Interview: Michael Costello, BDO Ireland

12 April 2017

Business Plus speaks to Michael Costello, BDO Managing Partner, on current accounting sector trends as well as the firm's growth in service offerings. 

What’s top of mind with your growth-focused clients at the moment, and how are you assisting them? Are they spooked by Brexit and Trump?

The past two years has seen significant growth opportunities with a strengthening across all of our core service offerings.  Our particular specialisms including private clients, outsourcing and risk and advisory services have helped our firm to achieve strong performances. In particular, we have expanded the scope of our corporate finance services offering through the addition of a dedicated transaction services team. We are well known for our funding expertise and as advisors to growing companies and this is also a growth area.

Our clients are looking at their strategy in terms of opportunities for growth in light of the current economic environment and the impact that Brexit in particular, will have on their businesses.

A number of our clients are looking to the opportunities presented by Brexit.  In particular, we are seeing an increase in requests for assistance for acquisitions in the UK.  Many of our clients are also considering how best to expand into other markets outside of the UK and Ireland. We are assisting many of our clients on how best to prepare for Brexit taking into account likely changes in taxation, supply chain, customs tariffs and regulation.

What’s your view on availability of finance and capital for your SME and mid-market clients? 

We believe that there is an improvement in the availability of finance and capital for SMEs and mid-market companies.  BDO manages two separate funds both aimed at growing companies within this space. The Davy EII Tax Relief Fund is Ireland’s longest running EII Scheme which has raised more than €166m for over 162 Irish companies. The BDO Development Capital Fund is aimed at investing development and growth capital in established, mid-sized and profitable companies to support and accelerate their export growth plans.

This expertise and understanding complements the skills of our complete corporate finance offering and allows BDO to have a unique position in funding. No other accountancy firm has this breadth of skills and credentials in this area and as Irish businesses look to fund their growth plans BDO is well positioned to provide value and support.

There is evidently a talent shortage in the accountancy sector. Is this issue a problem for your practice and do rising salaries inevitably impact on client fees? 

We place a significant emphasis on talent acquisition and retention across our firm.  Our experience is that the market is very competitive for new graduates.  We work hard to attract and retain the brightest and most talented individuals, including STEM graduates. BDO provides real opportunities for progression and development and as a result, 2016 saw our strongest year to date with regard to graduate recruitment.

How is technology going to disrupt the business finance function, and the accountancy profession, in the coming years?

The profession has entered a period of technological change which will radically change the market over the next five years. We know in particular that AI will have significant impact.  Innovation in technology remains a key consideration for BDO and a key aim is to ensure that we continue to use new technology to deliver for our clients.

Can Dublin cope with an influx of UK financial firms relocating for EU passporting rights? 

As we have seen with recent announcements, Brexit will present significant opportunities to expand our country’s financial services and fintech sectors. One of the key issues that will need to be addressed is the capacity of our regulators.  There are of course other practical factors to consider including availability of housing, schooling and effective transport networks.