Weir Group CEO and former EY Audit Partner Jon Stanton explains how his time at EY provided the foundations for his role in the mining, oil and infrastructure sectors.
Former EY Audit Partner Jon Stanton was appointed CEO of The Weir Group in October 2016. Drawing heavily on his experiences at EY, and a professional network that includes many former EY colleagues, Jon is steering the company through a period of profound change. He recently met EY’s Global Vice Chair, Sustainability – Elect, Steve Varley to discuss his experiences since moving into industry.
Jon spent more than 20 years at EY before becoming Finance Director and then CEO of The Weir Group. His decision to move client-side was motivated by a desire to be the decision-maker in ‘the chair’, responsible for transforming the traditional engineering company to meet 21st-century challenges.
I draw a lot on my prior experience with EY and the culture change we went through post the merger in the early part of my career, when Arthur Young and Ernst & Whinney came together.
“As a CEO today, there is a huge amount to consider in terms of the macro trends; what is going on with climate change and technology and so on,” Jon says. “In terms of dealing with the transformation that’s ahead for Weir Group and the journey we’re on, I draw a lot on my prior experience with EY and the culture change we went through post the merger in the early part of my career, when Arthur Young and Ernst & Whinney came together.
“I was very fortunate in my time as a Partner to have had some amazing learning experiences from client situations, be they positive transformations or more challenging positions, that built a wealth of knowledge and wisdom.”
Mentors and networks
Jon, who joined Arthur Young as a graduate trainee in 1988, was inspired by a group of young and ambitious managers in the Birmingham office, where he started his career. And as an aspiring Partner working in London after a stint in Detroit, he learnt a huge amount from the likes of Michael Boyd, Jock Lennox and Robert Overend. He remains in touch with many of these former colleagues.
Jon explains: “My best friend is a guy that I worked for when I started out in the firm. He stayed with EY and is a Partner there now. I have a very broad network of friends and former colleagues from EY who I stay in touch with. That ranges from the occasional social, to a little bit of mentoring from people who were important earlier in my career. It’s a tremendous network that I built up over time when I was at EY.”
Steve Varley agrees that professional contacts are an essential ingredient of any career, commenting that one of the most valuable things about the alumni network is its “ability to keep your connections going, which is a great thing for EY, but also for British business.”
I tried very hard to push myself and get out of my comfort zone and gain different experiences that were developmental for me.
But while Jon says that people who were once his mentors have been very helpful in getting him into situations he could develop, connections alone are not enough for success. Hard work is also a key ingredient of a rewarding career.
“I had such a wide and varied experience with EY,” he says. “I tried very hard to push myself and get out of my comfort zone and gain different experiences that were developmental for me.”
Steve says that his experience was similar and because of his competitive nature he was always stretching himself to see what else he could do. With friends and colleagues to support him, he was able to experiment with fresh ideas.
He adds: “From my perspective, one of the great things about the Weir Group culture, and I think a lot of this is down to you, is openness. There is an openness to challenge but also an openness to different ideas and different ways of doing things.”
Jon says he enjoyed his 21 years at the firm and learned a lot that remains useful to him today. He adds: “I look back very, very fondly on my time with EY and was fortunate to be in a number of situations, be that back in the Birmingham office, my time in Detroit, or with the clients that I worked with in London, when there was quite a lot of transformation going on. Some of it was good transformation and some of it was real ‘backs against the wall’.
“How did we help our clients in the very difficult situations they sometimes found themselves in? A big learning, which I still use today, was that you can do nothing about the situation that you find yourself in. The facts are what they are, whatever the history, and to dwell on that is just pointless; it’s just a waste of energy and time. What really matters is the outcome from where you are today.
“So, whatever the situation, it’s about the response that you make to that situation, how you deal with it, the ideas that you come up with, the solutions you find to help your client.”
Jon continues to develop the career he started at EY and was recently appointed as a non-executive director for Imperial Brands, a role he believes will add to his executive experience and give him a different perspective.
Are you connected to EY's most powerful network?
Our EY Alumni network helps connect all our EY people, past and present, to more opportunities, more resources and more of the people that they need to know for the future. Our members also receive great benefits including EY thought leadership and insights, invitations to events and blockbuster arts exhibitions, referral rewards and more. Stay part of something special. Stay connected