Frank Vettese takes the helm as Managing Partner and Chief Executive
As Frank Vettese assumes leadership of the firm, he talks to us about the journey that Deloitte is now moving towards
On June 3, 2012, Frank Vettese took over from Alan MacGibbon as Managing Partner and Chief Executive of Deloitte Canada. A Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Ontario and Chartered Business Valuator, Frank most recently led the global and Canadian Financial Advisory practices and has been a member of Deloitte’s Global Executive Team since 2007. Under his leadership, Financial Advisory achieved exceptional performance and growth globally. We asked Frank to share his thoughts about what’s on the horizon for the firm, and for professional services in Canada.
Tell us about your career journey.
When I started my career, the goal was not necessarily to lead a large firm — I was just passionate about our profession and all of the possibilities. I finished my undergraduate degree in 1986 and I was torn between a career in law or business. I chose to become a Chartered Accountant, and then I specialized in business valuations and forensic accounting because there was an opportunity to spend time in court as an expert witness — it offered the best of both worlds. I love the legal side of my job because it sets and raises the bar for performance. Providing testimony in court places your work under the strictest scrutiny and expands and shapes the limits of professional theory, and I enjoy being part of that.
During the 1990s, I was part of a thriving financial advisory boutique that I co-founded. Within that environment, we were involved in leading engagements and transactions, and developed a strong team of leading professionals. In 2000, most of our team merged with Andersen and ultimately with Deloitte in 2002, which opened up a new world of national and global opportunities. The breadth and scope of this firm should never be underestimated. It presents incredible possibilities. Several on the team moved on to become partners at Andersen/Deloitte. I was asked to lead the Canadian Financial Advisory practice in 2005 and the global Financial Advisory practice in 2007. I’ve been so fortunate to have had the opportunity to shape the firm’s growth around the world and to be able to launch new services, such as our integrated mergers and acquisitions offering and analytics. A few months ago, I had the privilege of stepping into the very best job in the world. I had the honour of being chosen by the firm to lead Deloitte forward. It’s a responsibility that I take very seriously. Our team will help to build on the work of our predecessors in bringing the very best that Deloitte has to offer to the marketplace in order to become the true market leader.
What key challenges do you see for the professional services industry and the firm?
In today’s business environment, opportunities abound, even as the economy seems to lurch from crisis to crisis. Businesses today are challenged to chart safe courses through new regulation, globalization, technology disruptions, and more. Our industry faces challenges on several fronts: the economic outlook is uncertain, competition is intensifying, and we will likely see more stringent regulations on the profession.
In the growing global debate over regulation and the future of the profession, Deloitte has been highly engaged with regulators and other constituents. It is a healthy debate, and the outcome will have long-term implications. Ultimately, everyone is going to have to raise their game as the bar itself is raised, so it is causing us to think carefully about the value we can provide to our clients. At Deloitte, we’re starting to use the phrase “auditor of the future,” and we’re looking at how we will equip our people to deliver the knowledge and advice that is most valuable to our clients.
At the same time, we need to keep evolving our service offerings. Advisory firms like ours are being asked to help provide solutions to significant problems or significant opportunities in an integrated way. Commoditization in professional services is inevitable unless we do something about it. So we’re leading in innovation to generate new services and competencies that respond and even anticipate changes in the market for our clients and our people.
Another area where we want to lead is in service integration — and it’s a trend that’s largely driven by clients. Increasingly, we find clients coming to us with complex challenges or opportunities that don’t fit neatly into our service model. So we are forming cross-functional groups that work full time on client issues to provide a very robust level of integrated service. They get very good at both their individual area of expertise and their ability to integrate services.
For example, today we provide a full lifecycle approach to addressing mergers and acquisitions (M&A) — everything from looking at what a client’s strategy should be around M&A, identifying targets, screening those targets and doing the due diligence, right through to helping them with post-merger implementation.
Even an audit today is not delivered solely by the Audit practice. Various services, whether valuation, risk or forensic capabilities, are being brought to our audit clients every day. This higher degree of complexity and expectations about what we can do truly shapes our work today.
Our people are some of the best in the world at what they do. Our clients seek our input and value us as business partners. We need people who will help differentiate Deloitte, and this is an ongoing challenge. Seeking out mergers, non-traditional acquisitions, and leading practitioners can bring talent onboard quickly. In addition, we are paying more attention than ever to building a team that reflects the diversity of the Canadian and global marketplace in order to help us do the best job possible in responding to the needs of the market, clients and society. Not long ago we talked about a war for talent. I think it’s still there, but the focus is more on having truly engaged people and getting the absolute top talent — the differentiating talent — to join Deloitte. We are looking for people who can provide transformational advice to clients. There is a much higher premium on individuals who are true game changers.
What are your plans as leader?
We are looking past short-term issues to a vision of significant market leadership for Deloitte in Canada, reinforced by global market leadership. To get there, we’ll invest in highly targeted growth opportunities — growth that is profitable and strategic for the firm in the long run. An example of that is our focus on creating global centres of excellence in select industry sectors and services in Canada in order to serve clients around the world.
We’ll also position Deloitte as a major thought leader with well-researched points of view and perspectives that allow us to speak to clients in ways that are meaningful and that advance their agendas. You can see that in our report on Canada’s lagging productivity growth, where we invested significant energy investigating the most significant threat to Canada’s standard of living. It’s an issue that will affect our children, and the country is paying attention to our recommendations targeted at businesses, government and academia.
Being a leading professional services firm has advantages that are real and unique, but it also has its challenges. We need a clear model for how to integrate a firm of our size so that each individual can quickly draw upon our leading scope and scale to serve clients. Around the world we are relentlessly driving what we call “As One” behaviour, which is about more collaboration and less hierarchy. We are also prioritizing enhanced levels of integration in everything that we do.
Any final thoughts on your new role?
I could not be more proud of the team I am working with at Deloitte. We have a history of thinking differently here, and we have maintained a truly remarkable culture that I believe is unique in the world of professional services. In a sense, I’m entrusted to protect and build upon that tradition. I couldn’t be more honoured or more excited about what the future holds for Deloitte.
“Change can be the catalyst for distinction for those who embrace it – or even create it”