Focusing on Innovative Solutions, Best Practices

Eva Lloréns Vélez - Caribbean Business |

20 July 2017

BDO Puerto Rico has taken advantage of Act 20 of 2012 that grants incentives to firms that export services to position itself as a major global force in tax, financial and business services. BDO Puerto Rico works to ensure that its more than 2,000 clients stay ahead of the curve at a time when cyberattacks, the war on talent and the phenomenon of technological disruption threaten to wipe out many businesses. The local firm was recently awarded a seat on the BDO International Board of the Americas, a major achievement that goes in line with plans to enter the Latin American market.

The information was provided by Gabriel Hernández, co-founder of BDO Puerto Rico, as well as Keith Farlinger, CEO of the Americas, who starting in November will become CEO of the international BDO network. He will succeed Martin van Roekel, who will become vice chairman of BDO. In this new role, Van Roekel will work closely with the Global Board and the CEO to deal with a number of the network’s strategic priorities, one of which will be China and Hong Kong.

BDO Puerto Rico for the first time in its existence was the host of the Conference of the Americas in which more than 120 of its members recently discussed the firm’s organizational goals and the challenges they face.

“The main purpose was to share knowledge about innovative solutions and learn about partner best practices,” Van Roekel said.

Hernández said that having hosted the conference is an important step for the firm because it positions BDO Puerto Rico in the international arena. “We were four in size and now we are the first,” he said. BDO Puerto Rico has more than 270 employees.

Besides being one of the 10 best employers on the island, BDO Puerto Rico is now part of the firm’s International Board, an achievement that gives it an international edge after also being recognized as the No. 1 firm in customer satisfaction.

Farlinger emphasized that Puerto Rico has a strategic edge and shares a common language that facilitates BDO Puerto Rico’s expansion plans into Latin America. Van Roekel noted that BDO has already expanded in Aruba and in the eastern Caribbean islands.

That is why, with the help of the Export Services Act, which provides exemptions to companies that export services outside of Puerto Rico, Hernández hopes to attract the market of affluent families that wish to penetrate the U.S. market because of BDO’s knowledge and expertise in federal regulations and laws.

“We are looking at the Latin American market.... We hope to attract the private customer-service market and are collaborating with partners in Canada and the United States,” Hernández said. “They want a holistic approach to services. It’s about offering these wealthy families everything,” he added.

As the firm expands into other markets, Hernández hopes to be able to employ 70 more professionals in the coming years.

The firm’s expansion plans come at a time when businesses need to stay ahead of global changes in regulations, taxes and major political changes such as the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union or the election of a new president in the United States. Van Roekel argued that BDO is positioned to help its clients cope with threats such as “technological disruption,” cybersecurity and the war for talent.

In fact, Hernández said technological disruptions—innovations that create a new market and ultimately disrupt an existing market network—will cause a debacle with 52% of the Fortune 500 companies. By way of example, he talked about the way Netflix caused the closure of Blockbuster or how Uber has displaced taxi drivers by not having taxi drivers.

“We have to make sure our firms and clients are prepared,” Van Roekel said.

BDO also wants to ensure customers as well as their partners can deal with viruses and data theft systems.

On the other hand, as technology advances, BDO has to help customers deal with regulations that stop businesses from reaching their goals, Farlinger said. On the other hand, like other companies, BDO is in the war to hire new talent because, as baby boomers retire, there are fewer people who can replace them. “BDO has been able to retain and attract talent...but there are fewer young people,” he said.