Deloitte boss backs grey workers

Sean Smith
Deloitte Australia chief executive Cindy Hook and WA managing partner Michael McNulty at firm's Perth offices. Picture: Lincoln Baker/The West Australian.

Deloitte Australia's pioneering chief says age diversity needs to be given the same priority as gender if older workers are to get a fair go in a greying Australia.

Cindy Hook, newly appointed as the first female chief executive of a Big Four accounting firm, believes the issue of age diversity is little different to gender, in that "you have got to take it on".

Ms Hook said Deloitte maintained a keen focus on gender balance in its workforce by reviewing diversity statistics at every leadership meeting.

"Now age diversity is not an issue that has been on the leadership team agenda but we can look at that . . . unless you focus on it, nothing is going to happen," Ms Hook said.

Deloitte's workforce has an average age of just 34 but the firm says it recognises the importance of the contribution of older workers, particularly partners.

"We need these people; a lot of them have the experience, grey hair and war stories that clients want, and they are a great resource for teaching the younger staff," said Ms Hook, who will today deliver her first speech as chief executive to a Committee for the Economic Development of Australia function in Perth.

However, she emphasised that employees, older or otherwise, needed encouragement and a supportive and innovative workplace to thrive.

Deloitte has reshaped the make-up of the top tier of accounting by last year overtaking KPMG and EY by annual revenue to grab the No.2 spot nationally behind market leader PwC.

In WA, the firm is "No.2 or No.3", says Perth managing partner Michael McNulty, with revenue growth for the current financial year running at 6 per cent to 7 per cent. That includes the first contribution from Keith Johns' tax and advisory firm, KD Johns & Co, which was bought by the local practice last August.

The acquisition was one of a number of consultancies, including Access Economics, snapped up by a particularly aggressive Deloitte in the past five years.

Ms Hook reiterated Deloitte was still looking to acquire other "adjacent" businesses. "We're in a good place. . . but we have got to keep the pressure on," she said.