“Instances that we deemed negative might ultimately lead to growth,” — 60 seconds with Derek Henry of BDO

60 Seconds With, Interviews | Tue 6 Sep | Author – Business & Finance
Pictured: Derek Henry, Head of Tax, BDO

Derek Henry is head of tax at BDO and has over 20 years’ experience in his field. He joined the accountancy firm in 2006 and became partner in 2015.


What was your first job?

Outside part-time jobs and summer work, I got a job in a sales role at AIB while I was waiting for my Leaving Cert results. I found the sales training interesting at the time and I believe some of the elements of this training have been important later in my career.

What pushed you to pursue a career in this field?

I had an aptitude for accounting and business in school, so my interest in these subjects coupled with an excellent accounting teacher, Mary Sheeran in St. Mary’s College, Boyle, Co. Roscommon, definitely led me down this road. A career in accounting opens a lot of opportunities and, like a lot of people starting out in accounting, I wasn’t fully decided on where the road would lead me to. However, during my studies I was attracted to the tax side of the profession and I always had an interest in law, so tax is a nice balance between the two disciplines.

With BDO, I was initially attracted to the business because of the opportunity it afforded me to work closely with business decision makers across a wide variety of clients.

What would you regard as your greatest achievement to date?

Truthfully, I’ve had many great opportunities that have come my way in my career. I have performed a number of roles within BDO and co-authored a book with my colleague, Andrew Bourg. However, from a career perspective my greatest achievement to date has been cultivating good relationships with my colleagues and clients I have worked with. We have a great culture here and as a training firm it’s always very rewarding to see our trainees develop from new graduates to successful members of the business community both within and outside BDO.

From a personal perspective, by far my greatest achievement is my family, but in truth it is my wife’s greatest achievement and I am just lucky to be a player on her stage! 

Career wise, would you do anything differently?

Although there are things I know now that I wish I knew when I was younger, I wouldn’t change any decisions I’ve made in relation to my career. I have learned from all the experiences and opportunities that have come my way.

We never know when instances that we deemed negative at the time might ultimately lead to an opportunity for growth and development that can prove very important in the longer run.

In one sentence, how would you define success?

Satisfaction with your journey/process — if you’re not happy on the journey, you probably won’t be happy when you get to your desired destination.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

I’ve received great advice from a wide range of people over the years, but like most the best advice has always come from my parents. The best advice from my parents came when I was disappointed something didn’t go the way I had wanted it to, to which my mother told me “things won’t always come easy to you, but don’t wallow in it. Dust yourself off, learn from it and move on”. It was probably a contextualised version of “success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts”.

How do you motivate yourself and your staff?

There are number of personal motivations that keep me going from time to time but for me it all boils down to being grateful for the opportunities you have and demonstrate that gratitude by doing the best you can with them.

In my role as Head of Tax at BDO, I have the opportunity to work with great clients and talented colleagues. This provides me with the motivation I need to do my best so to ensure we are providing our clients with the best service, and that our staff are enabled to do their best work and achieve their career ambitions.

For my team, it’s all about facilitating an environment where they are empowered to take on new responsibility and support their development.

How do you handle adversity?

You learn from experience that most problems are not as bad as they seem initially.

I usually find it helpful to talk through issues with trusted colleagues and/or friends, with the same advice always being to approach the situation by mitigating the effect of the problem and working out the best resolution.

How do you relax?

Family time, sports, music, and reading. If I can combine any two of these at once, all the better! I am a big GAA fan and I help out when I can with my kids’ teams at Naomh Mearnog GAA club, which is a great way to combine family time with sport. Naomh Mearnog is a great club and a great way to meet people. I am also a big golf fan and love to play with friends when I can.

What are your aspirations for the future of the business?

We have a very successful Tax Department here in BDO and my aspirations are to build on that success and continue to offer a great place for highly motivated and skilled tax professionals to develop a fulfilling and rewarding career. 

In recent years, we’ve developed a number of niche specialisms to react to our clients’ needs in the market. The introduction of specialist teams in areas such as Transfer Pricing, R&D and Incentives, Financial Services and International Employment Tax have been very successful and complement our other tax services.

We plan to further invest in these areas and continue to expand our specialist offering. We have made a large investment in digital over the last number of years and our intention is to further invest in this area and ensure our staff have all the skills and tools they need to deliver a differentiated BDO experience for our clients.


Read about other Irish business figures and their stories below: 

Conor McGinn of EDC 

John O’Callaghan of Evelyn Partners

Daniel Fleming of Aperture Media