Interview: John Higgins, EY Cork

16 Jun 2021 | 01.15 pm

Interview: John Higgins, EY Cork

'Businesses have shown exceptional resilience'

16 Jun 2021 | 01.15 pm

Cork has a strong opportunity to become a complementary location to Dublin, says John Higgins (pictured), Partner Lead at EY in Cork 

The Covid pandemic has brought challenges to all businesses over the past year. How have things been for EY in Cork?

We are showing strong growth in all areas of our business. We have seen significant demand for our EY Private offering which offers a bespoke range of services and solutions to entrepreneurs and private enterprises who have faced unique challenges during this pandemic.

We have also seen strong growth in our regional consulting practice, as business leaders want to accelerate their transformation agenda in the areas of people, technology and innovation. Our domestic and international tax services are also very much in demand across EY’s private and international client base.

Interestingly, we have not seen a slowing down of M&A activity, which has resulted in strong growth within our Strategy & Transactions practice, particularly in the area of business selling and buying, as companies take advantage of a buoyant market for transactions.

What is your sense of the business mood Cork/Munster?

I think the mood is generally very positive. EY’s recent CEO Imperative study highlighted that 53% of Irish chief executives forecast continued growth over the next three years, with 47% expecting it to remain static. The survey also highlighted that 81% of Irish chief executives say their organisation will start a new and comprehensive transformation initiative this year, something which is critical to driving long term growth.

Despite all the challenges of Covid-19, Cork businesses have shown exceptional resilience and, with the gradual opening up of the tourism, leisure and retail sectors, which undoubtedly have been the most heavily hit, there is a strong sense of optimism in the region.

The pandemic has shown us that the workplace is anyplace, and Cork has a really strong opportunity to become a complementary location to Dublin. We know that the drivers of growth are talent, innovation and infrastructure and in Cork we have an incredible talent pool from UCC and MTU, which has a very strong innovative and entrepreneurial culture.

Local businesses are transforming to build more sustainable futures and we can see this clearly from the increasing number of finalists we are seeing in our EY Entrepreneur of the Year awards — Teamwork, Workvivo, Global Shares, Johnson & Perrott, Mackin Consultancy and Poppulo to name a few.

To realise our full potential, however, we need to ensure that we continue to invest in critical drivers of growth such as infrastructure — housing, healthcare and transport — and that sustainability is central to everything that we do in line with the goals set out in the EU Green Deal.

Has the impact of the Covid pandemic changed how EY and its workforce do business? What long-term changes has it prompted?

Covid-19 and remote working have transformed how we deliver a number of our services. For example, for our consulting teams virtual consulting is now the new normal, while our assurance teams have changed how they deliver audit services by moving to a global state-of-the-art cloud-based audit platform, which we have invested in significantly in recent years.

This has allowed us to share confidential data securely between clients and audit teams and has been a huge asset for us.

As Ireland continues to reopen and emerge from Covid-19, at EY we are looking at what the future of our working model will be, which will include a mix of office-based, client-site and at-home working, ensuring that we’re meeting the needs of our people, our clients and our business.

What potential growth areas is EY focusing on for 2021?

We anticipate continued growth across our service lines in the first half of our next financial year (from July 1) and into 2022, and look forward to continuing to recruit the best talent for EY in Cork. As our clients’ needs evolve along with the world around us, we also look forward to continually building out our service offering in areas such as cyber, data analytics and technology.

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