Kelly Grier, EY

Kelly Grier

The EY Family

Editors’ Note

In December of 2017, Kelly Grier was named U.S. Chairman and Managing Partner and Americas Managing Partner, officially assuming the role in July 2018. During her 28-year tenure at EY, Greir has had extensive experience working around the globe as a client service partner and senior advisor on Fortune 500 Audit and Advisory clients. Previously, she was Vice Chair, Central Regional Managing Partner, where she led 10,000 professionals across 15 states and 17 offices. Recognized for her work, she was named to the 2019 Crain’s 50 Most Powerful Women in New York list, the 2019 Most Powerful Women in the Accounting Profession list by the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) and CPA Practice Advisor magazine, as well as the 2018 Fortune Most Powerful Women list. Additionally, she has been recognized as an Anti-Defamation League’s “Woman of Achievement,” as well as a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader. On October 1st, Greir will become the Board of Governors Chair for the Center for Audit Quality (CAQ). She also serves on the boards for Carnegie Hall, Catalyst, Partnership for New York City, Peterson Institute for International Economics and Ravinia Festival. She is also a member of the Council of Foreign Relations and the Chicago Network. Greir received a B.A. in accounting from Saint Mary’s College.

Firm Brief

The global EY organization (ey.com) is a leader in assurance, tax, transaction, and advisory services. In the Americas – EY’s largest area – member firms employ more than 75,000 people across 32 countries and generate $14.5 billion in revenues. Globally, EY member firms employ more than 270,000 people and generate $38.4 billion in revenues.

Companies today are focused on being purpose-driven. EY had this focus early on with its mission of “Building a better working world.” Will you discuss how deeply ingrained this is in EY’s culture and what building a better working world means for the firm?

We were without a doubt one of the first movers to say that the work we do has to have true meaning beyond just achieving our goals every year. It must have a deeper meaning for our stakeholders and certainly for our people.

Building a better working world is a genuine articulation of our purpose and it really has taken hold. The work that we do absolutely improves lives, communities, stakeholders and the capital markets that we serve around the world and helps companies unlock their greatest potential.

As we continue to evolve the way we think and talk about our purpose of building a better working world, we are increasingly personalizing it; we are helping our people realize their greatest ambitions by connecting their personal purpose to EY’s core values.

Our people want to make a difference and instilling this strong sense of purpose motivates them to truly make an impact, not only on the firm and from a professional perspective, but also from a personal perspective.

Building a better working world is also about asking, what is your personal purpose? What drives you? What motivates you? What gives you fulfillment, and ultimately how do you express that to contribute towards our firm’s purpose of building a better working world?

We’re taking our people on a bit of a journey to discover their personal purpose – this is actually something I’ve done myself. I’ve spent some time reflecting on my journey and the experiences along the way that were formative in shaping my value system. Taking that one step further, how does that manifest in what I do every day, and ultimately how do I connect that to how I participate as a leader of the Americas in building a better working world on the collective behalf of our 75,000 people?

That principle, which we’ve been instilling in EY’s leadership, is something that we are now embedding within our talent agenda when we onboard new EY joiners.

In fact, I often hear from students on campus that they want to know that the work they do matters and that there’s a higher calling and a bigger purpose behind what they’re doing. These students have an innate drive to truly be purpose-driven, and we really draw that out to help them understand and articulate their purpose. What gives them meaning? What gives them the greatest joy? What makes them want to continue to grow and try to contribute, and how does that then intersect with EY’s purpose of building a better working world?

Ultimately, when each member of our EY family feels empowered to make an impact that aligns with their personal purpose, we can harness the collective power of our firm to not only achieve our goals, but also create positive change in our world. That’s the vision beyond our mission of achieving a better working world.

New York City

Building a better working world
is a genuine articulation of our purpose
and it really has taken hold.

New York City

EY has also been recognized as a first mover on diversity and inclusion. Will you highlight EY’s commitment in that area and how diversity and inclusion has evolved at the firm?

The conversation has evolved dramatically. Diversity and inclusion are core principles at EY. They’re the non-negotiables and we continue to be extremely focused on ensuring that we have a diverse workforce. However, the dynamic workplace environment of today requires even more; it requires a culture where everyone feels a strong sense of belonging.

While we certainly think about gender, we embrace all elements of diversity – demographic diversity, ethnicity, sexual orientation, diverse abilities, work style and more. Even the academic backgrounds of our workforce reflect our commitment to diversity as we seek to hire more technologists, data practitioners and specialists than ever before.

Diversity and inclusion has evolved from a focus on representation to a mindset that ensures everyone feels a sense of belonging, regardless of their background. It’s about valuing the uniqueness of the individual and recognizing the collective strength of our differences when we come together for a common goal.

We want everyone to feel like they truly belong at EY – that they matter, are respected and valued. We’re doing amazing things and we ultimately manifest all that cultural success into commercial success in terms of how we deliver services to our clients and how we innovate.

People are thinking differently. They’re liberated to think big and bold and embrace change. They’re trying things that might seem courageous or almost outrageous and ultimately, some of those great, outrageous ideas become fantastic innovation opportunities for us to pursue.

When our people feel an innate sense of belonging, they bring their whole selves to work, which enables us to better serve our clients and bring our best ideas to the table to solve their toughest challenges. I don’t want this for just some of our people; I want this for all of our people.

As we continue to evolve our culture and the diversity of our workforce, inclusion and that sense of belonging are essential ingredients in our ability to unlock creativity so that a highly engaged workforce of people feel that this is their home.

Do those coming out of school understand the innovation that is taking place in the profession and what do you tell them about how dynamic the industry is today?

The honest answer is that there is a very mixed understanding. There are some universities and colleges that are absolutely aware of this and are promoting how the profession has evolved. This profession is much more innovative, dynamic and technology-enabled than it ever was in the past.

The work that is being done is so different from crunching numbers. We are using data and predictive modeling extensively, which is strengthening the quality of the work that we’re doing.

It is so much more sophisticated, and it requires a deeply analytic mind and a very deep understanding of the business of that particular company or client, in order to be able to put into context what the data is telling you and what the models are suggesting.

The Center for Audit Quality (CAQ) has asked me to step in as the Chairman of their governing board, and I assume that post on October 1. CAQ is really the organization that represents the profession. So if you ask me if the profession has done a good job of telling its story, I know I speak for my fellow governing board members at the CAQ and the leadership there when I say that there is an extraordinary and compelling story to tell about the profession and how dynamic it is, and how it has evolved in ways that are probably not understood or appreciated enough more broadly. We think that this is a story that needs to be told and that is one of our priorities as we head into the next year.

New York City

I talk about the 75,000 people in the Americas
that are in my care and my responsibility to them. My responsibility
to their families. My responsibility to their overall success and
satisfaction in their lives, not just their careers.

New York City

EY’s culture is built around client relationships and the human touch. How important is it that the next generation coming into the industry understands this importance in order to ensure that technology doesn’t take away from the people part of the business?

I highlighted this concept when I was in Orlando with 3,500 of our interns. It is so important that I devoted part of my presentation to specifically talk about our emphasis on client relationships and on client leadership. At the end of the day, all aspects of the work that we do are fundamentally predicated on having the right client relationships.

No technology will ever usurp or replace that principle. In fact, if anything, we have to be more focused on it and more diligent as I think you’re intimating with your question, because the propensity is just to focus on the digital world and not as much on the human world.

At the end of the day, relationships are paramount to every aspect of a career, certainly at EY, and in our broader profession too. I encouraged our interns to really cultivate the relationships they have with one another and with the people they work with across different service lines so that they understand the full breadth of our capabilities and how a multifaceted and multidisciplinary firm ultimately comes together to produce extraordinary capabilities and solutions for our clients and our communities.

The relationship aspect of our business has never been more important. I think it’s something that we must emphasize because the gravitational pull is definitely towards digital and technology as a means of getting things done, but the human element is still the most important feature in all of the work that we do. There’s no question about that.

You refer to the EY family. For a firm of 280,000 people around the world, how are you able to maintain a family feel and culture at the size and scale of EY?

I think our culture of belonging is a great enabler. I think that we do many things to promote that sense of team and being a part of the EY team. Everything that we do, we do as a team; there is no such thing as an individual contributor. That constant teaming environment fosters a sense of family – you’re never alone, you’re always surrounded by people with common purpose working together to realize that purpose.

We’ve also shifted our focus to developing transformative leaders who help cultivate that sense of being part of a team and bring out the best in themselves and others. It’s our mission to empower leaders who inspire people with a compelling vision of the future and who connect their personal and professional purpose to achieve fulfillment and create an inclusive and caring culture where everyone feels a sense of belonging. A culture that values the physical, mental and emotional well-being of each member of our EY family.

I think that it’s important that our leaders think about their responsibility as serving those in their care. That’s the term that I use. I talk about the 75,000 people in the Americas that are in my care and my responsibility to them. My responsibility to their families. My responsibility to their overall success and satisfaction in their lives, not just their careers.

I have had the opportunity to work on lots of teams in client service. I’ve been around the world and I know the power of EY and how our values connect us across borders. I’ve been an office managing partner responsible for creating that strong cohesion in teaming and community and the impact of feeling that sense of family.

I had the chance to be the talent leader which is a position of great impact and influence as it relates to our culture. In each of these roles, every step along the way has made it more clear to me how important it is that we treat our people truly as our family. That there’s a sense of caring in addition to leadership and support for professional responsibilities. That caring is what you’d expect from your family.

You don’t necessarily have a right to expect it from everyone in your life, but you certainly have a right to expect it from your family. That means at EY we see ourselves as your family, and therefore you have a right to expect that sense of caring from us and that’s really what we endeavor to achieve.