Following the same career path as his father and grandfather, BDO Malta CEO Mark Attard qualified as a certified public accountant and pursued a career outside the family business before joining BDO, a global organisation with representation in 167 countries and revenues in excess of €11 billion. Mark’s determination to exceed expectations, his commitment to implementing cutting-edge technology and his continuous investment in his team have contributed to BDO Malta reporting over 14 per cent growth post-pandemic.
As CEO and International Liaison Partner at BDO Malta, Mark Attard develops business strategies and plans for the firm’s short- and long-term objectives. He also leads the gaming advisory and gaming licensing service line. During his tenure, he has spearheaded significant client projects across different industries, helping clients to start up or relocate their businesses to Malta.
“At the tender age of five, I started learning accounts before maths,” he says. “As a kid, I was constantly exposed to business and finance, sitting next to my father in his office in Valletta. He is a certified public accountant too. It’s in my blood and part of my DNA.”
Mark explains that his best career move so far was to join BDO after spending several years working in the wider industry. He eschews the stereotype of the introverted accountant, leaning firmly towards extroversion. He enjoys networking and interacting with people and clients who have the same mindset. He says that transitioning from industry to leading a major corporate consulting firm required only a minor change to his management style.
“BDO is a people firm,” he continues. “I feel like I am the father figure and mentor to our staff, many of whom have been with us for a very long time.”
With this in mind, BDO introduced hybrid working and flexitime this year, allowing staff to fit work around family obligations and their preferred lifestyle. The rationale for this move to the ‘new normal’ is Mark’s belief that people are more committed to their work and their output is more efficient when working remotely. He emphasises the importance of developing a strong and knowledgeable team, and creating a safe work environment where people feel nurtured because this will enable their talent to flourish. And he considers work practices more important than business awards.
“This was the first step for us,” he says. “We now grant our international staff the possibility to spend another four weeks at home with their families. During this time, they work remotely.”
However, on a personal level, he admits that achieving work-life balance is a challenge. Maintaining an opendoor policy, making himself available to everyone that needs him and constantly going from one meeting to the next mean he must manage his time efficiently. This has compelled him to set a strict end to each working day, which has become especially important since his wife gave birth to their first child recently.
Dedicating so much of his time to the firm is, he believes, part of its success. However, he admits, “an open-door policy is not great for time management. That said, getting the balance right helps you be more productive in the office and focused on the firm’s priorities.”
Switching his attention to the sector, Mark explains that pre-pandemic, consulting industry revenues topped €160 billion, but there was a drop by as much as 28 per cent in Europe due to COVID-19. BDO Malta reported over 14 per cent growth in 2021, materially higher than the group’s global result, which grew just shy of 11 per cent.
“When I joined nine years ago, we were 13th in our sector; today, we are fifth,” Mark notes. He puts this exceptional performance down to his team’s commitment, adding that rather than being discouraged, they fought back.
The headwinds caused by the pandemic and lockdowns forced many business leaders to reimagine their businesses, innovate, implement fast-track digitisation, and rethink how staff worked and communicated. Mark is one of them, elaborating, “the pandemic changed our clients’ requirements and we needed to change too and be more proactive. It pushed us. We needed to safeguard the business and be sensitive to our clients. We bucked the downward trend by finding new methods of communication, supporting customers during their worst times and showing solidarity.”
As a result of this strategy, Mark believes his clients are more loyal and trusting than ever. Meanwhile, new technology introduced by BDO during the pandemic broke down barriers and facilitated closer client communication. Stronger client relationships developed, enabling BDO to better position businesses for the future. More face-to-face meetings now take place and Mark contends that these physical sessions create lasting bonds with clients.
Due to its size, rapid growth and a dynamic economy, Mark now focuses primarily on strategy. Working with the leadership team, he ensures clear goals, milestones and success measures are set. With over two-thirds of BDO Malta’s revenue derived from auditing, accounting and compliance, it faces intense competition from the ‘Big Four’. But the CEO tends not to look too much at competitors, preferring to maintain a positive mindset and use market analysis to determine what the market wants. By creating services to meet the market’s needs, he says BDO can maintain its forward trajectory.
“Never look back; always look forward to where the economy is going. Rather than being a follower, become a leader. While many look towards others, we try to think outside the box, and that’s why we are ahead of our competitors in some areas,” he adds.
As a global firm, BDO relies on the people it hires to transfer their knowledge to clients. “We invest in the right people and our clients appreciate the opportunity to collaborate with us, knowing that we are guiding them down the right path,” Mark continues.
In pursuit of differentiation, efficiency and the delivery of added value, Mark explains that BDO will continue its drive to adapt and transform its exceptional client services through the application of powerful new technologies. But Mark, despite this, believes that AI will never entirely replace human intuition, ingenuity and logical thinking.
In fact, he believes that the consulting sector will continue its strong growth trajectory in the two years to come, while his vision for the company for the next two years is international growth and the consolidation of the business.
He adds that blockchain technology has proven to be robust and foresees its continued use. However, he expects cryptocurrencies to become more regulated so that they can be used more widely and further develop to allow processes online.
In the future, BDO Malta will continue to offer services to tech-related businesses. BDO’s drive is now to expand into new sectors in regulation technology compliance. Mark looks ahead to a more “positive view of the sector in the coming years.”
This article is part of the serialisation of 50 interviews featured in MaltaCEOs 2023 – the sister brand to MaltaCEOs.mt and an annual high-end publication bringing together some of the country’s most influential business leaders
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