Symbiotic advantage with Auren International and Antea Alliance
Zoya Malik spoke to Antoni Gomez Valverde, Antea CEO and President of Auren International to discuss his roles, and the attraction for firms to join the alliance and network seeking growth in Europe and LATAM
Zoya Malik: Can you define your roles at Antea International and Auren International? How does one role support the other and how does this experience inform your leadership vision?
Antoni Gomez Valverde: I am CEO of Antea, Alliance of Independent Firms, and International President of Auren. Antea is an international association present in more than 70 countries around the world, and Auren is technically a network, member of IFAC (TAC) Forum of Firms , present in 11 countries, mainly in Europe and LATAM. Both organisations have several elements in common and complement each other. In Auren we have a strong international common strategy, we fully share our name, methodologies, and initiatives. Some of these elements are shared with Antea members that complement our geographical coverage in countries where Auren is not present.
Antoni Gomez Valverde, Antea CEO and President of Auren International
ZM: What is the attraction for firms in joining Antea Alliance over others?
AGV: Antea, an Alliance of Independent Firms, has been promoted by Auren and is part of its international strategy. So, resources and support from Auren are devoted to Antea, as it is key to have the best possible members in each jurisdiction, dynamic and recognised technically and commercially in their own country. This allows great capability with a very lean structure. Antea was set up in 2008 and, since the beginning, we focused on the essentials and had minimum structure, taking advantage of new technologies that today have become very common.
We are very clear in explaining to interested new members that the main advantage for them is their chance to differentiate themselves in the market, in respect of many of their local competitors. We generate lots of leads, but it must be explained that for some cities in some countries, chances of having a referral are not very significant, specially at the beginning. But we provide very valuable instruments and experiences to improve their own market position.
ZM: What are the advantages you can offer in Europe and LATAM markets?
AGV: Auren has a significant presence in those territories, and it is not strange that Antea has members in most of the European and LATAM countries. Auren dynamism is very important and its clients often have activities around these economic areas. Between Auren and Antea we cover these regions very well. We are very familiar with the cultural background of Europe and LATAM, and both clients and our colleagues feel very comfortable doing business together.
Both Auren and Antea are multidisciplinary organisations, including auditors, tax and legal advisors and consultants, so our clients find coverage of all their international needs under the same structure. This is a great advantage when you are operating in a foreign jurisdiction. Clients have the same level of quality, involvement and trust in their domestic needs as in their business abroad.
ZM: What are the differences in experience in terms of client demand for services in these two jurisdictions? Where are the growth areas and practice lines?
AGV: International business has different profiles across two regions. Mainly operations from LATAM go to other LATAM countries and to Europe. Operations from Europe (except for those from Spain and Portugal), are less focused on LATAM, but to other world regions. Within LATAM, there are countries that have increasing significance for international business, such as Colombia or Perú, and others like Chile and Uruguay that keep their relevance despite experiencing some cyclical fluctuations.
In term of practice lines, services related to fulfilment of duties are more significant, mainly in accounting, taxes, legal, payrolls, etc. Services related to initial steps to make a secure investment are also very important: legal advice, due diligence, permits, etc. And more and more important are our activities related to corporate finances, identifying candidate for sales or for buying in target destinations.
ZM: What type of advocacy are you undertaking with regulators in LATAM and Europe to promote higher auditing standards across firms in both jurisdictions? What if any are similarities and differences in terms of the development of auditing standards and practices across both? What more needs to be done by regulators and within firms’ own governance cultures?
AGV: I think it is very important to have international common standards. They facilitate management of companies and increases quality of services and allow standard training and working procedures. Personally, I have been serving at IFAC on its Small and Medium Practices Advisory Group for two consecutive periods of 3 years, and so promoting international standards, specially advocating to consider aspects to make them appropriate for SMP, for instance considering scalability. Common standards are very important in adapting to different circumstances over operating under separate standards.
ZM: What specialist services are Antea international firms offering for tax advisory?
AGV: We cover most of the tax services our clients demand. We have solid experience on bilateral foreign desks in several jurisdictions, covering all services in relation to foreign operations. I would like to emphasise our services related to transfer pricing. This subject is increasingly significant and requires specialised knowledge. We have specific transfer pricing teams, one in LATAM and another in Europe, that meet regularly and share experiences and initiatives. We work in this field not only for our own clients, but also to provide reports and advice to other professionals that do not have this expertise.
ZM: What initiatives have you put in place to extend assistance to member firms from the impact of Covid -19 restrictions? How have these impacted on their client relationships?
AGV: There are two main initiatives. We publish a monthly newsletter covering the main regulations for Covid-19 in different jurisdictions. It was very useful in the first few months of the pandemic as there was lots of new legislation and it was very important to keep our members updated on measures and regulations adopted by governments. Members were updated on changes to tax or accounts calendars, protection of employment, loans regulations and bankruptcy measures, etc. We interrupted this publication in August 2020, as most of the emergency measures were already taken, and new regulations are covered by our normal newsletters.
The second initiative was to have informal group meetings, by regions and specialities to share internal experiences on adapting to new circumstances. We talked about organisation, technology, experiences in being in contact with clients, financial measures, etc and these interactions proved invaluable to our members. Often the point was just to talk and share with other colleagues that were suffering under the same circumstances.
ZM: How are you assisting member firms in terms of lead generation?
AGV: It is very important that each one of our members does its best in communicating about its own country capabilities to deal with international clients’ needs, with the support of our international organisations. This is the best way to generate opportunities not only for the member, but of course also for others. We stimulate and facilitate tools for this proactivity. We share best experiences and discussion groups at our conferences, but also, we promote regional initiatives, as most of the opportunities are within the same region, and it is easier to develop actions among members of similar characteristics and cultures.
ZM: What are your strategic plans for 2021?
AGV: In respect to geographical coverage, we will continue looking for new members in Asia and in Africa. Once we achieve significant coverage in other regions, we are putting our attention on these areas, as the demand for members in these areas has increased over the last few years in concord with the more significant role they play in international business.
Internally, we will continue with our activities in providing support to our members to improve their domestic and international relevance.
ZM: What are your plans for meetings and conferences in 2021? Will these be held virtually or blended? What upcoming events do you have planned?
AGV: At least for the early part of the year we plan for virtual events. Besides some routine technical group meetings already held online, we will schedule the same for our spring regional meetings both for EMEA and for LATAM. In 2021, we will continue in a virtual format, following the experience from last year; we are also planning to hold a virtual regional meeting for Asia-Pacific. We hope we can hold our worldwide meeting in November 2021 as a blended event. We hope by that time the pandemic situation will allow for this format. The experience of facilitating more people to take part in conferences through remote connections has been very positive and we plan to maintain this in the future. Personal contact is very important for us, as is the need to facilitate as many partners as possible from our member firms in conferences.