Posted: 16 Apr. 2020 4 min. read

Finding our way towards a 'new normal'

Our CEO, Richard Deutsch, sat down with Money News host, Brooke Corte, to discuss how our world is changing amidst the COVID-19 crisis, and the role organisations play in helping us adapt to the ‘new normal’.


Brooke: Richard Deutsch, thanks for joining Money News again. What do you think about that balancing act and how that particular issue is playing out and being communicated to?

Richard: This is an unprecedented time. It's something hopefully that we never experience again and it’s an extraordinary period that is full of uncertainty.

I think our people are looking for clarity. They're looking for communication and they're looking for confidence that we're going to be ok. Corporate organisations and corporate leaders have a huge responsibility to play to give that clarity, and regular communication and confidence to their people and to the broader community.

During a period of crisis, I think people are prepared to trade off some of their salary if they have the confidence that we are going to be okay and that we're going to, at some point, come out of this and restore ourselves back to the new normal – and it will be a new normal, it won't be the old normal.

I believe people will be prepared to sacrifice an element of their salary if they trust in what the organisation is doing – if they can see that the owners are taking more pain than them. Frankly, I think everybody understands during  this crisis period, but that it’s a better option than ending up unfortunately as part of those who are unemployed in Australia. Based on my own people's forecasting in Deloitte Access Economics, we know that the unemployment rate is predicted to rise to about 8 or 9% over this crisis period and people don’t want to be in that number.


Brooke: Yeah, you just used that great phrase in there – the ‘new normal.’ I think we're talking a lot amongst ourselves about whether there will be a new normal after this period, like working from home. Can I ask you about that specifically? Your people are a few weeks into this working from home mass experiment and many businesses are doing it. Do you think that'll be part of the new normal?

Richard: I'd say two things. If we were having this conversation three weeks ago, I had roughly 20% of 10,000 people at Deloitte Australia working away from the office. Today, it's 95%. So the agility to move that quickly has been phenomenal and the technology has stood up, which has been great.

I think there are big, big changes ahead in terms of people realising that we can work remotely, and we can work from home very effectively. And I think we’re going to see lots of organisations pivoting to this way of working as part of the new normal. I think that'll challenge a lot of the existing ways we do business, including how much premises we need, or what sort of office space.

I think that will play out. I'm a big believer in the purpose of place and I think that working on your own at home is quite isolating. It brings a number of challenges on its own and therefore, I personally believe we're still absolutely going to need office spaces. We're going to need communities for people to physically be with one another and have that human interaction.

So I think we’ll see a combination - but I think it will be far more acceptable to work home home and there will be a lot more people working away from the office in this new normal.


Brooke: That's so interesting to hear you talk about being a believer in place. The workplace is an important place for a lot of people and I understand you actually have kept your offices open even though only 5% of your employees are turning up.

Richard: We decided to keep our offices open and we will keep them open for as long as we can following government’s advice. Of course, the reason we've kept the offices open is twofold.

Firstly, if you're in your twenties or thirties, maybe you’re in a one or two-bedroom flat and you have two kids at home, being schooled from home, and you have two working parents who are also trying to work effectively from home. If you're working under those conditions, you might need to actually come into the office to get your work done and just to have a break from that environment. So that was really important to us.

And then the other thing that I think is equally important, if not more important, is for many people suffering from domestic violence, the office environment is quite often their safe haven and we don't want to take that away from those people. And so if they need to come to the office, they can come into the office.

And I think one of the unintended consequences of working from home and being isolated, as we are at the moment, is the fact that mental health issues and domestic violence is on the rise. That’s why it's even more important than ever for us to keep our offices open as long as we can.


Brooke: Yeah. And that is such a significant part of what we need to be discussing for sure. The other things you want to see in terms of the new normal, Richard, from a leadership position - where do you see the opportunities for us?

Richard: I really hope that when we respond to this crisis and eventually get through this crisis, Australia uses this as a catalyst for change. I think a really good thing that the Prime Minister and the Treasurer have done is getting this national COVID-19 coordination committee up and running, led by Nev Power.

We need to take think about how Australia can take this pandemic as a catalyst for change and completely rethink about what we do around infrastructure, manufacturing, healthcare, energy and water management.

I'm really hopeful that as we regenerate and rebuild this wonderful country, we use this as a catalyst for change in this new normal.

I'm really hopeful that as we regenerate and rebuild this wonderful country, we use this as a catalyst for change in this new normal.

Brooke: Yeah. A lot of our attention is turning to the road out of this coronavirus crisis and the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, has been talking about the need to protect our economic sovereignty.

Richard: I am a globalist at heart, but I think that the scales of balance between globalists and what we're doing in our local countries will and that sovereignty word that you used. I think that'll get rebalanced a little, and frankly, I think that's a good thing for Australia.

So we still want to be globalists, we still have to drive the economy from a global perspective, but I think we need to pause and think: what are the sorts of things that we need in country, in Australia to ensure we do remain the lucky country and that we rebuild and regenerate in the right way? I think elements of manufacturing, elements of healthcare and energy are the sorts of things we need to really look at and re-evaluate our policy settings.


Brooke: Thank you so much. Richard Deutsch from Deloitte, the CEO of Australia. Thank you very much for your time on Money News. 

 This radio interview first appeared on 2GB's Money News show on Thursday, 9th April 2020.

More about the author

Richard Deutsch

Richard Deutsch

Chief Executive Officer

Richard Deutsch is the Chief Executive Officer of Deloitte Australia and is a member of the Deloitte Asia Pacific Executive Leadership Team. He leads a talented team of 850 partners and nearly 10,000 people, located in 10 cities across Australia and Papua New Guinea. Deloitte Australia focuses on cultivating a distinctive culture by attracting and developing the best people, creating solutions for the most complex of client problems, and making the greatest impact on society. Richard has more than 25 years’ experience in delivering complex audit and advisory services to Australia’s leading organisations. Prior to commencing as CEO, Richard was the Managing Partner of Deloitte Australia’s Assurance and Advisory practice and served as a member of the Global Audit and Assurance Leadership Team. Acknowledging that Australian businesses must have a voice on important national issues, he is a member of the Male Champions of Change, the Business Council of Australia, and the Climate Leaders Coalition. He is passionate about supporting organisations that have a positive impact on those in need. He is a former Chairman of OzHarvest for five years to January 2020, and former Director of Adara Group for nine years. Richard is a past President and Chairman of the Institute of Chartered Accountants Australia (ICAA) – now the Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand (CA ANZ). Richard resides in Sydney and is married with three children.