Senior Vice President Global Tax, Assurant
On a Tuesday morning in September, Melissa Hall visits Felo’s, a deli on New York’s Upper West Side best known for its sandwiches and Latin food. She orders a Bustelo cafecito, a Cuban-style espresso that packs a rich dark-roasted punch, and talks to AWE about a recent conversation she had with her daughter which led to reflection over her own career.
“My daughter is a senior in college and trying to find her passion. At her age I only knew I wanted to be in business and wanted to be completely financially independent”, Melissa recalls. “I wanted a guaranteed job upon graduation so I moved into taxes because I could start working with the partners of the firm immediately.” Melissa put that ambitious plan in motion, first by becoming the President of George Washington University’s Beta Alpha Psi Accounting Honor Society and then graduating with distinction from GWU (she later earned a master’s degree in taxation from Fordham University).
Melissa not only guaranteed herself that post-graduation job she desired, she was hired at KPMG where she worked in both New York and London, becoming the youngest candidate ever selected for the prestigious one-for-one exchange with the London office to practice in U.K. tax for a 2-year secondment. Melissa spent eight years at KPMG with a focus on mergers and acquisitions, the taxation of financial instruments, tax implications of entering new jurisdictions worldwide, and double-tax treaty analysis of interest, dividends and royalty provisions.
Melissa joined Assurant as director in 1994, and rose to Vice President within three years. Today, she is their Senior Vice President of Global Tax, and oversees the overall tax planning and compliance functions for Assurant’s businesses worldwide. Her responsibilities include directing and coordinating tax department projects and financial reporting, as well as developing overall tax risk management and tax department strategy.
Melissa oversees forty-four people worldwide across eight different countries. She is passionate about supporting and promoting her team – regardless of where they work – and especially if they are working women and working mothers. “I personally love AWE because it’s outside of my lane of financial services so I meet people from all different backgrounds which is just so enriching for me. Maybe the only good thing to come out of the pandemic is that I could now sponsor three female rising stars from different parts of the world to AWE’s virtual Accelerator program. Providing them with this opportunity allows me to acknowledge employees who are in my remote locations.”
Melissa knows all too well the challenges of being a working mother. “I’ve raised four children to young adulthood – a feat that involved coaching 36 soccer teams, ski races in 5 states and 2 countries, crew regattas in 6 states and 2 countries, and over 150,000 miles on my car – some of my proudest accomplishments.” She adds, “they say behind every great man is a great woman, but really behind every great woman is an entire support network.” Melissa credits her supportive husband, family members who helped with childcare, and CFOs at Assurant with helping her thrive inside and outside of the workplace.
Her advice to other working parents, “Establish credibility and use your judgment. Know when you must be at work and when you can take time to tend to your family issues. I’ve had CFOs that I reported to and they’ve said to me, I had no idea that you were leaving to take care of things, you’ve always been here when I’ve needed you.”
Melissa may be the ultimate soccer mom but she’s a pitbull when it comes to business. “There is nothing that puts me in a bad mood or intimidates me. I love solving complex problems whether they take the form of a sale or an acquisition of a business or a reorganization or tax position. Those challenges really excite me.” Melissa added that the harder something is, the more she loves it. “Give me something to over function on. I once created a spreadsheet with a sixteen column matrix to get my kid into kindergarten! Bring it on.”