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Professional Spotlight

Meet Kira Rubiano, Head of the International Payroll Management Division and U.S. Operations at Auxadi

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By Frank J. Mendelson

Editor’s Note: Kira Rubiano heads the International Payroll Management Division and U.S. Operations of Auxadi, a global BPO Firm. Auxadi’s Payroll Division is responsible for the calculation and compliance related to payroll in all of its operating subsidiaries throughout Europe and Latin America. Rubiano’s current responsibilities include building effective working relationships with partners and leaders in the United States and overseas, and participating in growth and market-facing activities. Additional responsibilities include managing and developing staff, as well as consulting engagement teams on best practices for cross-border projects and proposals. Rubiano has more than 11 years of experience in global payroll. Before joining Auxadi, she managed more than 100 global partnerships across European and Asia-Pacific regions. She was an internal resource for country-specific payroll knowledge. Rubiano holds a B.A. in International Studies with a concentration in International Law from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. She also speaks fluent Russian and conversational Italian.


How would you describe the changing role of the global payroll professional?

Global payroll is an art, not a science, and therefore the global payroll professional needs to be agile and adapt and work cooperatively with all pertinent stakeholders to address and resolve issues and challenges that arise. 

Although the process is cyclical and predictable, the variables exist locally. Encountering new processing events and in-country situations that can disrupt services are not uncommon. I have seen and experienced everything from a coup to natural disasters to the loss of electricity countrywide. I have had clients who have had employees walk off the job, hurt themselves on the job, steal equipment, pass away unexpectedly, etc.

As an organization and a professional working for the organization, you need to be prepared and adapt when such challenges occur. You need to recognize that what works in one country may not work in another. Therefore, it is important to work cooperatively with all parties and stakeholders to bring about solutions and ensure you have the needed information to make the appropriate decisions. 

Additionally, global payroll professionals must be culturally aware and educate themselves on the cultures with which they are working as well as general local regulations regarding payroll procedures. 

You may not always be able to relate, but recognizing these differences will go a long way in ensuring collaboration and optimizing the payroll process.

Lastly, in alignment with being culturally aware, good communication skills are critical. I cannot stress enough the importance of communicating with all stakeholders on a regular basis. Speak with your global team members regularly, set expectations, be proactive, and never assume.


What emerging trends in global payroll are demanding your attention? How will they exert impact?

Although compliance continues to be of critical importance to global companies, technology with a focus on consolidation and data integration has become a leading factor for companies to realign their global payroll operations. Analytics has emerged as a high interest and desire.  More and more global companies are re-evaluating their global payroll operations as they look to optimize and streamline. Fewer companies are choosing less and less to work with a number of different payroll vendors globally.  

Companies are also looking to global payroll vendors or global payroll technology companies to consolidate their efforts and centralize their payroll data. This allows them to have greater visibility over the global process and leverage on the data to make critical business decisions.  Even though technology is driving a lot of the change, the value placed on the client experience, customer service, is still of high importance. Global companies do not want to deal with a robot or a call center on the other line. They want to be taken care of and build relationships with those helping them ensure smooth payroll operations.


What are the chronic challenges for companies that have or are moving into global expansion?

It is critical that companies do their due diligence before proceeding to move into a new market and hire employees. In my role, I have faced many clients who hire employees in a country before having done their due diligence on the type of entity formation and registrations they need to complete before they can commence hiring. If registrations are not complete, not only does this create a difficult situation for the employee, who was expecting to begin work at a certain date, but it creates a very large liability and risk for the organization. First and foremost, the organization needs to know exactly what activities it wants the employees to carry out. The organization should consult with a tax advisor to determine if it has a requirement for a permanent establishment in country. This will determine what type of entity registration it will proceed with. Once that is determined, the organization will need to learn the steps and procedures required to establish said entity (including the possible need to establish a local bank account). This could take from several weeks to several months depending on the country. Only once the entity is registered compliantly should hiring commence.

Additionally, it is critical that the company understands the hiring and termination procedures in country. The rest of the world operates very differently from the United States. Often, organizations can find themselves in a predicament when they don’t do their due diligence on such procedures. It is recommended that companies consult in-country labor lawyers to fully understand the “do’s and don’ts” of hiring and firing.

Lastly, it is important for companies to understand that they must be aligned with their local or global payroll provider. They depend on you just as much as you do on them to make sure that the cyclical process is successful every run. This means that complete and timely payroll information is a must to ensure the payroll runs smoothly.


What resources do you use to stay current on the latest trends and legislation in payroll?

Auxadi is responsible for calculating the gross-to-net payroll for our clients and managing the local payroll tax compliance. Therefore, all of our teams locally are tax and payroll experts who undergo regular training and workshops related to in-country updates that impact payroll and tax. They are closely monitoring changes published by local authorities and ensuring the local software is updated when such changes are released and updated. Such changes are then published for our clients in our newsletters and blogs and/or via direct communication.


What are some of the considerations a company should ask to determine if there is good fit with a prospective vendor?

Looking for a good fit with regard to selecting the right global payroll vendor can be compared to buying a new car. You have to know what your needs are as an organization (the essential features and services) and what your wants are (the nice additional features).

If you are a single driver, you probably don’t need an eight-person luxury van, and if you have a family of eight, then a four-person sedan is not the car for you. You care about safety (compliance), reliability (customer service), durability (reputation), and performance (service model).

As an organization, you need to find the right solution that suits your needs today and for your planned growth. There are many solutions and options in the market, and at the end of the day the right vendor will be the one that fits your needs as an organization appropriately and gives you the ability to have those nice additional features. 


How did you get started in your career? 

Since the age of 14, I knew that I wanted to work globally and cross-culturally. It has always been and continues to be a passion of mine. I proudly dub myself as a “global geek.” After graduating university with an International Relations degree and International Law minor, my intentions were to pursue a career in the United Nations. However, by sheer fate I came upon Celergo and my background fit perfectly. I spent the majority of my professional career growing with Celergo as an organization and as a global payroll professional. Having had many roles in the organization, I learned many aspects to the business and the various global nuances and processes. I then spent some time in management working for a large accounting firm in its International Division, which gave me great exposure to the global side of accounting and tax compliance. I am now very fortunate to lead Auxadi’s International Payroll Division. In my experience, I have been able to gain various perspectives in the global payroll process as the global payroll aggregator and the global payroll local provider. This has allowed me to form a holistic view to better understand the market and the clients’ needs.


What are some of pieces of learned wisdom from your on-the-job experience that you can share in regard to being effective and efficient?

Communication, relationship-building, and organization are key to being successful! The more you communicate with your colleagues and partners, the better relationships you will form. It will help facilitate and ensure a successful payroll process. Keeping organized, documenting, and ensuring deadlines are met will allow you to gain better control of the global variables that exist.

What is your management and leadership approach today?

There are several key aspects that I focus on when it comes to my leadership and management style:

  1. Relationship-building—It is critical for me to get to know my staff globally and for them to get to know me personally and professionally. This allows us to build trust: me in their work and them in my leadership. I hold weekly calls with each payroll team throughout the world and see them face to face several times a year.
  2. Mentorship—I believe that it is pertinent to focus on the development of soft skills by way of example. I use relevant opportunities for them to shadow me. Additionally, I like to provide them constructive feedback regarding my observations in their communications, presentations, and projects, etc. I am also very open and keen to learn from them as well.
  3. Delegation—Empowering my team to take initiative and ownership is critical. I am always available for guidance and advice, but I ask them to pave their way.
  4. Monitoring—I leverage a business intelligence tool to keep a close eye on key performance indicators (KPIs) but ensure that we discuss key initiatives and challenges via weekly calls.


How do you personally manage to balance work and pleasure?

I am blessed to be a mother of a feisty 4-year-old girl and a goofy 7-year-old boy. They are my heart. I make sure that I optimize my time during the workday, as my evenings and weekends are dedicated to quality family time. I am fortunate to have a very supportive and hands-on husband who understands the challenges of me being in a global leadership role. He and I are foodies, so we like to recharge by trying new restaurants throughout Chicago and vacationing with the kids. We are looking forward to taking the kids to Disney World this spring!     


What books are on your recommended reading list?

I highly recommend “The Culture Map” by Erin Meyer for anyone currently working with colleagues/clients/partners who may be of different cultures than you (inside and outside the United States). It is truly an eye-opener, and has given me immense clarity and perspective in how to work with my colleagues, partners, and clients across the globe.

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