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Michael Costello features in the Business Plus magazine

16 March 2020

Michael Costello, Managing Partner, speaks to Nick Mulcahy from the Business Plus on BDO’s performance over the past year and the current issues facing Irish businesses.

How was trading for the firm over the past year – in line with the buoyant economy or better? What service lines have seen growing demand?

We are very pleased with our performance over the past year – we are just over a year into our new strategic plan and the foundations that we put in place to drive transformational change in our business are showing significant progress. We are continuing to grow all our traditional business services such as audit, tax, advisory and consulting, while complementing these with new services such as data analytics, strategy, talent management, and specialist tax services such as transfer pricing. This growth has been supported by a significant brand awareness campaign that has seen an increase in recognition of BDO, our people, our services and what ‘we do’.

As Managing Partner in the firm, what are the operational issues that are most challenging?

A common challenge in a full employment economy is the availability of the right people to help us to continue growing our business into the future. We are delighted that graduates, experienced professionals, and digital experts continue to find BDO an attractive and rewarding employer. Retaining the best people has been a key factor in our success.

What issues are top of mind with your growth-focused clients at the moment, and how is the firm assisting them?

Our growth focussed clients have a number of challenges that they are managing at the moment – from having the right talent to grow their businesses; accessing the right investment to help them to scale; understanding if they have the right organisational structure to continue to grow and ensuring they are prepared as well as possible for the challenges that Brexit will bring. However, our experienced teams are helping clients on a daily basis with all of these challenges – the team that we have built at BDO are focused on our clients’ success and providing insightful but practical advice that our clients can take and use.

Brexit is half-done, with the trade deal now on the table until year-end. What’s worrying your clients about the Brexit outcome? What practical measures are they taking?

There is a real danger that the number of ‘near misses’ that business endured in the run-up to the United Kingdom finally passing the Withdrawal Bill has led to a mix of relief and apathy to the challenges yet to come. There is no doubt that the forthcoming commencement of the trade talks will be where the real challenges begin. Agreeing a trade agreement by the end of 2020 appears to be hopeful in the extreme, and the current narrative emerging from London talking of an ‘Australian’ type trade agreement is merely masking the possibility of no-deal still being a real possibility.

We know that there are many businesses that have advanced preparations in place, however, we also know that there are a great many smaller and medium sized organisations that are yet to progress their Brexit planning – such as obtaining EORI (Economic Operators Registration and Identification) numbers that will allow them to export; setting up Deferred Payment Accounts or TAN accounts (Trader Account Number) or undertaking some of the training available to complete the Single Administrative Document (SAD) necessary for customs clearance.
Much of our support for clients from our specialised Customs and International trade team continues to be about making them ready for January 1st, 2021 so that they can continue to export and import following the departure of the UK from the Customs Union.

Politicians of all hues seem to regard business and high earners as a soft tax touch. How concerned are you, and your clients?

When it comes to future Government policy, we will work with our clients to ensure that they manage any potential challenges in the best way possible. However, it is important to remember that as a small, open economy, we are reliant on businesses locating in Ireland and providing the employment that drives the tax take that can be used for the improved public services that we all agree are necessary.

How would you describe your firm’s market position currently? Where is the business growth opportunity for the firm?

We believe that we are very well placed to continue our strong growth into the coming years – our strategy has identified those future growth pillars and we have spent the last year putting those in place. The results so far have been very encouraging and there is now a clear momentum in our business. We continue to look at new service offerings that can differentiate our service to that of our competitors and we believe there are a number of areas that we are currently working on, that will come to fruition over the coming year that will highlight how we do business differently.

Content adapted from the Business Plus online: "Pushing The Envelope"