As we’ve discussed, there has been a bit of controversy around the leadership election process at Deloitte. We first reported this news to you in January with a follow-up story on the candidates, the sorry turnout that was expected, and finally the news that the three candidates had been elected to their respective positions.
Today we have more controversy from inside the house of D but this time it is from a sub-group in the Enterprise Risk Services (aka Advisory or “ERS”) practice. There have been a number of recent leadership appointments within ERS but one in particular that caused a Deloitte partner to reach out to GC. This individual belongs to the Security and Privacy Practice (“S&P”) which consists of approximately 80-90 partners and has been recognized as one of the “12 leading global information security & risk consulting service providers” by Forrester Research Leader for their expertise in this area, according to the Deloitte website.
According to our source, the issue that has caused concern amongst many partners in the S&P group is that the new leader does not have extensive experience in the Security & Privacy area. Our source explained to us that a recent theme inside the firm has been “leading from the front” best encapsulated by leaders like Theodore Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and others who lead based on setting an example. The feeling of the S&P partners is the most recent appointment is based more on cronyism rather than qualifications and past performance.
The leader of the ERS group who makes the appointments is Owen Ryan, a Deloitte veteran who has held several leadership positions at the firm and has led ERS for the past 2-3 years. Our source told us Mr. Ryan has run the advisory practice creating an environment of cronyism and nepotism by appointing individuals, including family members, closest to him and that this appointment in S&P has partners saying this is the latest example of “the emperor having no clothes.” S&P supposedly has many qualified partners who have held leadership positions in the past who could lead the group but were passed over. This has many of them worried about what will become of their reputation as a top service provider in the area and how clients will perceive this appointment.
We spoke to a former Deloitte partner who worked in the Securitization and Structured Products Group (also part of ERS) who confirmed these allegations of nepotism and cronyism. “I wouldn’t go so far to extrapolate what occurred in our group to others,” the former partner said, “but that was certainly my experience.”
Despite this, one insider who is familiar with the leadership at Deloitte described Mr. Ryan as a “results-oriented businessman” who is cognizant of how “his decisions will reflect on him.” This source further told GC that “[Mr. Ryan] would not compromise the potential success of the ERS group by appointing someone to a leadership position who wasn’t qualified.”
Mr. Ryan’s no-nonsense style has manifested itself into some interesting behavior. Our original source told us that he takes attendance at ERS partner meetings and fines individuals $20 for using their BlackBerrys or speaking to neighbors during them. Our source said the money collected goes to charity.
Mr. Ryan did not respond to our voicemail requesting an interview.
The concern in S&P is understandable; an outsider leading a niche group would rankle the feathers of the most laid back partner. However, these decisions are rarely made in a vacuum and Mr. Ryan has his own superiors to report to. The other aspect to consider is the difference between technical leadership and what one source called “visual” leadership. There are many partners capable of leading a practice based on technical merits but the vision and flexibility needed to keep a group progressive in a fast-paced market does not always accompany technical expertise. Quite simply, if the leadership appointments that are made on Mr. Ryan’s watch do not prove successful, he will certainly be held responsible, but there is a lot of concern that the reputations of many of the firm’s best service lines may suffer in the process.