Member partnerships

Leveraging the strength of a trusted association

Abacus Worldwide COO Jessica L Levin discusses how leveraging the strengths of a trusted association that pays attention to good governance can build member confidence


ifteen years ago, Thomas Friedman released his bestselling book, The World is Flat, which focused on the increasing globalisation of business. Since then, advances in technology have made the world even flatter.

International business is no longer a characteristic of Fortune 500 companies. A study conducted by foreign exchange company USForex showed that 58% of small businesses already had international customers, and that number has and will continue to increase.

In addition to global clients, many companies are leveraging international vendors and suppliers by choice and necessity. Whether they are serving customers or buying products and services from foreign companies, support from a professional services firm is often necessary. The vast disparity between rules and regulations across jurisdictions often requires local expertise. This expertise is where international associations and networks add value to accounting firms with clients that are embracing global commerce.

Jessica L Levin,
COO, Abacus Worldwide


As a general rule, trust is hard to establish. When dealing with international connections, trust becomes even more challenging. Language and cultural differences mean things can easily get lost in translation. Accounting firms pride themselves on being trusted advisors and cannot risk turning clients over to firms they don't know or trust.

When joining an international association like Abacus Worldwide, members go through a stringent application process before being approved. The benefit of the approval process is that when a firm needs assistance from another firm in another country, there is an automatic level of trust from knowing that the firm has met minimum standards for acceptance.

Members of international associations typically join for the long haul and are invested in the organisation. They serve on committees together, meet at a conference and collaborate through virtual platforms, allowing them to create and strengthen relationships on an ongoing basis. When an international opportunity arises, qualified and trusted resources are just a phone call or email away.


An energy and power company recently sued the Republic of Angola in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York for $1.1bn. Angola’s team successfully got the matter dismissed – a team pulled from three independent Abacus member firms located in Europe and the US.

  • Lisbon, Portugal-based Henrique Abecasis, Andresen Guimares & Associadoes served as primary client contact and facilitated communication with the Minister of Justice, Minister of Energy, and Minister of Finance in Angola. They provided "boots on the ground" for the team in Luanda, adding technical assistance as well as being native Portuguese speakers;
  • Based in New York, Kleinberg Kaplan ensured that all the work complied with New York federal procedures, practices, and norms;
  • Ehrenstein Sager from Miami, Florida, took the lead because this was a matter involving sovereign immunity and related issues where they have expertise.

This positive outcome is an excellent example of how members of an association based worldwide work across borders to deliver for clients.

On why international associations are an essential aspect of an accounting firm's profile, Abacus Worldwide CEO Julio Gabay says: "We believe the future is a borderless business world. Clients expect that their advisor, whether a lawyer or an accountant, can leverage them for whatever they need to expand into new markets, deal with changing regulatory or legislative environments, or simply connect them to the right person in an emerging geographic location.

"As technology makes it easier for businesses to expand their reach globally, their advisors need to support their goals and be part of a network to give firms and their clients a true advantage."

Best practices

Serving clients best is not just about having international connections but also investing in one's firm and continually improving. As part of an association, members have access to other firms that are likely dealing with the same challenges. Sharing ideas on everything from business trends to client services to staff development ultimately makes firms better able to serve their clients.

The trust created among members enables them to talk to each other about their struggles as business owners themselves. Because members come from all over the globe, they bring unique perspectives. These perspectives often result in solutions that would have never been discovered otherwise – solutions that help win clients, save money or create new opportunities.

It's a small world

In the last year, we have travelled less but been more connected than ever. As we emerge from the pandemic, accounting firms, like all businesses, will be taking a closer look at how they operate and who they serve.

As they realise that their market expands well beyond geographic restrictions, the need to have knowledgeable colleagues with regional expertise will be more critical than ever. The easiest way for a firm to accomplish this is by leveraging an international accounting association to help its clients succeed.

Once upon a time, the world seemed flat. Now we know it's multi-dimensional, and the only boundaries are the ones we create in our mind. Businesses need a good accounting firm by their side, and firms need a network they can count on.