Making partner: the game is changing

20 August 2020

For many, making equity partner in a professional services firm is the culmination of many years of hard work and career progression. While traditionally, the ability to bring in new clients and generate income has been a top priority when appointing partners, there is a shift taking place where values and purpose are coming to the fore as essential criteria for leadership.

In order to create value, both for clients and the firm, decision makers need to consider the following when looking at their candidate pools:

Increased scrutiny of professional services firms
With the Big 4 increasingly under fire from regulators and the Government for the quality of their work and their business structures, all PSFs that operate on a partnership basis need to be mindful of this increased external scrutiny. Opaque rules mean that regulatory bodies are taking an increased interest in the partners, their roles and also into the organisation as a whole. This, coupled with enormous internal scrutiny from peers and competing talent means that potential partners are examined minutely from every angle, and will need to be able to stand up to the amplified ‘heat’.

Purpose vs personal gain
Making partner is an attractive goal due to the potential prestige and financial gain. Yet, this ‘personal benefit’ culture is coming into question. There will be increasing dialogue in 2020 and beyond around delivering real and meaningful value to a wider variety of stakeholders, with a greater expectation for companies to consider the needs of their broader interest groups such as suppliers, employees and support communities. Management needs to make explicit the firm’s values and ensure the partners they appoint reflect the same.

Diversity and representation
Firms are under intense pressure to reflect gender, ethnic, socioeconomic and cognitive diversity in their workforce – particularly at management and executive level. Gender diversity in particular has become part of a much broader global trend demanding equal rights in the workplace. A recent industry watchdog report found that women make up just 17 percent of partners in accountancy firms in the UK. As such, the imperative is twofold: management buy-in for the transformation agenda is critical – leaders need to understand and champion the need for equality; and secondly hiring teams need to ensure that partner candidates – whether male or female – are cognisant of the challenges and opportunities this represents in the workplace.

The qualities a partner needs to display in order to meet the demands of the contemporary working world are multidimensional and more far reaching than simply job competency. With the current social, political and economic landscape, it is becoming increasingly important for leaders in organisations to display good value systems and a sense of purpose, not just the ability to generate income. Find out how you can better assess your potential partners here.

For a discussion on how we can help you assess and develop future leadership, please email hello@nscg.com or call 020 3854 1608.


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