Life at Deloitte
A story about Partnership
With our colleague for life Ilkka Huikko
Ilkka has been with the firm for more than 22 years, so this career story could be a novel. Even so, instead displaying a comprehensive personal historic, this story about a growing, values and ultimately about the essence of partnership as one man has experience it. You’ll be reading simultaneously a foreword and an epilogue – Ilkka is retiring from the Partnership, yet firmly staying in our corner as a mentor and advisor.
I started my career as an IT analyst in a small IT integration company in 1995 and then joined a more established consulting firm in the beginning of 1996, a couple of months before my 26th birthday. Having just had my 52nd birthday, I have spent half of my life in professional services.
When I joined Deloitte some years later, on 2 August 1999, as the 7th consultant in Deloitte Finland, Deloitte Consulting LLP was a global single P&L firm registered in Delaware and we were its Finnish branch. A lot has changed in the firm since.
Like all professionals, I too have constantly grown in the profession over time. First years as analyst and consultant, then as a manager and senior manager, followed by years first as director and then as partner from 2006 onwards. And I think these 16 years as partner have developed me the most. I have held a range of distinct roles and each of those have taught me fresh perspectives to our profession.
As a fresh partner I acted as our Strategy & Operation (S&O) practice leader with ca. 50 people in the practice at its peak. It was quite a ride for me as I started my consulting career with a strong focus on technology and I needed to learn new things fast. It was also the first time for HR managerial responsibilities, and I learned quite quickly to understand why leaders act as they do. There are so many contradictions between different priorities and sometimes one needs to make unpopular decisions.
One of the subsequent roles as consulting Quality & Risk Partner taught me the importance of managing not only our financial risk but also our reputational risk. Sometimes QRS is only seen as a tedious compliance function. The heart of QRS is still all about ensuring some aspects of our business continuity, adding internal transparency and clarity on how we contract and operate as well as educating our Talent on these issues.
We are driven by the excitement on client work. This applies to me as well. In fact, during early years of my career, my strong view was that one should be as close to clients as possible and stay away from the office related things whenever one can.
While there is merit around this thinking, I have learned to appreciate all the effort our practice leaders, managers and enabling areas are putting in to ensure our success. Having said this, the most enjoyable moments in my career relate to client work. First as a resource in the team, then as a team leader, project manager or engagement partner and finally as Lead Client Service Partner (LCSP).
LCSP role is by far the nicest role I can imagine. This role empowers an individual to seek opportunities and solutions that combines the interests and mutual benefit of the client and Deloitte. If one only sees immediate financial benefit, we get nowhere on the long run. We should always aim at a long-term relationship even at the cost of short-term success. Professional service provision is not a sprint, it is a marathon. The stronger relationships we have, the easier it will be for us on the long run. There are some clients with whom I have a 20+ year relationship and I encourage all to nurture your relationships and grow with your clients.
After LCSP roles, my predecessor as the leader for Financial Services Industry left Deloitte in 2015. At the time I was reluctant to accept that it was my duty to take the ownership of the industry as I was extremely happy with my working life that focused fully on customer facing LCSP roles. But I took the role and - again - learned a lot. When I started in this role, FSI as a practice was associated with consulting only and - to exaggerate a bit - we had something like 1 senior manager in addition to me. In fact, we were in a start-up mode - or more correctly: re-start mode. Looking at where we are now, FSI practice has matured. We have redefined our client portfolio and expanded our industry capabilities. There are FSI Business Units leads in BUs – and a fair amount of Talent in their teams. At the same time, Finland FSI net service revenue has increased ca. 240%. My successors will stand on a more solid ground, but we are by no means ready. There are a lot of things to improve and take forward. I will work closely with my successor, making plans for future – for next fiscal year and further.
As one of the final roles I have had in the firm, I served as the Chair of Partnership Council in Finland, responsible e.g. for facilitating Chief Executive Officer succession process. It has been a true privilege to serve the firm and my fellow Partners in this role. Being the Chair has meant a lot to me and I am grateful and honored having had this chance. I have learnt a lot and gained more perspectives to the essence of Partnership, also via my membership and contribution at Nordic Partner Council.
Why do I retire then? “When you lose the passion, it is time to go”, said Gilbert Toppin, who was a UK based partner in S&O practice, also widely known for his inspirational presentations. Gilbert said those words in new manager seminar in Barcelona 20 years ago. And he is right. Client work – sales and delivery – is the fundamental reason we exist. Every professional should be passionate about serving our clients, selling, and delivering. And I must admit, I am not anymore, at least not to the extent needed or required from me as a partner or as an industry lead. This is the root cause for my decision to retire from the Partnership. It is hard to point out why and how I have changed, but the change is evident, and it is wise to recognize and admit the situation. It is now my time and turn to move on. I will leave the firm and the Partnership in a better condition than they were when I joined them. Train moves on and I want to take the next stop to leave the train also to make room for great new people.
I remember a discussion something like 10 years ago with a Partner in the firm. The point of the discussion was “this is our firm now”. We had just noticed how there had been a few exits as more senior (and yes: older) Partners left the Partnership. Our conclusion was that we will be in charge for the next 5-10 years, before the next generation comes in and takes over. In retrospect, we were right - and the time since has been great! Looking at where we are right now, the firm has taken a giant leap forward.
Deloitte has grown, and our reputation is much stronger than in the past. We are an established player with strong reputation and not a new kid on the block anymore as we were in my early years in the firm. I am grateful - but also proud - for having been a part of this journey. I trust my good colleagues to continue the success of the firm.
Deloitte has been the center of my professional life. In fact, I love Deloitte and this Partnership. There is nothing that is pushing me nor any opportunity outside Deloitte to go for. This profession has been good to me. I have learned more than I ever imagined when entering the profession. I have gained vast number of great experiences and memories. And I have made friendships that I hope will last forever. Colleagues for Life.