own enterprise leads to different outcomes and next-level decision making.

In light of International Women’s Day, what advice do you have for women considering a career in tax or trying to get ahead in the industry?

When I think about advice I would give to my younger self, I remember when I was studying or very early in my career and felt a little insecure or perhaps vulnerable comparing myself to my peers. They always seemed to be more confident than I was.

“Sometimes we do not like to make a fuss but it is so important to recognise and celebrate your unique strengths in the tax industry.”

I noticed that the confident peers were more adept at sharing or vocalising their accomplishments or wins. I could also see many others around me hoping their successes would be noticed without them needing to vocalise it. As my career progressed I saw the benefit in changing this predisposition.

My advice to tax professionals trying to progress in business is to become good at “PR”:

  1. Try to vocalise your accomplishments in a humble way and see how you can share it in such a way that it adds value for others as well. Avoid diminishing your achievements and learn to advocate for yourself and your team
  2. Remember, your success is not just yours alone; it’s a triumph for the entire team. We often struggle with self-praise, so vocalising success as a team win may feel a more comfortable and sincere way to express an accomplishment
  3. People can’t intuitively understand what you’re accomplishing; you have to articulate it. Sharing your successes in a humble and value-add way will greatly aid to your career progression and next steps

Sometimes we do not like to make a fuss but it is so important to recognise and celebrate your unique strengths in the tax industry such as exceptional listening skills, creativity, intuition and empathy. These are the traits of a successful leader which I feel come very naturally to me.

Harnessing these attributes, along with more and more self-confidence, will lead to great things for the future of all of us in business.

Get in touch with us if you’d like to discuss your career or hiring needs.

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