The other Big Four firms must have been green with envy when Deloitte
announced it had persuaded Sir Digby Jones, the voice of British business, to
join its ranks.
After six and a half years as director general of the Confederation of
British Industry, Sir Digby is leaving to pursue a ‘plural’ career.
His appointment as chairman of Deloitte’s industries group is likely to be
the first of many. On Tuesday he was appointed as government relations director
for Ford Motor Co in Europe.
But it should have come as little surprise that Sir Digby has joined one of
the Big Four. He is, of course, an alumnus of KPMG, and has worked on projects
with Ernst & Young in the past. He has even helped present E&Y’s
internal achievement awards alongside rugby star Lawrence Dallaglio.
And he has proved to be the accountancy firms’ best friend – even though he
was instrumental in Gordon Brown’s massive U-turn over the operating and
financial review that, perversely, caused much confusion and consternation
throughout the profession.
This is not the first ‘big name’ signing for the accountancy firms. PwC has
created a corporate finance advisory board peppered with the good and the great.
Chaired by Thales chairman Sir Roger Freeman, the group includes Sir Nick
Montagu, former head of the Inland Revenue and one of the few civil servants to
make meetings of the Commons Pubic Accountants Committee entertaining.
E&Y retains David Mellor, former Tory MP and famed Chelsea supporter, to
run a senior networking programme.
So what will Deloitte be getting – and does Sir Digby know what he has
accepted? Judging by the length of time it took to close the deal, both sides
will have had plenty of time to do their due diligence.
Deloitte has traditionally been a conservative firm when it comes to public
lobbying of government, a model that Sir Digby doesn’t fit.
‘I’m not backwards in coming forwards, and they know what they are getting,’
says Sir Digby.
It was a tough decision for the man with a contacts book the size of a
Russian oil baron’s wallet. Once he’d had the conversation with Deloitte, the
other Big Four firms entered the fray. Ultimately, he faced a choice between his
‘damn good’ old firm of KPMG and the fresh challenge of Deloitte.
As well as chairing the newly formed industries group, he will spend time as
an adviser to Connolly, in particular he relishes the opportunity of helping
interpret government decisions. And he plans to spend time developing the talent
of Deloitte’s younger recruits.
Deloitte is buying a well connected man with a clear understanding of the way
government works. But as one senior figure in a rival firm says: ‘I wouldn’t
hire him because of his CBI experience but because he is a bloody good business
Sir Digby’s big hits
• Encouraging Gordon Brown to scrape the OFR, as announced at a CBI
conference last year: ‘Should have happened two years ago,’ according to Sir
• Deflecting the row over boardroom and executive pay by producing guidelines
for the DTI: ‘We staved off legislation,’ he says.
• Sarbanes-Oxley: the fight continues. ‘We are trying to get the SEC to
understand the US operates in global economy,’ he argues.
• And one big miss? ‘I can’t believe the pensions policy is still such a
mess,’ he complains.
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