Annual Report 2019: Kevin Ellis, Chairman's statement transcript

I’m delighted to share our 2019 Annual Report, which shows how we’ve delivered against our strategy and how we’re building a digital future for our clients and our people.  

We are proud of being a successful growing business and of the important contributions we make to wider society. At a time of uncertainty in the global economy, political upheavals, social divisions and unprecedented concern about the environment, we believe business has an important role to play in creating opportunities right across the UK.   By growing and sustaining an economically strong and responsible business over the long-term, guided by a clear purpose, we make a positive and significant impact not just to our clients and our people, but to the economy and society. 

Throughout our 169 year history, we have sought to build trust and solve important problems and to do this we have had to transform our business to stay relevant - this year is no different.

Our financial performance reflects the increasingly complex world our clients operate in and the challenges we help them solve. Our growth also allows us to continue to invest in our quality, people and technology as we respond to the fourth industrial revolution.  For us, the technology we use - from cloud-based tools like Google, Salesforce and Workday - through to AI solutions, automation and drones - has changed how we work together to deliver for our clients. But these innovations are just part of the story - our clients want more than our technology skills; they require our human insight and business understanding too and that’s why we will be investing significantly more in the skills and development of our people. 

We recognise that a fundamental part of building trust is delivering quality audits and over the past year we launched our Audit Quality Enhancement programme, which includes an additional annual £30million investment in our people, training and technology. We are focused on ensuring that we do better at delivering consistently high quality audits and believe a strong audit sector brings benefits to the wider economy and society.  

We know the auditing profession is under great scrutiny, with some asking whether audit is meeting society’s expectations. Through the launch of our Future of Audit initiative we are seeking to better understand the needs of stakeholders so we can play our part in rebuilding trust and contributing ideas as to how it needs to change.  

Our investments are critical to future-proofing the UK’s successful and world leading professional services sector - representing 11% of the economy, hiring more apprentices and spending more on training its employees than any other sector.  I believe that’s why it continues to attract so many school leavers and graduates every year and is seen as a training ground for the business leaders of the future.

As one of the UK’s biggest employers we have also taken action to help spread opportunities to communities across the country.  We have made major investments, for example, in our new Assurance centre in Bradford and we have expanded our Belfast office. This year Belfast became our second largest office, now employing 2300 people.  

We have also consciously tried new things when it comes to increasing the diversity of who gets jobs with us in pursuit of advancing social mobility and accessing the broadest talent available. We have continued to widen access into our firm, including through our new Technology Degree Apprenticeships - with the first cohort of 109 students starting their studies this year. And we have expanded to around 100 universities from which we recruit graduates and interns.  We believe that achieving and investing in a greater diversity of talent is not only the right thing to do but it is also making our business stronger.

And the more we can continue to grow, the bigger the positive economic and social impact we can make, remaining relevant into the future. 

 

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