Edward Nusbaum: Grant Thornton is fortunate with its people in Armenia

20.04.2017 | 12:39 Home / News / Interviews /
#Grant Thornton #Edward Nusbaum #audit
Banks.am talked to Edward Nusbaum, Global CEO of Grant Thornton International who is in Yerevan to honor the celebration of Grant Thornton Armenia's 20th Anniversary.

- As the CEO of one of the world’s leading networks of audit and advisory firms, what are your insights on global trends of development of this industry? On global scale, how do you see the profession evolving in 10 years from now?

- I think the next ten years are going to be a great opportunity for the profession both in the audit and the advisory area. We have seen tremendous developments over the last decade and there's even more opportunity going forward.

One of the key things to make sure that we stay relevant to the marketplace is innovation. The use of technology is a strategic priority for expanding our services, providing greater assurance and helping the capital markets in Armenia and worldwide grow, as well as helping businesses, government and other organizations develop and improve their operations and technology. So, I think, what we'll see over the next ten years is more innovation.

But here the core factor, of course, is attracting the best talent into our profession.  We have done a very good job over the last ten years revising how we approach the talent, but I think it's critical to go forward by continuing to attract the smartest people to our organization.

Lots of people and businesses in general today desire to understand, what is the higher purpose of audit organizations, why do we exist? And the answer is, we exist to help the countries of our operations, including Armenia, improve their economy, create jobs and new opportunities, and form a reliable capital market.

So I see both an assurance opportunity and an advisory opportunity over the long term in a wide variety of areas. I'm quite optimistic that the profession in the next ten years will be even more important as we increase our relevance and provide more services to the business, investment community, and the public sector.

- Again in a futuristic perspective, what type of new services do you expect to be covered by Grant Thornton firms in a decade from now?

-  I think in terms of new services going forward the question is how innovation in technology will impact us in the next ten years. In the short term, we'll see increasing role of services like cyber security or using technology and block chain to help companies and organizations improve the way they deliver their products and services to the marketplace.

Grant Thornton is already doing some fascinating things around cyber security, helping banks, larger companies and government improve their control and management systems with the latest technology. I think over the coming years technology will play an even greater role. Although it's hard to predict what exactly time will bring- things like artificial intelligence, data analytics, etc. Those innovations will impact both how we do an audit and how we provide our advisory services, but it will also allow us to create new services.

In general, we look at clients from two different perspectives: as global entities, in this case we focus on helping them win more global assignments and take more opportunities, and the other aspect is the private company side, where we try to help owner-managed businesses and middle-sized companies get started, get their businesses going, and flourish to become even more dynamic in its marketplace. These things intersect because many times in today's world even a startup business wants to become a global. We’re looking at it with the standpoint of how we help global organizations, but also how we help even the smallest businesses get started and grow to become the next big businesses.

- What are Grant Thornton's strategic priorities globally for the next 5 years?

- Well, we adopted what we call "Growing together 2020" strategy about a year ago with impute of fifteen thousand people in our organisation. Our global values are fundamental - collaboration, leadership, excellence, agility, respect and responsibility. Fundamental targetable strategy is collaboration around the world, our teams working together throughout the CIS region and globally. We have firms in one hundred thirty countries with about forty seven thousand people.

Our "Growing together 2020" strategy is focused on two fundamental concepts: first of all, having the best people in the organization, creating a workplace that attracts the best talent and developing the best experts to transfer their passion and excitement to every single client, and the second fundamental concept is the client experience, as we want every client to love working with Grant Thornton. Although sometimes we have to give tough advices so that they change things, but at the same time, we want them to trust Grant Thornton and we want to provide a consistent client experience here in Armenia and throughout the world.

The other priority for these years is innovation and technology, which we already talked about: how do we create even more innovation, set up research labs, vision conferences and discussions on how to use innovation technology as an advantage.

- Audit and advisory is a fairly “young” industry for the Armenian economy, and yet you are here on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of Grant Thornton in this market. How do you see the role of Grant Thornton in this industry and the economy of Armenia, as a whole?

- We've been very fortunate to attract some of the best people and talent here in Armenia for Grant Thornton. To give an example, the managing partner of Armenian Grant Thornton also is a member of our Global Board, which consists of representatives of only 12 member firms, one being Armenia, so that's quite impressive.

Besides, Armenia is one of our regional global headquarters where we have Grant Thornton International team of Armenia-based people to serve the region. In Grant Thornton's perspective, for many years we've been making and still make investments in Armenia, which has helped us build up such a great team here.  We're also seeing those investments pay off, because Grant Thornton Armenia is investing by itself in other countries of the region, helping us with our global initiative. So it's a win-win situation, it's a two way street for the company. I’m sure that from Grant Thornton's perspective, it is a great opportunity to have a firm in Armenia.

Grant Thornton is one of the first audit companies in Armenia, and we believe it’s a leader in the area, with a very large market share both in the audit and the advisory sector. In 2016 we've experienced 18% growth here in Armenia, which is amazing.

As you say, it's still a relatively young profession in Armenia, but the interesting thing about the audit and advisory profession is that it helps the economy grow. We've seen it help the economy grow in other countries, such as Russia, China etc. The profession helps the economy, improves the capital market systems, helps companies to grow strategically and the government to meet many of their challenges. I think the key aspect is to make sure that Grant Thornton in Armenia is helping the economy become more vibrant to create jobs in the marketplace, so for us it’s a huge success story, and we anticipate a tremendous success for the foreseeable future.

- Grant Thornton is the leader of the professional services market in Armenia, as we know. What is the key to success of this firm, in your opinion?

- Well, I think it's always about great leaders and great talent, and then it goes to creating good reputation and great systems, a great environment. But everything starts with the culture. We spend a lot of time talking about our values and creating a culture that is different: we don't compare ourselves to other companies, we just want to have the best culture for ourselves. So we create one where people want to work, where clients are sure they are going to benefit and be able to succeed in the marketplace because of the hope they are getting from Grant Thornton.

- This is your first visit to Armenia, what are your expectations from it?

- Well, there are a couple things that I'm fascinated by. First of all, it's a beautiful country, it has a tremendous history. But from a business perspective, we do a lot of surveys about the economy and our most recent survey shows that the business optimism in Armenia has grown up in the last quarter and continues to go up because of higher expectations of revenue and higher rate of profits. I'm interested to meet the leaders of the business community and the government to find out more about what they're doing to make it work. I know that Armenia is predicting higher economic growth for this year, so I think it's  actually a good opportunity for Grant Thornton Armenia as well.

The other interesting thing that we found out in our research about women in business is that Armenia scores very high on the percentage of women in business. In fact, out of the thirty seven countries we surveyed Armenia came in fourth, so close to the top. Only about ten percent of the businesses do not have women in senior management positions here in Armenia which is quite lower than the world average. The diversity in that leadership is a good thing which leads to better business decisions over the long term so I think that's a very positive factor for Armenia.

On a more personal level, I'm actually here with my wife and one of my daughters. I've never been to Armenia before, all the pictures are fabulous, and we are looking forward to exploring the country during our stay. It will be a fascinating experience for us spending these few days in Armenia.

Siranush Simonyan talked to Edward Nusbaum
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