Blistering growth for EY amid downturn

Advisory and audit giant EY is expanding at a blistering pace despite slowing global economic growth.

Earlier this month the firm reported its fastest expansion since the 2008 financial crisis, with headcount at an all-time high of 212,000 and rising.

Full-year revenue rose 11.6 per cent - also its first double-digit expansion since 2008 - with improvements across all its business units and geographical markets.

Global chief executive Mark Weinberger told The Straits Times yesterday that the weaker economic outlook is actually one reason why the company has done so well.

"Our risk and performance improvement business is about helping companies to streamline and save money. And since there's such slow growth, companies want to cut costs and so they're hiring us and saying, 'Look at our supply chain, look at our performance and help us improve.'"

However, it is demand for new services that has really taken off, said Mr Weinberger, who is in town for an EY conference bringing together the firm's new partners from around the world.

"Our consulting business grew the strongest because of demand for new offerings such as cyber security, digital and data analytics and IT advisory," he added.

EY is constantly on the lookout for investments in such emerging areas to meet this demand and stay ahead of the competition. One strategy is to buy digital and predictive analytics software that can help auditors do their job more efficiently while also investing in cyber security and social media technologies that can add more value to existing services, Mr Weinberger said.

The firm continues to invest in talent. After hiring some 55,000 people globally last year, EY is looking to grow its headcount further.

In Asean, it hired about 6,500 staff last year and plans to recruit "at least the same number" this year, Mr Weinberger said. The region is a big growth market for EY, with many Asean companies making outbound investments and companies from outside wanting to enter the market, he added.

"If the Trans-Pacific Partnership were actually to become law, which we are hopeful about, it will open up 40 per cent of the world's economy in a big trading bloc and that would be a big boost for foreign direct investment in this part of the world."

The TPP is a free trade agreement that includes 12 Pacific Rim countries, including Singapore, the United States, New Zealand, Australia and Japan.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 30, 2015, with the headline 'Blistering growth for EY amid downturn'. Print Edition | Subscribe