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EY Executives Discuss the Future of Work, Leadership Lessons, & Corporate Culture

Gabelli100 | Apr 30, 2021 |

As the COVID-19 vaccine roll out reaches more people every day, business offices across the country are plotting the best strategies to reopen, but that doesn’t come without challenges. Global accounting firm EY looks forward to reconnecting its 80,000 partners across America as 12,000 of its newest employees have never set foot in an EY office.

EY deputy managing partner Michael Inserra, BS ’83, and Kelly Grier, EY U.S. chair, managing partner and Americas managing partner discussed the potential “new normal,” the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the workplace, the future of accounting and more with Donna Rapaccioli, Ph.D., dean of the Gabelli School in a recent Gabelli School Virtual Centennial Speaker Series event. The event was sponsored by the Gabelli Center for Global Security Analysis, the CFA Society of New York, and the Museum of American Finance.

Grier explained how, in the beginning of the pandemic, working from home was considered favorable, but over time, it has also limited collaboration and productivity.

“We want to make sure that the way that we return is with intentionality,” she said. “What do we need to do in order to support the development of our people, the execution of our business imperatives, the delivery of our services, the establishment of the right relationships? And most importantly, [how do we ensure] that the cultural underpinning of all of that is strengthened as a result of how we move forward?”

DEI & a “Teaming” Culture   

Throughout Inserra’s 35-year career at EY, he has prioritized Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), viewing it as key to a healthy and productive corporate culture. Having worked in Europe coordinating teams across different countries, Grier also understands how critical DEI is in order for organizations to grow and thrive.

“I have personally seen the power of diversity, but also the power of the peril of diversity without inclusion,” she said. “[Team members] don’t feel like they can contribute, they don’t feel like they belong, and they can’t bring their whole selves. The peril of that is actually more catastrophic than the upside associated with diversity in its own right.” 

EY fosters a “teaming” culture where everyone is included and has the opportunity to contribute, she said. This also makes it easier to check in and connect with each other so no person is left behind.

Recipes for Success

Acknowledging students in the audience, Inserra and Grier stressed the importance of both mentorship and sponsorship in one’s professional journey. While a mentor can offer advice, a sponsor is a closer connection who ensures that young professionals have rich growth opportunities throughout their career.

“If somebody is going to sponsor you, it’s because they believe in you,” Grier said. “They’re attaching their own credibility and brand to you and you have an obligation in return to make sure they’re proud of having done that.” 

The speakers also noted a few must-haves for prospective job candidates at EY. In addition to a foundational skill set, Grier compared the ideal candidate to a “fastball”; not only are they competent, they’re agile and adaptive.

“We’re looking for people who have tremendous empathy, who have a sense of purpose, who can inspire others, who really have an appreciation for the power of teaching, who believe in this conversation we’ve had around the power of diversity and the imperative of inclusion, and can make people feel that they belong and are respected,” Grier said.

When the discussion turned to the importance of partnerships between industry and academia, Rapaccioli said that the Gabelli School’s partnerships with firms like EY infuse business programs with the latest innovations and help to further develop students’ critical thinking skills.

“As an educational institution, we have to remember that we’re educating the students for their whole life,” she said. “So, for us, part of our ‘secret sauce’ is the relationship that we have with industry and firms.”

With technology advancing rapidly across every facet of the global business ecosystem, there’s no doubt that automation will continually reshape the accounting profession, making opportunities to connect to industry that much more vital for today’s students’ success.

A Surprise Tribute

The webinar concluded with a surprise video tribute to Inserra, honoring him for his years of service at EY and his unwavering dedication to his alma mater. Colleagues and friends, including Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of Fordham University, wished Inserra well in his upcoming retirement.

“Mike and EY have been and continue to be true companions in Fordham’s mission,” Father McShane said. “For others within EY and also within the Fordham community, your leadership has committed hundreds of our students to begin their careers.” 


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