How Deloitte CEO Cathy Engelbert Rose to the Top

How Deloitte CEO Cathy Engelbert Rose to the Top
From TIME - March 22, 2018

Growing up as one of eight siblings in the southern part of New Jersey, or South Jersey as its known to all who live there, has its disadvantages. Cathy Engelbert had to share a room with her messier younger sister Peggy. There were occasional fistfights, which Cathy usually lost. Both her parents had jobs outside the home, and sometimes her dad took extra work on weekends and evenings, either for more cash or for less chaos. But in elementary school, when Engelbert ran for class president, one advantage of having a big clan became apparent.

She wanted to win so bad, and she was going up against the most popular boy in the class, so she came up with this campaign slogan, Have a taffy, vote for Cathy,' recalls Peggy, a nurse. We run to the store and buy bags of Charms Pops and Tootsie Pops, and we tape the slogan to all of them. Then four of her five brothersKurt, Kenny, Kevin and Keith (Kyle came later)Peggy and oldest sister Beth gave out the candy around the school. Engelbert won in a landslide.

Its interesting that the perpetrator of so flagrant a vote-buying scheme would be such a success in the audit business. The shyly confident, quietly competitive Engelbert, 53, is now CEO of Deloitte U.S. Like class presidents, Deloitte CEOs are elected, and like U.S. Presidents, they serve four years with the option of another four. Engelbert became the first female CEO of a Big Four financial-services firm in 2015 and will soon stand for her second term. If she wins, she will be the first two-term CEO since 1999.

At a time when fewer than one in 10 companies on the Fortune 500 has a female CEO, Engelbert exercises a particular brand of soft power, given that she runs the company that helps run 400 of those 500 businesses. (KPMG, another of the Big Four, also has a female CEO.) More than 60% of her employees are millennials, the majority of whom, having been trained by Deloitte, will leave to work elsewhere. She is responsible for forming tomorrows corporate leaders in an era when traditional models of political leadership are in fluxwhen, as she says, were walking on business eggshells, because every morning you wake up and you kind of cringe when you go to look at your breaking news.

Engelbert is also at the helm at a tricky time for financial-services firms. While they are known for audit and tax services, most of the growth in recent years has been in management consulting, the much sexier and more lucrative end of the business. (Deloitte advises Meredith Corporation, the owner of this magazine.) Instead of parachuting in to solve a particular problem, consultants now need to be able to effect a corporate metamorphosis for a whole new environment, one constantly being remade by digital technology. Companies used to buy point solutions from us, says Engelbert. Now they want to buy end-to-end transformation.

Deloitte hires 18,000 people in the U.S. every year. It has to predict who will be useful to businesses in the future. Now 65% of IT spending is in the cloud, says Engelbert by way of example. That requires hiring different people than we hired before. We need more data scientists.

But its not just expertise that she has to build; its culture. Every day I wake up and say there are 88,000 people going out to clients today, says Engelbert. You have to build the right culture into them. These issues are not Deloitte-specific. She believes the concepts of an employee and a workplace are changing rapidly. Jobs are being disconnected from work, she says. Work has a whole new definition. Theres the gig economy, the open talent network. So how do you build culture when you cant build it in your four walls?

Engelbert has made a big bet on technology, forming partnerships with Amazon Web Servicesto combine Deloittes business savvy with Amazons tech agilityamong others and developing a cadre of Apple-specific advisers, experts in shifting businesses to mobile using the iOS platform. She has also doubled down on work-life balance, insisting, against the advice of her spreadsheet wielders, that all employees be offered 16 weeks of paid leave for any family emergency. Im not a big rattler, but I rattled some people, she says. I said were just going to do it.


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