It has been a remarkable year for Ernst & Young – not least because it sees the firm take the Accountancy Age award for Big Five Firm of the Year for the third year running. In 1999, E&Y shared the award as joint winners, but last year and this it has been out on its own.
There were perhaps two key building blocks for E&Y this year. The first was to consolidate after the sale of its consulting arm to French consultancy Cap Gemini. E&Y had been the first to realise the benefits of selling its consultancy during mid-2000. It was, therefore, well placed to take advantage of the sale and the repositioning of the firm when competitors were still struggling with strategies to deal with their own consultancies.
One awards judge remarked: ‘I like the Cap Gemini deal, which allows E&Y to focus on the financial side.’
The sale gave E&Y the ability to create a clear distinction for itself in the eyes of clients.
The other key event was E&Y’s transition to take on limited liability status. The firm had campaigned for it, planned for it and when the means became available in April, the firm became the first to embrace it wholeheartedly.
Along with these strategic moves came impressive commercial performance.
The firm achieved an increased rate of growth for a fifth successive year with fee income rising by 16%, partnership profits up 21% and average profit per partner charging ahead by 18%.
Judges noted that E&Y has ‘strong growth’ and is ‘client friendly’. They also noted that the Cap Gemini deal was a ‘good one’. That said, the firm has made a strong effort to put talent and staff at the forefront of its drive for competitive advantage with a campaign dubbed the ‘War For Talent’.
Put simply, it’s about training, recruitment and creating an environment in which the best people want to work. Acknowledgment of the firm’s success in this has come through various awards including being named among the 50 best organisations in the UK to work for.
Attention to staff has meant the appointment of 39 new partners, the introduction of a profit participation scheme for senior managers and creation of an online employee benefit system. Workplace improvements were capped when it was announced that renowned architect Sir Norman Foster would be designing its new headquarters between London and Tower bridges.
If its business successes were not enough, E&Y continues to achieve with landmark public relations events.
E&Y sponsored the staging of the enormously popular Vermeer exhibition at the National Gallery and, once again, hit the headlines by organising its own Entrepreneur of the Year awards.
Without exception, the firm has managed to maintain a focus on all fronts.
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