Tell us about the work that you do as a Partner in the BDO Customs & International Trade Services department.
I am involved in advising clients on the customs and trade impact of importing goods into and exporting goods out of the EU and Ireland. I look at the customs duty costs and the compliance requirements. This can vary from the import of food products to the export of software. On occasion, this will require urgent advice, where the products are sitting at the ports for example, or a license is required in order to export, but for the most part we plan in advance to ensure companies are not overpaying duties. I also manage a team of 11, with various expertise, from customs consulting to customs systems implementation and reporting, to clearance and, our new service in SPS advisory.
What drew you to specialise in the area of customs, trade tax and regulation?
On leaving college, I applied for a position as a trainee customs advisor in PwC and got immersed in the world of customs and trade. My background is in History, and I find that trade events can be highly politicised and dramatically influence the world we live in. For example, the introduction of the EU Single market in 1992 brought Ireland strongly within the EU sphere from a political and also cultural perspective. At the time Global Trade was moving towards a Free Trade Model and the Just in Time supply chain model. Now, we are seeing the exact opposite with trends moving towards protectionism, regionalism and a “just in case” model to ensure security of supply.
What’s involved in your role as a member of the BDO Brexit Taskforce?
This was again a fascinating part of history in the making with the withdrawal of the UK from the EU Single market and the impact on relations between Ireland and the UK. Customs came to the fore as the UK hardened its negotiating stance and we were looking at the introduction of borders, controls and duty charges for the first time since 1992. My role was, and is, to update and educate our clients on the impact of this on their businesses and to ensure they are up to date with developments. This enables them to plan ahead and ensure they have considered the impact of customs and trade on their supply chain, sourcing and sales planning.
What makes BDO stand out amongst its competitors?
Our value proposition and point of difference is the Partner led approach for our clients. We are very accessible and are directly involved in advising and managing our clients at a Partner and Senior Management level. Our Partners are also highly operational, so we both advise on the requirements but also support on implementation. We really lead by our value statement – advising and challenging to help you succeed. Our DNA is entrepreneurial and therefore it really matters to us that businesses succeed, particularly when operating in challenging environments. Having run a small business myself, I know how important every decision is to ensure success and having the right advisors who really understand the importance of those decisions is critical.
Can you tell me about the BDO Sustainability Movement?
In 2021, the Global BDO Sustainability Movement was launched. Through this, we encourage everyone in the BDO community to join and learn more about how they can personally embrace sustainability practices as an individual, as a BDO professional and as advisers to our clients.
We recognise that employee engagement is key to our success on this journey. Our employees want to see BDO ‘doing the right thing’ and feel proud.
As our EMEA CEO has said, “Transforming our businesses to meet the challenges of climate change, biodiversity loss and social inequality will be one of the greatest challenges of our time.”
Our BDO Ireland CSR programme has now evolved therefore into focusing on sustainability based on current ESG principles.
Does your firm engage with local communities?
We are heavily involved with our community at a local level.
We support the Inner-City Enterprise programme and are involved in lectures for young entrepreneurs. This enables us to help people starting out in their own businesses. It resonates with us again because of our own entrepreneurial background and enables us to provide our key skills in accounting, finance and tax in a meaningful way.
We also support St. Audoen’s National School, based on Merchants Quay where our offices used to be and we activity are involved in supporting Irish charities with ongoing fundraising events.
How important are small businesses to the local economy, and how can global firms work with SMEs in Ireland?
We believe that the SME business is the backbone of the economy and critical to ensuring a sustainable living for the majority of our country. Small businesses ensure that communities thrive and often provide employment at a local level where there would otherwise be unemployment. We are strong supporters of the work undertaken by the local enterprise offices in this regard and believe this is critical to the wider Irish community.
Small businesses are also increasingly important for Global Firms. As mentioned earlier, with the move towards regional and national supply bases Global Firms will require more services and goods to be available locally. I think this is something we will see a lot more of in the coming years.
How important is a thriving business ecosystem in Ireland to our international trading relationships?
I believe it’s very important. A strong business ecosystem here not only allows us to attract and keep international business, but also to keep the best talent working in Ireland. It also gives extra confidence to potential customers that Ireland is a business community operating at the highest levels that can offer them the worlds’ best.
Were there any challenges or obstacles your firm had to face over the past three years?
As with the rest of the country, our biggest challenge over the last three years was COVID.
No surprise there, but the global pandemic was an unprecedented time and we all had to learn how to manage to both survive and keep business going. The primary concern was everyone’s health and safety firstly, but then we also had to ensure we were able to continue supporting our clients and their businesses, along with our staff and their incomes. Fortunately, we have a very cohesive firm, and everyone was committed to working together to pull through. We were able to navigate our way through, but there was no readymade playbook or roadmap as I think everyone will agree. So, it was definitely a challenging time for all the reasons mentioned.
What are the emerging trends within your sector?
The biggest trend we are now seeing is the change in the supply chain from a global open based form of trading to a more resilient model. We are seeing increasing moves toward protectionism and increasing worries about the security of supply for critical raw materials.
I recently took part in a Global BDO Workshop addressing the issues in the Value Chain and bringing together experts from our various teams in Tax, Customs, Consulting, and Advisory to enhance our service offering to clients to ensure a holistic approach to this seismic change. As a result of this we are rolling out a new Global Trade Advisory service from this month where we will engage with and advise clients on the impacts of geo-political issues and trends on their supply chain – essentially their imports, exports, purchasing and sales.
Content adapted from Guaranteed Irish.