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EY talent chief dismisses ‘posh’ test as firm promotes 753 to partner

RECRUITING applicants based on their background “will not work” EY’s global head of talent has said as the firm revealed its biggest rise in partner promotions since 2008.

The UK’s top accounting firms were last month accused by the government’s social mobility watchdog of systematically excluding people with working class backgrounds from top jobs with a “poshness test”, a claim dismissed by Nancy Altobello, who leads EY’s global talent function.

“A poshness test is not going to work with the number of people we need to bring into our organisation. We are an apprentice model and make a tremendous investment in training,” Altobello told Accountancy Age as the firm added a record number of women to its ranks of partners.

EY promoted 753 people to partner worldwide, with women accounting for more than 30% of the promotions and an increase of 33% compared to 2014. Emerging markets were another area of growth, representing 33% of the promotions and an increase of 33% over 2014.

By service line, assurance accounted for the largest number of partner promotions, followed by tax with, advisory and transaction advisory services.

Altobello said the firms focus on flexible working and sponsoring had contributed to the record increase in women reaching partner. “All the women identified in partner pipeline each have a sponsor,” Altobello said.

In April, EY’s UK arm enhanced its parental leave options to “equalise” its approach to mothers, fathers, partners and adoptive parents.

The firm has also adopted a ‘board of directors’ approach in some regions whereby a group of partners led by the sponsor discuss what experience promotion candidates need – from raising their public profile to gaining non-financial skills – in order to “differentiate themselves among their peers”.

“That has been the biggest driver at the promotion point,” Altobello said.

Altobello added that EY has developed a methodology on how teams should work together, which includes having a shared vision, the right mix of people and accountability for results.

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