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Martin van Roekel took over as CEO of BDO International Limited on 1 October 2011.

CEO INSIGHTS is a forum for online conversations about the accountancy industry in general, including accountancy around the world, standards and regulation and high growth markets


Martin van Roekel is the global CEO of BDO. BDO is an international network of independent member firms that provides advisory services in 138 countries, with 54,933 people working out of 1,202 offices worldwide.  Martin is based in the Netherlands and has over 30 years’ experience in the accountancy profession.

Martin van Roekel - CEO INSIGHTS

CEO Blog


​On 11 February we will host an exclusive webinar for businesses, clients and colleagues in the Asia Pacific region to discuss the findings of a new BDO Report SERVICE 2020: RETURN ON SERVICE, written by the Economist Intelligence Unit.  Looking ahead to the event, Martin van Roekel invites Allan Evans, BDO’s Global Head of Clients & Markets, to share his thoughts on the importance of excellent customer service and why the webinar promises to deliver an interesting discussion.

The Return on Service: Why it pays to prioritise customer service
By Allan Evans, Global Head of Clients and Markets

Every business leader knows that competitive advantage is fundamental to long-term success – no matter the size, sector or location of the company, staying one step ahead of your rivals is key.

This ambition is consistent the world over but there remains a huge variety in the way that companies strive to reach that competitive edge.  Most focus on quality, value, price and innovation as core pillars to their company’s offering but, worryingly, many fail to focus on service.

BDO is committed to delivering an exceptional  service to all of its clients and  is passionate about helping those clients improve their own service delivery. To further this aim, BDO commissioned a truly global piece of research, working in partnership with the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU). The research  revealed the full extent to which service is being overlooked in the boardroom – and the lack of understanding companies have about the impact service is having on the bottom line of businesses’ profitability around the globe.

The correlation between good service and strong  financial performance is the focus of an exclusive webinar we are hosting on 11 February for businesses, clients and colleagues in the Asia Pacific region.

A similar webinar, hosted in European and American markets, revealed some interesting insights that are relevant to all businesses.  As the Global Leadership Team member responsible for service, I was particularly struck by our discussion around the importance of recruiting for character not just competence – sparked by one of the guest speakers highlighting that  their recruitment process focuses on identifying  people with a customer service ‘gene’!

The discussion also uncovered some differing opinions  on  how best to collect client satisfaction  feedback. The passionate debate highlighted a number of very practical considerations that need to be taken into account and some top tips on how to structure a programme that is both practical and effective.

Perhaps the most contentious topic was that of just what is exceptional client service. Is it necessary to define it in order to measure and deliver it ? And is it possible to develop tools, processes and systems that ensure consistency of delivery ?  Ultimately the panel concluded that exceptional service is defined not by the service provider but by the customer, and exceptional client service starts with a deep understanding of customer needs.

These are a taster of the discussion topics covered in more detail in the webinar: I do hope that many of you will listen in to share your own thoughts and opinions.

The webinar will be run on 11 February, at 14:00 HKT • 17:00 AEDT • 10:00 MSK
To join the event, please register here:

As part of our series of guest blogs on CEO insights, Martin van Roekel invites Allan Evans, BDO’s Global Head of Clients & markets, to share his views on the importance excellent customer service, on the occasion of the Launch of a BDO Report, written by the Economist Intelligence Unit, SERVICE 2020: RETURN ON SERVICE

As the battle for customer growth and retention looks set to continue at a pace in the years to come, a new BDO Report – SERVICE 2020: RETURN ON SERVICE  -  written by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) has unveiled for the first time the impact of poor customer service on the bottom line of businesses around the globe.

Our report demonstrates that despite customer service draining profits for many (almost two thirds admit that a customer service failing has had a significant financial impact on bottom lines), boardrooms are blinkered.

Even with clear evidence that poor service is hindering profitability, far too many businesses are failing to invest in, track or apportion sole responsibility for service: one in four (27%) admit to having made no investment in service in the last two years, less than a third (28%) have a designated head of customer service on the board and only one third (36%) have a strategy that clearly recognises the link between service and the bottom line.

And, as a Board executive with service responsibilities myself, perhaps more concerning still is that, despite its importance in customer retention, just a quarter of business leaders (29%) feel being seen to be customer-focused is key to their career progression.

So if companies are to realise the true financial benefits of putting the customer first what changes need to take place?

Of fundamental importance is that service quality is put on the boardroom agenda in its own right. Far too many companies willingly admit that service has had a serious financial impact on their business without taking appropriate action to plug the gap. It’s no longer enough for customer service to be side-lined to the Head of HR or of Marketing. There must be a Head of Service too.

Secondly, businesses have to focus their energies on establishing clear metrics that link service quality and the bottom line. Companies must be vigilant about regularly reviewing the metrics they use to measure customer service. Only then will they be able to develop clear and effective strategies and make a return on service.

Looking at our own profession, we know that the accountancy world has changed. In tough times, our clients the world over are fiercely focused on cost, value and service. They have high expectations and are more willing to shop around for their service providers. At the same time, while more and more services, information and thought leadership is available online, service expectations vary widely from market to market - our clients and their needs aren’t exactly the same the world over.

With all this in mind, we have developed our approach to providing exceptional client service and we believe this five point plan would work for most companies looking to dial up service delivery:

  1. Anticipate customer needs
  2. Be clear, open and swift in communications
  3. Agree to and meet commitments
  4. Hire and develop great people in order to provide the right people for our clients: set high standards and empower employees by providing them with the best in training, opportunity and reward
  5. Create value through giving customers up to date ideas and valuable insight and advice that they can trust


In addition, businesses have to take a tailored approach, not off the peg. Some customers are content with a uniform approach to service, but others want a more personal approach which reflects the culture they work in, and the kind of business they are.

While our report has shown that many Boardrooms are failing to take appropriate action to prevent customer service failings from hitting the bottom line, there is some cause for optimism. Of the business leaders we spoke to, 84% believe that customer service is very or at least moderately important to their financial performance. So clearly, we’re moving in the right direction.

We now need to see more Boards prioritising service at board level to ensure they realise a genuine return on service.

By Henning Drager, Sustainability Partner, BDO Ukraine
​In December 2013, the International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC) launched its Integrated Reporting Framework, marking a new era in corporate reporting.  As part of our series of guest blog posts, Henning Drager, BDO’s full time secondee to the IIRC, explains what it means for our profession and our clients.
For the past two years BDO has been an active contributor to a potentially game-changing programme that has been looking at ways to make corporate reporting more meaningful.
As many of our readers have seen already, the International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC) announced a new Integrated Reporting Framework in December, heralding a new era in corporate reporting.  By focusing on a broader range of forward-looking financial and non-financial risks and opportunities, the Framework evolves business reporting beyond a review of financial performance into a concise communication about an organisation’s strategy, governance, performance and prospects in the context of its external environment - ultimately leading to the creation of value in the short, medium and long term. 

What has prompted this change and what does it entail?

The International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC) is a global coalition of over 500 global regulators (including the IASB, IFAC and European Commission) investors, companies, standard setters and representatives of the accounting profession - including BDO. Together, this coalition shares the view that better communication about value creation, strategic allocation of resources and the interconnectedness between financial and non-financial impacts should be the next step in the evolution of corporate reporting – and this is what we have delivered with this Framework.
The very fact that the Framework exists reflects the changing commercial, social and environmental context in which we and our clients are operating. It was important that BDO played a central role in the formation of the Framework so that we could  ensure that the views of our colleagues and clients around the world were taken into  consideration. Our involvement in this milestone announcement therefore has many parts.
Leading from the front is our Global CEO, Martin van Roekel, representing BDO on the Council and setting strategic objectives for the popularisation of IR. I am proud to be BDO’s only full time secondee to the IIRC.  My role is to secure progressive companies’ adoption of IR, gain support from major industy and business associations, target investor groups and provide the BDO network with insights and updates on material issues. But I don’t work alone - our contribution to this achievement has drawn on the expert insights of our colleagues around the network and the input from a number of technical and specialist colleagues from the UK, US and South Africa has been invaluable in shaping the role BDO has played in the development of this Framework. 

What does this Framework mean for businesses, investors and audit professionals?

The IR Framework is a significant  departure from exisiting financial and non-financial reporting practices.  It prescribes a range of reporting parametres which are almost absent in today’s corporate reports, including:
Extending beyond large and mega cap: Most importantly, in my opinion, the Framework extends beyond globally-listed companies to SMEs, medium caps and private entities. We at BDO have worked closely with the IIRC over the past two years to shape the final version of the Framework, and have consistently championed the importance of a solution that works for businesses of all sizes – if integrated reporting is to be successful it must also reach SMEs, not just the largest companies listed globally.
We know from our work around the world that SMEs form the backbone of many economies.  That’s why at BDO we pushed for the creation of a Framework that gives these businesses the right kind of reporting: not over-reporting, but the flexibility to tailor it to ensure it creates value for their stakeholders –this is especially important to us at BDO.  And we believe that this has been achieved.
Strategic focus and future orientation: The priority for us as accountants and business advisers must be on helping organisations to ‘future-proof’ their business plans. This Framework therefore includes provision for detailed insight into an organisation’s strategy and how it relates to its ability to create value and mitigate any value destruction in the short, medium and long term.
Capitals: All organisations depend on various forms of capital for their success. Information about the use of relevant financial, manufactured, intellectual, human, social / relationship and natural capital will be a cornerstone of Integrated Reporting, adding value for investors and management teams alike.
Connectivity of information: An integrated report should show a holistic picture of the combination, interrelatedness and dependencies among the factors that affect an organisation’s ability to create value over time.  It provides an opportunity to articulate strategic aspects of an entity’s business without compromising its competitive advantage. As such, it creates a platform for demonstrating how unique business models are responding to changing stakeholder needs, threats, opportunities and the expectations in the market. Organisations successfully embracing this approach will not just have a better report, but also information that can drive short-term operating benefits and at the same time future-proof the ability to deliver shareholder value in the medium and longer term.
So what will come next? 
The Framework  will now be used used to accelerate the adoption of IR across the world, where it is currently being trialled in 25+ countries by over 100 companies.
There is no doubt that the launch of the Framework marks a major milestone in the future of meaningful corporate reporting – but there remain a number of questions that I’m looking forward to working on with my colleagues at the IIRC in the coming months. For us, the priorities include:
• What will the IR Framework for non large caps will look like?
• When will robust IR assurance criteria be available?
• Can IR lead to a reduction of the significant corporate reporting burden?
• Will there be IR sector guidance considering the different reporting requirements?  
Our ongoing work with the IIRC to further this evolution will mean  that, as a profession, we can continue to take great strides towards better and more transparent business reporting that will ultimately underpin economic growth. 
​As part of our series of guest blogs on CEO insights, Martin van Roekel invites Noel Clehane, BDO’s Global Head of Regulatory & Public Policy Affairs, to comment on this week’s provisional EU-agreement on the reform of the audit sector

“Lead me, follow me or get out of my way!”
Who was it that said the words above? It could have been - but wasn't - the current European Commissioner for Internal Market and Services, Commissioner Michel Barnier (at least with the exception of the words 'lead me'!).
After more than three years, it seems that Commissioner Barnier's desire to shake up the audit market in Europe has come to as much fruition as the tortuous EU law-making process will accommodate. This week saw the officials of the Member States of the EU (the Council), the European Parliament and the European Commission agree the final compromises to the EU audit reforms in a process known as Trilogue. The subsequent text of the proposed EU law has not been officially released but it was approved on Wednesday by the Permanent Representatives of the Member States (COREPER) so it is, amazingly, all systems go now to a full vote of the European Parliament in early 2014 and rapid adoption by the EU of the final proposals agreed.
I say “amazingly” because there have been many times in the last three years - and even in the last three months - when I wondered whether the proposals would ever see the light of day, at least not in a recognisable form responding to the many issues (I would say way too many….) which the Commissioner and his enthusiastic staff felt needed to be addressed. Efforts by many parties to maintain the status quo as far as possible or to 'kick the can down the road' procedurally often looked like they would win the day. Commissioner Barnier's tenure ends next June and the European Parliament finishes its term and throws itself at the mercy of European-wide elections around the same time, so the temptation to mire the proposals in process and see them run out of time was real and present.
I am glad that this now seems a remote possibility and the Lithuanian Presidency of the European Council working with the Rapporteur from the Parliament, Sajjad Karim MEP, has been able to negotiate the reform proposals to within sight of the finishing line. I am not glad because the measures are universally well-conceived and necessary - they certainly are not, in my opinion. But I am glad because after three years of interminable wrangling, an incredibly complex process and - at times – intensive lobbying by all key stakeholders, there will be some outcome and closure for the audit profession, as well as for the corporate community, for investors and for the public interest. It would have been very disappointing and disillusioning if all the world got from the enormous effort and debate was an empty technocratic document tinkering with many areas but changing nothing fundamentally. The debate itself ventilated the absolute imperative to look at the future role and relevance of the audit profession. Auditors didn't cause this crisis. Will the profession as we know it even be around to play a part in preventing or mitigating the next crisis if we frustrate every effort to modernise our role? This was an invaluable debate kick-started by Commissioner Barnier's initiative. Over time, we expect the package of measures to offer further opportunities for firms like BDO to win additional market share and so reduce the dominance of the largest firms – especially as increasingly internationalised clients drive consolidation of the mid-tier audit market.
The reform proposals will undoubtedly throw up myriad implementation problems and put the European Union on a different path to many of its main trading partners and major international competitors. It may even put European companies and, dare I say it, audit firms operating in the EU at a competitive disadvantage to those elsewhere. Based on the information available to BDO,  the final proposals, when released, will be significantly less ambitious than the original rhetoric from the Commissioner, than the aspirations of the consultative Green Paper and than the initial proposals issued. BDO would have been and remains opposed to a number of the key proposals but is gratified to see some of our specific practical amendments have been adopted.
It is said that a good compromise is one which leaves all parties somewhat disappointed but all prepared to live with it. In my view the compromise agreement worked out in the Trilogues and endorsed by the COREPER vote this week in Brussels fits neatly into this description. It is far from perfect but BDO has broadly welcomed the package of proposals believing that, taken as a package, and over a period of time, they will be a positive contributor to the audit environment and to how audit is perceived in Europe. Their adoption also brings certainty to a much and often wrongly maligned profession. We know now what needs to be done and we know what the rules will be. We should just make it work. It cannot be beyond the abilities of a willing profession to do so - costly and cumbersome as some of the proposals will prove to be.
As the Commissioner might have said (but didn't), it’s time for the audit profession to lead!