Ernst & Young’s global chairman and CEO, Mark Weinberger, highlighted the advantages of a career in accounting and tax to college students from diverse backgrounds at an event in New York on Thursday.
The annual recruitment event, now called Discover EY, gives the firm an opportunity to tell minority students about careers at the Big Four firm as EY makes plans to double its global revenue by 2020 to $52 billion.
Weinberger, a former Assistant Treasury Secretary for Tax Policy, took over the top job at EY in July, succeeding Jim Turley (see Former Treasury Official to Lead Ernst & Young). Turley would regularly speak to students at the annual event, and Weinberger did the honors this year (see Ernst & Young Recruits Minority Students at NYC Event).
He recalled how the event had originally begun under the name Discover Tax in an effort to get students interested in the tax profession, but then expanded to other areas.
“You all are going to be future leaders somewhere,” he told the students in attendance. “I certainly hope it will be at EY. I hope it will be in our profession, whether you’re in audit, tax, transactions or advisory. But regardless, if we can help you think differently about your career and the opportunity that you have at this incredibly exciting time in the world, that’s a bonus.”
His presentation opened with a video highlighting Weinberger’s focus on family life, showing him playing basketball with his four teenage children and showing off some of the family’s dozen pets, which include dogs, cats, lizards and a “sugar glider” (a small type of possum).
Weinberger described how he has gone back and forth three times between jobs at EY and positions in the federal government during the Clinton and Bush administrations, along with a legal advisory firm he founded called Washington Counsel, which eventually merged into EY.
When he first interviewed for the firm’s Cleveland office as a student studying for both a law degree and MBA, the firm was known as Ernst & Whinney, and he thought at first that it was a law firm. But he was attracted to its culture. He advised the students to make connections wherever they work and learn not just technical knowledge, but also develop social skills, friendships and mentorships.
“One of the things I didn’t appreciate early in my career was the importance of relationships,” he said.
He recalled how his father was best man at his wedding and advised him to never forget where he came from. His first job while he was going to school was in an ice cream shop, where he worked his way up to manager. But after joining EY, he had the opportunity to work for the U.S. government. Even though the salary was about half of what he was making at the firm, he accepted. He worked at various government jobs, including the Social Security Administration Advisory Board under President Clinton and chief of staff on Clinton’s 1994 Bipartisan Commission on Entitlement and Tax Reform, as well as in the Senate as chief tax and budget counsel to Senator John Danforth, R-Mo. Weinberger later served in the George W. Bush administration as Assistant Treasury Secretary, and he recalled how proud his father was of him. When he later got the top job as global chairman and CEO of EY, he confessed that his mother told him that nobody was more surprised than her.
Weinberger noted that many people at EY leave for jobs in industry, but a high percentage later return to the firm. Others continue to serve in industry, government, academia and the “C-suite.”
“We have a million alumni around the world who were trained at Ernst & Young,” said Weinberger.
One of his priorities at the firm is to create high-performance teams. “I need to have a team around me that can pick up when I’m away,” he said.
Weinberger is also focusing on EY’s Vision 2020 strategy, which involves doubling the firm’s global revenue by 2020 and attracting diverse talent, such as the young people who attended the event.
“Our younger people today are smarter, more technology savvy, more globally minded,” Weinberger told them. “You will have more opportunities than in generations. I would just say, don’t think about any limitations. Just think about opportunities. The world will find your limitations, but only you will find your opportunities. You’ve got to go out and actually search for where you think you can do well and you will be amazed at what you can accomplish.”