After nearly twenty years working for such firms as EY and Mitchell & Titus, Alexander Reyes wanted a new opportunity to learn. He was stable and satisfied at the big firms, but sought to exercise his entrepreneurial spirit, proclivity to lead, and readiness to give back.
He landed a role as the financial-services practice leader at Citrin Cooperman, an accounting and consulting firm where he could take his experience and use it to drive his career and the business forward. Reyes says that the organization is suffused with an entrepreneurial mind-set; here, he's found a place where he can make the strategic decisions that advance the firm's goals and provide growth opportunities for himself.
Reyes grew up in the Bronx. Neither of his parents attended college themselves, but they repeatedly emphasized the value and importance of education. At that time, he didn't know how, but he was determined to build a more prosperous life for himself. In high school, he was in a program focused on medical sciences, on track to study pre-medicine in college. But he discovered that he wasn't passionate enough to be truly successful in medicine. He earned admission to Fordham University and began studying business.
"I remember my mentor said to me: 'If you want to be truly successful, follow your passion.' That's when I started looking into accounting and consulting as a profession," Reyes recalls. "This was where I could really invest my time doing something I enjoy - to create opportunities over the long term."
Now in its fortieth year, Citrin Cooperman is a fast-growing full-service assurance, tax, and advisory firm. It is currently one of the top twenty-five accounting firms in the United States. For Reyes, who spend much of his career at the big four, it's an exciting time: The firm is expanding into new areas in the United States and Europe, while investing in emerging financial technologies. "This is kind of that 'perfect firm,' where I have the resources I had at the larger firm, but with an entrepreneurial spirit," Reyes explains. "[Combine that] with the fact that we're growing so rapidly, I really feel like I'm a part of something special as it's happening."
As the financial-services practice increases its presence in markets such as Boston and the Pacific coast, Citrin Cooperman has to make clear what sets it apart in a crowded, competitive industry. For Reyes, that means sharing the story of their client service model. The firm ensures senior team members can be active in accounts and building trust as business advisers.
"Frankly, a lot of these firms do the same thing, so it comes down to the relationship you have and the trust they have in you," he says. "At the outset, we allocate a much higher percentage of our budget to partners spending time at the client's side, providing guidance, going beyond the traditional services."
It's paying off: over the last year, the practice grew by more than 40 percent. Reyes also credits that rapid pace to partners' flexibility in setting the direction of their business units. Their versatility, combined with the firm's extensive institutional resources, puts advisers in the right position to take calculated risks and develop as individual leaders. "Embracing change is great - because you either adapt or you perish," he says.
Reyes's own successes in the industry have empowered him to invest his time and talent back into his community. He serves on the board of Latino Network Coalition, an organization made up of ERG groups across top Fortune 500 US companies, as well as the New York advisory council for the Hispanic Scholarship Fund. Through these commitments, he hopes to inspire young people to find their own passions, work hard, and overcome challenges similar to his own.
He discovered early on the value of surrounding himself with positive people. During his time at Fordham, he connected with INROADS, a corporate-leadership program for students of color, and interned at Time Warner. Knowing that those programs supported him through a critical moment, Reyes works to make sure they're available to others. Anyone can make it, he affirms, as long as they have the right support and a willingness to work hard.
As he lists his philanthropic involvements, and reflects on the long and lucky journey it took to participate in them, Reyes confides that this way always the real career goal, and the true aspiration of any honorable professional.
"I think it's always been about how I can put myself in a position to really make an impact in my community," he says. "When you have that kind of mind-set - to want to build, grow, and lead - it can make a significant impact. Not just on a business, but on people."