Perspectives

Through wars, recessions, and pandemics: A story of resilience

Deloitte has a long history of helping clients, communities, and our people thrive during times of adversity. Resilience is an essential part of our DNA as we continue to live our five Shared Values and make an even greater impact in the age of COVID-19.

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Since our founding in 1845, Deloitte has prevailed through political upheavals, wars, and both natural and man-made disasters.  Along the way, Deloitte has endured 10 major global economic downturns, including the Great Depression (1929-1939) and the Great Recession (2008-2009), as well as dozens of national or regional recessions. We have seen the rise and fall of European colonialism, and the birth of new countries around the world. Deloitte has been able to persevere through these storms due to the resilience that lies within our DNA and Deloitte’s commitment to serving clients with integrity.

Our people were at the frontlines during World War I, when more than 120 Deloitte people and 100 Haskins & Sells’ professionals worked with the Red Cross to prepare for War Department audits and help enroll its employees for overseas service.  We were also there during World War II, and the Luftwaffe bombings of London, where Deloitte people dispersed across the city and partners and senior clerks remained connected via telephone.

In 1917, the Great American Auditing Co., the Chinese Mainland predecessor firm of Deloitte China, was one of the first foreign accounting firms to set up in Shanghai. It helped clients maintain their businesses and trading connections throughout the troubled years of the First Chinese Republic (1912-1928).And during the Spanish flu pandemic, the predecessor firm of Deloitte Canada helped the Hudson’s Bay Company, providing auditing services as it reeled from the effect of the disease on communities across Canada.

Over the years, Deloitte leaders have recognized that doing the right thing for stakeholders and our people can also create new opportunities. In the wake of the Crash of 1929, Deloitte leaders in the US advocated for mandatory public company audits to protect capital markets.  And very quickly a new, unexpected, and stable business was born. During the post-World War II recession, various Deloitte firms pivoted to help companies stay on their feet using new statistics-driven approaches developed before and during the war—approaches that came to be called “management consulting.” And, when Saba & Co, the predecessor firm of Deloitte Middle East, opened offices in Qatar in the 1950s to help the government of that emirate, it helped bolster the economy long before significant revenues from oil and gas began to flow in.

The fact is, in the choppy seas of uncertainty, Deloitte has always been a remarkably stable and resilient ship. Deloitte’s diverse portfolio of business offerings, technological know-how, and future-focused thinking have provided the necessary ballast for Deloitte member firms to pivot, reorganize, and help clients forge new opportunities out of adversity.

In these uncertain times, Deloitte is once again connecting to what matters, as has been done for 175 years—focusing on the needs of clients, stepping up to support our communities, and prioritizing the well-being of our people. Together, we will overcome this latest challenge, and will help Deloitte clients and the organization emerge stronger.

British firefighters extinguish flames after Luftwaffe bombing of London in World War II

The world will not return to the old order of things. . . . We cannot remain unaffected. We should keep ourselves ready to carry on by means of the quality of our work. . . . In the meantime, it behooves us to stand by the old-fashioned virtues.

-Touche, Niven & Co in the midst of World War II.

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