Monitor Deloitte's UK leader lays down law on staffing

19 July 2021 4 min. read
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An internal email from Monitor Deloitte’s UK head seems to have rubbed some staff up the wrong way, after suggesting junior staff should become “millionaires, authors or bums” if they wanted to be picky with the projects they work on. Partner Alexander Curry has been condemned by some for belittling “overworked” employees, but others have defended him for simply “doing his job.”

The diversity of work and steep learning curve of strategy and management consulting mean that it remains one of the most popular careers among graduates. With consulting work being famed for offering opportunities for on-the-job training, international travel and challenging projects, previous research has found that 12% of all students would love to enter the industry to jump start their career.

However, it should be noted that consulting – like any job – does come with its fair share of downsides. Most importantly, consulting is very hard work, and at strategy firms in particular are notorious for working weeks of 60+ hours. At the same time, the industry is not always ‘purpose led’ – which is a euphemistic way of saying profitability tends to rank ahead of ethics in consulting – and junior staff will not arrive at the firm with the clout required to pick and choose which engagements they participate in.

Monitor Deloitte's UK leader lays down law on staffing

This is something which Monitor Deloitte’s UK boss Alexander Curry recently explained to recent arrivals via an internal email. The message in which Curry laid down the law has since leaked, and provoked a wide-ranging discussion on what can and cannot be expected of junior staff at Big Four firms in particular.

As reported by eFinancialCareers, Curry stated that while he considers himself a "generally a laissez-faire optimistic sort of cove,” he had been involved with recent discussions with younger team members, which prompted him to read them the riot act. The Partner went on to explain that the staff he had spoken with were of the opinion they could do with their time as they pleased, “based on their interests and preferences" – causing him to send staff a memo on what is expected of their scheduling.

Curry went on, “If you want to do what you want [with your time] I suggest that you become millionaires, authors or bums. Failing that, I would like to emphasize the rules of the road for scheduling.”

While eFinancialCareers did not clarify what these “rules of the road” might have been, the message seems to have been that young members of Monitor Deloitte may have been being a little too choosy about the projects they want to work on. The note seems to be aimed at reminding newer hires that first or second-years typically do not have enough influence to reject project assignments – projects which might not be especially interesting, but are important for learning the ropes of the business.

Divided response

Readers of eFinancial Careers were quick to spring to Curry’s defence in this regard. One asserted the email was a non-story, adding “Senior Partner in firm tells juniors they can't do exactly what they like? That's his job.” Another meanwhile suggested the message should not be construed as Curry claiming "I own you 24/7," and instead emphasised that a manager has an obligation to ensure work gets done, often with some items being priority and unpleasant – explaining, “It'd be like if I worked at McDonalds and was surprised I had to man the burger station.”

However, the email comes at a time when the Big Four is under scrutiny for the workload Deloitte, EYKPMG and PwC currently hand staff. Curry’s message to juniors follows various complaints about the hours worked at the world’s largest professional services firms, including a manager in the assurance team at EY in Hong Kong said work should continue to 11.30pm during peak seasons, while people should expect to work until midnight and during the weekend too. Meanwhile, KPMG ousted its UK leader following an outburst in which he told staff complaining of long hours to stop “playing the victim card.”

At the same time, UK graduates face some of the lowest levels of pay in Northern Europe. The combination of these factors is something which factors in the criticisms of Curry’s message. One inside source reportedly told eFinancial Careers, "If you're overworked and underpaid and you receive an email like this it's not exactly motivating."