Brian Long is a Director of Commonwealth Bank Of Australia and Chairman of its Audit Committee. He is also Deputy Chairman of Ten Network Holdings Limited and the Board's Lead Independent Director. He was an audit Partner of EY for 29 years, chaired the firm's Oceania Area Advisory Council for ten years and for his last three years with the firm, chaired the Global Governance and Advisory Council.
He retired from the firm on 30 June 2010. Mr Long is a member of the Council and Chairman of the Audit Committee of both the National Library of Australia and the University of New South Wales. He is also Chairman of the charitable organisation, United Way Australia.
After four years working with a small accounting firm in Perth, I became aware that EY (Arthur Young in those days) had developed a more advanced philosophy around Analytical Auditing and I was very impressed with it. I joined the Perth office in 1968 as a Senior Auditor, before moving to Sydney in 1970 and Canada in 1973. After seven years, I returned to Sydney, where I was made partner in 1981. I also spent some time in Hong Kong and again returned to Sydney in 1986.
My career with EY surprised me by the variety of choice and options for change open to you, in terms of geographic location, roles in the firm, service line options and client variety.
The person with greatest influence on my career was my manager in Canada. His intense focus on client service together with his management style (which was to respect people he worked with, be trust worthy himself and expect that of his colleagues) made a great impression on me. He had a great respect for difference and helped people to build their careers.
In 1986, the Global Chairman asked me to move to Hong Kong for a project. I wasn’t sure if I had the required skills, but I gave up what I was doing in Sydney and took the risk of walking away from a secure client list – rather than taking the safe and secure option. It was a great personal growth experience and convinced me on the benefits of change as a way of continuing to grow and mature as a professional.
Together with Brian Schwartz and James Millar, I was instrumental in the integration with the Andersen Firm. In a business sense, the firm increased in size overnight by 50%, allowing synergistic benefits and increased efficiency, leading to greater financial results. The integration was a great "game changing" opportunity, but it was at a time when there was a great deal of uncertainty and people needed to see that the risks that they perceived in the deal were greatly outweighed by the benefits.
My advice to people on the partnership track is to take charge of your career. You need to be prepared to seek and accept change and take on challenges, even if they appear risky, to develop – back your own ability.
Relationships are essential. Everyone needs to give advice and be advised. It’s really important to have a mentor within your organisation who is not directly associated with your role. You also need to build team relationships across the firm to be effective in taking care of your clients.
Now I’m involved with organisations that are buyers of professional services I am looking from the other side of the Boardroom table. Technical competence is a given, but the missing link between getting the job done and truly meeting the client’s expectations is working beyond the brief and taking an extra step. It’s important to have empathy with the organisations and individuals that you work with and to focus on their real needs. Only when this is achieved will you establish a truly strong relationship. A good relationship requires you to give service in a fearless way and tell the client what they need to know rather than what they want to know – being their trusted advisor.
I’m a keen fly fisherman – a sport that takes me to different locations around the world- next month I am fishing in the Everglades in Florida. My other personal interests include: golf, trekking, music and spending time with my family.