AA Awards 2008: Personality of the Year

AccountancyAge Awards 2008

Corporate finance is traditionally the stomping ground of the profession’s
most colourful characters, so it comes as no surprise that John Connolly,
Accountancy Age’s Personality of the Year 2008, was blooded in that
particular field.

Deloitte broke through the £2bn threshold this year. Clearly this was down to
the industry and endeavour from the troops, but every soldier needs a general.

Partners at the firm are unanimous in their praise for the senior partner. He
is widely regarded as the driving force behind the firm’s rise to the heights it
has reached.

Some might quibble at his huge earnings of £5.7m – but, for readers voting in
our Personality of the Year award, Connolly, the accountancy world’s equivalent
of Sir Alex Ferguson, has proved to be worth every penny.

Connolly set the ‘2-in-2’ target – £2bn of revenues in two years – in 2006.
When he reached it he batted off suggestions Deloitte was focused on overtaking
PricewaterhouseCoopers as the number one accountancy firm, but said: ‘Maybe we
have overhauled them already in terms of our standing in the market place.

‘I have been saying, with some confidence, growth is not at double-digit
levels, so to achieve the growth we have requires a superior performance to our
competitors. We genuinely do not seek to be larger than other firms, we seek to
be the highest regarded,’ he said.

Not only did this expertly diffuse the effect of PwC simply being able to say
it pulls in larger revenues, it put the emphasis back on the key factor for
clients – reputation.

It also stung the top brass at Embankment Place into a response as PwC’s new
senior partner Ian Powell hit back.

‘If you look at the relationships that we have with our clients, the
competitive nature of the marketplace and the wins that we have in that
marketplace, it would be wrong of anybody to say anybody had overhauled anybody
else in terms of reputation.’

But this was no throwaway comment with nothing to back it up. It’s clear from
the firm’s work ethic that Connolly has managed to ingrain his no-nonsense ethos
into every nook and cranny of Stonecutter Court including doing his level best
to shout about it from the treetops.

During the last year, Deloitte has spent millions of pounds running a very
extensive advertising campaign to boost its profile, encompassing press, outdoor
posters and other advertising, including adverts on London taxis.

According to the marketing experts, it is normal practice to track your
firm’s market position before, during and after the advertising has run to see
what impact your investment has had as part of such a project.

‘My guess is that John Connolly’s marketing people have already told him that
the firm is now ahead of PwC on reputational measures in the UK, and that this
is what prompted his comment in July,’ said one marketing insider.

Let’s not forget, even though he was well-rewarded, he made sure that the
Deloitte faithful got their just desserts.

Around 650 partners at the firm pocketed an average of £970,000 for the year
to 31 May and bonuses were handed out to all staffers for smashing the £2bn
ceiling. It’s also fair to say Connolly has Deloitte blood running through his
veins as he has spent the whole of his professional career at the firm, but as
senior partner and chief executive of the UK business, he’s much more than just
a figurehead.

Connolly is global managing director of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu and has been
involved in important global roles with the firm for more than 15 years. He is
also chairman of the Global Management Committee and a member of both the Global
Executive and the Global Board of Partners.

No time to rest

Connolly cannot afford to rest on his laurels. However prestigious this
accolade, he will continue to have
his work cut out with advising a range of clients, including Vodafone and KKR,
during the credit crisis.

This is where the Accountancy Age Personality of the Year winner’s
influence will really be brought to bear.

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