As Ernst & Young becomes an increasingly global organization, so does our alumni network. In this section, we highlight some of the goings-on of our alumni around the world.
Connecting Down Under
Sydney Opera House, a multi-venue performing arts center in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Just because it's summer here when it's winter there doesn't mean our alumni Down Under don't enjoy staying connected with their fellow alumni and former Ernst & Young colleagues. Over the past year, some 1,500 alumni have gathered at more than 18 alumni events held across our Oceania Sub-Area.
One particular way that Australian alumni enjoy keeping connected is by meeting up at various art institutions. Ernst & Young Australia has a two-decades-long history of sponsoring the visual arts in that country. The firm frequently brings exceptional exhibitions of local and international art to Australia. Our alumni there take advantage of these opportunities to hold networking functions (and also by making available discounted tickets to exhibitions).
Meet Rob McLeod
Oceania Managing Partner and CEO
Can you tell us a bit about your career?
I have been a specialist tax practitioner for over 32 years with experience in all facets of taxation. My primary focus has been New Zealand corporate income tax, but I have had extensive experience in trusts, estate planning and international tax. My corporate experience has spanned public and private companies. I have also been director of a number of public companies.
When did you take on your current role?
I was appointed Managing Partner and CEO for Oceania in July 2010. My appointment coincided with Ernst & Young's integration into a broader Asia-Pacific Area. The Asia-Pacific Area operates across eight time zones and in 22 countries and has more than 27,000 people and 1,200 partners.
Oceania Managing Partner and CEO Rob McLeod with Asia-Pacific Area Assurance People Leader Deborah Cordukes at a recent Sydney alumni reunion.
What are the main changes you have seen over the last two years since the Asia-Pacific integration?
Our clients have benefited from us coming together as an Asia-Pacific Area. We were the first professional services organization to bring a borderless approach to our markets, as well as the first to mirror our structures and market-facing activities to our clients. This gives our clients an unprecedented level of seamless service – we deliver the same level of quality wherever we serve our clients around the world.
In July 2011, we created an Asia-Pacific Financial Services Organization (FSO) in direct response to the need for improved services to our financial services clients. The integration brought together 2,500 of Ernst & Young's existing professionals in the Area to focus on three sectors – banking and capital markets, insurance and asset management.
In February 2012, we welcomed the addition of a new office in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea (PNG) to the Oceania practice. The PNG economy has grown strongly in recent years, driving increasing client demand and opportunities for high-quality professional services. Establishing a presence in PNG ensures we are well-positioned to support global and Asia-Pacific clients operating in the region.
How is the current global unrest affecting clients in your area?
Ernst & Young recently launched its research paper, Making headway in a volatile world, which focuses on the world of the Chief Financial Officer, a group of professionals whose insights into the global economy and its impact on business are indicative of the current environment.
The findings point to the region's CFOs' concerns about the noise and challenges produced by the current macroeconomic environment. From their perspective, Europe's sovereign debt issues and the ongoing debt crisis in the US are reducing demand for Asian exports. This trend is likely to continue given the extremely low growth forecasts coming out of the UK, US, Europe and Japan. Moreover, the shaky US dollar is making export markets even less attractive, based on currency exchange. As a result, even in Asia's rapid growth economies, market confidence, consumer purchasing and risk appetite are all weakening.
Asked to rank their top three challenges for business in general, Asia-Pacific CFOs nominated sluggish consumer demand, high commodity prices and human resources issues.
What is on your agenda that you are most excited about?
Supporting diversity and inclusiveness in our firm's culture and in the wider community is a particular passion of mine.
In December 2011, we launched our Reconciliation Action Plan. Our vision for reconciliation is to help close the gaps between the social and economic status of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and other Australians. In so doing, we intend to focus on the key elements of education and entrepreneurship.
Our commitment to the recognition and advancement of women in the workplace has been recognized for the 11th consecutive year by the Equal Opportunity in the Workplace Agency, with Ernst & Young named as a 2012 Employer of Choice for Women. The citation recognizes the firm's ongoing commitment to fostering a diverse and inclusive culture.
The Ernst & Young Oceania Sub-Area at a glance:
- Twelve locations in four countries including six offices in Australia, three in New Zealand, two in Fiji and one in Papua New Guinea
- More than 5,800 people
- The Sydney, Australia, office is Ernst & Young's 12th largest globally, with nearly 2,300 people
Ernst & Young Oceania alumni frequently leverage the firm's sponsorship of the visual arts to hold reunions at various galleries throughout the region. This recent alumni event was held in conjunction with a Picasso exhibition in Sydney.
Retired partner keeps winning in round-the-world yacht race
In our December 2011 issue of Connect we introduced you to Birmingham (England) retired partner Nick Woodward. Just weeks after leaving Ernst & Young's UK firm, Woodward set sail as a crew member aboard the Gold Coast Australia in a round-the-world yacht race. Now nearly 30,000 miles and 10 months into his one-year voyage, including a "sunless and grueling" 28-day race across the stormy Pacific, we were able to catch up with Woodward during a brief layover in San Francisco.
Woodward and his Gold Coast Australia crewmates have finished first in seven of the nine legs completed so far in the 15-leg race (including the Pacific run). From San Francisco, the yacht race continues to Panama, New York, Nova Scotia and then back to England, a journey of nearly 40,000 miles.
Retired UKI Partner Nick Woodward at the helm of the Gold Coast Australia.
"It's been the experience and challenge of a lifetime," notes Woodward, who says his wife, Anne, is now considering running the first leg of next year's race from England to Brazil.
You can track Woodward's progress and learn more about the Clipper 11–12 Round The World yacht race at www.clipperroundtheworld.com.
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