EY Consulting’s Errol Gardner on how the firm is helping clients

09 December 2020 Consultancy.uk 8 min. read
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Looking to help clients not only survive, but thrive, in a world where all organisations are facing constant unpredictable disruption, EY wants to be seen by clients “as leaders in delivering transformation,” according to its new Global Vice Chair of Consulting. Errol Gardner spoke to Consultancy.uk about the ways he has seen the Big Four firm help organisations adapt to Covid-19 turning the “traditional office-based model on its head” since taking office.

Following almost three decades in consulting, including various roles with PwC and IBM,Errol Gardner joined EY in 2009. After more than 10 years as a Partner with the Big Four firm, London-based Gardner was named its Global Vice Chair of Consulting this summer, becoming responsible for leading EY Global Consulting, and its headcount of over 70,000 professionals worldwide.

Commenting on his role, Gardner said, “In my role it is important to be aware of the megatrends impacting our clients so that our services continue to help our clients to generate long term value. In addition, it is also critical we are at the forefront of embracing disruption and technology to change the way we deliver services to clients. As a leader, I also have a passion for people and the inclusion agenda and dedicate much of my time to our most important asset, our people.”

Errol Gardner, Global Vice Chair of Consulting, EY

While the Big Four have traditionally been best known for their accounting practices, the quartet have shifted emphasis notably in recent years, particularly towards consulting services. According to Gardner, EY exemplifies this trend, having “grown significantly over the years,” with “the growth of our Consulting business a key part of that.”

However, this only tells a tiny portion of the story – especially when considering the rise of technology solutions now driving digital transformation across every industry – something the EY executive calls “probably… the biggest shift” of his 30-year career.

“There are now new possibilities with technology which drive a different level of service and experience for customers, employees and other stakeholders.” Gardner explained, “This new era of technology solutions is complex to navigate for a business, so we strongly advocate for organisations to take a very human-centred approach to the deployment of technology. Ensuring customer experiences are improved, driving higher levels of employee engagement and generating better outcomes with key stakeholders from regulators to suppliers in their network, will enable organisations to achieve long-term value.”

He continued, “Consulting has moved from being a business that offers advice to working much more closely with clients from strategy through to implementation, and in some cases also operating certain business processes for clients. With this growth and the expansion of the services we offer, comes a degree of complexity, especially when we are serving clients operating on a global basis.”

“Today, the world is more connected than ever and to bring the best of EY to clients, no matter where they are in the world, puts a significant onus on our people to be connected with each other across geographies. This means striving to bring the best of our collective insight, capability and experience to clients in every geographical region.”

Key differentiators

According to Gardner, amid the complex and competitive consulting landscape of today, EY Consulting has a combination of three key elements that help differentiate it from other competitors. The firm has a unique view on transformation, taking a human-centred approach that focuses on customers, employees and key stakeholders, helping clients deploy or adopt new and emerging technologies typically through leveraging the cloud in an agile way. It also has a large global footprint in over 150 countries, enabling EY to offer its services to clients quickly through its extended network. Meanwhile, its size also means it can offer a “very inclusive and collaborative culture that clients’ value.

These factors have been central to EY’s support of clients through the Covid-19 pandemic. As the world has grappled with the continuing crisis, many businesses have been forced to rapidly adapt their working practices, something which “has effectively turned the traditional office-based model on its head.”

“We have shown these last few months, leveraging the great collaboration tools that now exist, that we can work from home with clients very effectively in a model of using both the client’s and our own resources.”

Speaking on how EY has adapted to the situation, Gardner said, “The shift in the dynamic within workplaces today has been huge, but as companies and employees have moved to remote working, it’s essential that we all seriously consider the physical, mental and social needs of our employees to ensure continued employee engagement… We have shown these last few months, leveraging the great collaboration tools that now exist, that we can work from home with clients very effectively in a model of using both the client’s and our own resources.”

While initially, EY has been working to help clients to adapt for life under lockdown, the firm is now looking to explore with clients how to balance the benefits of remote working with more in-person time together even beyond the pandemic. While the process might have been hastened by the lockdown months, the fact is many companies were already working towards a less office-centric model of business – something EY has been helping clients with. There are both benefits to remote working, such as flexibility and improved environmental impacts, alongside serious challenges to prepare for.

Gardner noted, “Companies might be more vulnerable to cyberattacks and challenges with data privacy. The role of cybersecurity tools and solutions is more important than ever before. There is also a need to upskill the workforce with the digital skills for the future. Most business leaders know what their teams should look like in the future. The challenge is in getting them there. At the same time, leaders should redefine the new rules of engagement and support their teams to build emotional resilience where needed. It’s undeniable that remote working feels different for each person, and leaders have a greater role than ever before in supporting and guiding their people through uncertainty.”

Future priorities

Far from detracting from the need to invest in digital transformation then, Covid-19 has accelerated clients’ efforts to drive their programs at a faster pace. Aside from Covid-19, however, Gardner acknowledges that organisations will need to learn lessons from a host of other events during 2020. 

“The social unrest of this year has shone a light on the imperative of the diversity of the workforce for all organisations,” he stated. “It is so important for organisations to have an inclusive approach to their employees, recognising the different lived experiences and opportunities of their people. This is the way to ensure they fully unlock the capabilities of all of their people... Sustainability is also an increasingly important topic for businesses across all industries. Looking at their value chains and making sure they are putting plans in place to deliver their products and services in a more sustainable way is becoming a key priority.”

“It is so important for organisations to have an inclusive approach to their employees, recognising the different lived experiences and opportunities of their people.”

Looking ahead for EY itself, Gardner is keen to enable the aspirations of others within the organisation, stating that “As a leader, I’m passionate about people. For me, people are at the heart of our success, particularly in the professional services industry.”

Gardner noted he had been fortunate to work “with some incredible leaders and mentors in my career, and this has really shaped not just how I lead, but how I want the leaders of tomorrow to lead.” From what he has seen in his new position so far, EY has a bright future by those standards.

He concluded, “One of the most rewarding aspects of my role as a leader is hearing so many different views from our leaders and our people globally. When we reviewed our own strategy, to really give it a fresh and relevant approach, we went to teams working with clients in many different geographies for their ideas and insights. And they didn’t disappoint. They brought in new, bold ideas, and I found this incredibly energising. I’m confident we’ll fulfil our mission to be the most trusted, distinctive professional services organisation – and a global leader in digital transformation.”