As the world becomes increasingly global, so do Ernst & Young’s alumni relations efforts. In this section, we highlight some of the goings-on of our alumni around the world.
Survival of the fittest: one retired UK partner competes in the challenge of a lifetime
Above: Retired UK partner Nick Woodward is currently on a course to sail around the word — a 40,000-mile ocean journey.
As you read this, retired Birmingham (England) partner Nick Woodward will likely be far out at sea. Just weeks after leaving the firm following a 20-year career, Woodward set sail as a crew member in the Clipper 11-12 Round the World yacht race.
As we went to press, Woodward’s boat, the Gold Coast Australia, had won each of the first four legs of the race. Below are excerpts from an interview with Woodward conducted shortly before his voyage, which appeared in Connect in the United Kingdom and Ireland.
Connect: Where did you get the idea of taking part in the boat race?
Woodward: I had been in the profession for over 30 years; our boys had grown up and finished university, and I knew that I wanted a challenge — to do something outdoors. The idea had long been with me, since a friend of mine took part in the very first amateur round-the-world race some 20 years ago.
Although I am retired, I am fit and young — in my eyes, at least — and I thought, let’s see if I can finally do this, bearing in mind that I have never sailed in my life!
There were a couple of other factors. I attended an EY pre-retirement course, which was a really valuable exercise. It helped to confirm that being outdoors is what appealed to me most, rather than looking for a role on a board somewhere.
When I read that Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, who runs Clipper Race Ventures, said, “There are more people that have climbed Everest than have sailed around the world,” that really set the challenge in stone for me.
Connect: What have you done to prepare?
Woodward: Clipper Race requires all participants to undertake five weeks of training that the organization provides. I have been training since December. The first week of training was physically very challenging. I have also been working with a personal trainer to build my upper body strength as I need to bulk up to help carry weight and raise sails on the boat.
Connect: When does the race start?
Woodward: I start on Wednesday, 20 July to help with the boat set-up — ensuring that everything is secure and in place. Coming from a professional services background, there are only so many risks that I am willing to take!
The official start is Sunday, 31 July from Southampton. Our first stop will be in Madeira seven days later and then on from there to Rio. The whole race will take an estimated year to complete, and by the end, we will have completed over 40,000 miles.
The website (www.clipperroundtheworld.com) will constantly be updated with the locations of all the boats, which will be great for people to follow our journey.
Connect: What do you think will be your main challenges for this race?
Woodward: To survive! I am not apprehensive about anything right now. Perhaps I should be, but I am not. I am sure I will be nearer the time, but I am very excited to be taking this on. I am trying to prepare myself for a lot of hard work and for life on board.
There are definitely no luxuries on the boat — it is very much a racing boat. I’ll have to get used to not having much personal space. It’s a 68-foot boat that I will be sharing with 18 other people; we will either love or hate each other by the end of it.
I know I will also discover a lot about myself as well — there will be a lot of time for reflection — it will be a mental journey as much as a physical one. Finally, being told what to do by a 31-year-old will be interesting — I am not really used to taking orders!
Connect: Are you expecting much support?
Woodward: The support so far has been tremendous. My wife, Anne, who I should mention has taken the easy option of flying around the world, will be there to support me at most of the main stops.
Other family and friends, including former and current EY colleagues — Jamie MacLean and Jan Babiak in the US, and Trevor Roreby in South Africa to name but a few — will be supporting me en route.
Connect: How are you feeling now that the start is in sight?
Woodward: It is hard to explain, but after 30 years of building a successful career and a comfortable lifestyle that goes with it, I feel I need to challenge that a bit and reset the balance. I understand that this is a pretty radical way to do that, but I don’t think I have been more excited in my life than I am now, preparing for this race.
This will be a once-in-a-lifetime achievement. I think when I complete the course — 40,000 miles and 12 months under some of the roughest conditions you can imagine — it will be one of my proudest moments. For me, this is retirement at its best — a non-executive directorship isn’t for me — this is the next stage in my life. ∆
Focus on the United Kingdom and Ireland
EY has an estimated 18,000 alumni in the UK&I. The practice also has one of the firm’s most active and fastest-growing partner alumni programs. The UK&I Partner Alumni Council is chaired by former EY Global Executive Board member Michael Boyd.
Earlier this year, he was appointed Managing Director, Strategic Relations, in the UK Government’s Trade and Investment Organization with responsibility for creating an integrated government approach to working with the UK’s biggest international investors and exporters. We talked with Boyd about recent UK&I alumni developments.
Connect: You recently celebrated the one-year anniversary of the UK&I Partner Alumni Council. What is the Council’s focus?
Boyd: We set up the Council to respond to the needs of the alumni network and to encourage the firm to keep in contact with its former partners and develop deeper relationships with them. Over this period, the Council has met five times.
We have arranged a number of discussion groups to provide briefings on technical and professional developments, supported many social events, published three editions of Partner Alumni Connect magazine, added new functionality to our Partner Alumni Directory and issued numerous email briefings on topical issues.
Connect: What’s the long-term vision of the Council?
Boyd: Our aim continues to be to keep our alumni partners involved and informed of the progress of the firm, provide networking opportunities for both former and current partners and provide technical and commercial support.
Ultimately, we want to create life-long relationships that will benefit us all. Underlying this from a business perspective are the hope and expectation that more business will be generated for Ernst & Young, and that alumni partners, especially those with continuing business interests, will get more benefits from their connections with Ernst & Young.
Connect: What success are you seeing?
Boyd: By all accounts we have seen some great successes: new business has been generated, new relationships created, insights have been shared, reconnections have been made, and there is a general feeling that the alumni network is beginning to hum with activity.
As proof of concept, it was through the Partner Alumni Program that I learned of an opportunity to contribute my EY global accounts experience to the UK Government. As a result, Ernst & Young’s profile at the highest levels of government has changed significantly over a very short time.
Connect: To what do you attribute the Council’s success?
Boyd: Without question, it’s the firm’s encouragement and commitment to see us play our part, and the insight and time our Council members have contributed, coupled with the great network of committed and enthusiastic alumni here.
Alumni magazines now in Asia, Canada, South America and the UK
We are very pleased that more EY alumni can read Connect magazine in more places around the world.
This past summer, the firm’s Asia-Pacific Area published its first edition specifically for EY alumni in the central China region. In South America, the EY Chile practice just produced its first publication, Conectados.
Our EY Canada and United Kingdom and Ireland (UK&I) practices continue to publish their versions of Connect: this past July, the UK&I issued its third edition (see excerpts in “Focus on the United Kingdom” on the following page), while Canada recently produced its second edition.