PracticeAccounting FirmsCoping without Copeland

Coping without Copeland

Of all the times to step down from the global leadership of an international auditing firm, this is probably the least auspicious.

But, James Copeland Jr, chief executive officer of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu and Deloitte & Touche LLP, has announced just that.

At the end of his term on 31 May 2003 Copeland will be taking ‘a break to spend time with my family’. Clearly the firm was not ready for him to go.

‘While we regret we were unable to convince Jim to continue his leadership beyond the end of this fiscal year – his legacy ensures our bright future,’ said Piet Hoogendoorn, chairman of the board of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu.

For a man who has led ‘this great firm for nine years’, first as managing partner in the US, then as US and global CEO, this seems like an unrealistic career move.

But as to be expected, he is not totally walking away from one of the world’s largest audit firms.

Copeland has clearly prepared for the end of his ‘honeymoon period’ once he resigns. He plans to participate in the Deloitte Leadership Centre, explore serving on corporate boards and ‘continue in some way to work toward improvement of the financial and accounting systems’.

During his tenure, Deloitte has grown from the fourth largest firm to the second in the US and the UK. It grew from fifth to second globally, significantly increasing revenues and partners’ earnings. The firm also dramatically increased the role of women in leadership positions.

In the UK Deloitte moved to second position in the Accountancy Age Top 50 this year following the EU’s regulatory approval of the transferral of Andersen UK assets to Deloitte. The firm now boasts 650 partners in the UK with an income of £1.5bn and fees per partner run to around #2.3m – more than any of its Big Five rivals.

The UK takeover was presided over by John Connolly, Deloitte & Touche’s UK senior partner, who is likely to be in the running for the top job, though he could face stiff competition from US senior partners.

Copeland, who is described as a ‘straight-talking native of Georgia’ – the state, not the country – will be on side to help with succession.

Despite turbulent times in the industry following the ignominious disintegration of Andersen, the collapse of Enron, WorldCom and myriad other accounting scandals, Deloitte retains a respected position within the business community and as an employer.

Recent employment surveys in the US show that despite negative predictions that the industry would become less attractive to graduates, the reverse has happened.

And given the firm has featured for the past five years on the list of Fortune’s ‘100 best companies to work for’, it can expect a good crop of incoming employees.

It has also been consistently named on the Working Mother’s list of the 100 best companies for nine years.

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