Deloitte's Sharon Allen recently had a little chat with our friends at FINS as part of their coverage of Women in the Workplace series over the next two weeks. Ms. Allen will be coasting into retirement as her second term as the firm's Chairman (her preferred term) comes to end. The Allen interview covers all kinds of fun stuff so let's get to it, starting with those pesky regulators: Some of us are still getting comfortable to having the PCAOB sticking their beak into audits:
The public accounting arena has indeed changed a lot. It's now a regulated profession with oversight that's provided through the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board. We are still, both the regulator and the profession, trying to work through that, with the common objective of improving audit quality. We're learning how to work within a regulated environment that some years ago we just didn't live with.
None of the firms chose to be the "Big 4" it just sorta worked out that way:
Just last week, we were talking at our global board meeting about how the profession got narrowed down to this number to begin with. The last reduction wasn't the choice of the profession with [Arthur] Andersen out of business.
And speaking of four, she's pretty comfortable with that number:
You have to have concentration of enough business to service the clients properly. If you spread that across eight firms, there just isn't enough that supports that kind of that activity. In some of the major countries, the additional number of firms make sense, but when you look at it across the world, it doesn't work. We're not opposed to the competition; there are next-tier firms that are very good, and we encourage them to be in the mix in terms of proposal opportunities. It's healthy. But the reality is the concentration will and probably should continue.
Term limits have somewhat led to SA's retirement but there's at least one person who's especially happy about her quitting early:
I'm approaching the end of my second four-year term as chairman. We have a limit of two terms. While I'm not at mandatory retirement age yet, I concluded that it's a really good time to make this move. I've had a fabulous 38-year career. But I'm also very comfortable with the transition leadership and the state of the firm. It's a good time for me to leave at the top of my game. My husband is looking forward to spending more time with me.
FINS went ahead and asked Allen about the leadership election process, even though they already knew how the process went down.
We have a nomination process that we undertake. We interview through a nominating committee chosen by the board. They interview about 1,300 partners for their input on the type of attributes they'd like to see in the chairman and CEO positions. Then the committee interviews some individuals who match up with those qualities and ultimately proposed the nominated person.
One of the biggest challenges Allen has faced as Chairman was dealing with this clusterfuck of an economy. Luckily for the Green Dots out there, Deloitte management saw this coming and was able to save a bunch of you:
We were a little ahead of the game in anticipating the downturn that allowed us to prepare well for the difficult times to come. We had some reductions in our workforce, but they were not as substantial as they might have been had we not appropriately planned for the downturn.
And as a high-flying executive, there has to be coping mechanisms:
[Julie Steinberg of FINS]: How do you handle all the travel you do? [Sharon Allen]: I drink a whole lot of water. I'm also fortunate to be able to adjust to time zone changes relatively easily. I work on domestic flights, and I do take my iPod and my computer. JS: What are you listening to these days on your iPod? SA: I'm a country music fan.
Chesney just came to mind for some reason (FYI Sharon: I can get you into the sold-out Red Rocks show, so reach out if you're interested). But maybe she's more of Toby Keith person, I can't possibly know not having had the pleasure of seeing what ended up on the cutting-room floor. You're invited to speculate as to artists (I'm pulling for Willie Nelson myself) and react to anything else you see above.
Deloitte's Sharon Allen on Big Four Domination, Self-Promotion and the Corporate Lattice [FINS]
Earlier: Deloitte’s Sharon Allen Never Misses Date Night, Discovered Early on That She Wasn’t Meant to be a Car Hop