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Professional service with a purpose

EY is investing in new global capabilities to support its clients to navigate a fast-changing business landscape

'What we are focused on is helping businesses, entrepreneurs and governments around the world to solve their most pressing challenges and take advantage of emerging opportunities.' - Max Loh, EY Asean and Singapore managing partner, Ernst & Young LLP.

WHILE megatrends such as globalisation, technological advances and demographic shifts are presenting opportunities to many businesses, they have also brought about significant challenges, which have emerged even as companies cope with a changing regulatory environment. As a professional services organisation, Ernst & Young (EY) is navigating this complex environment through its purpose, ambition and strategy. EY's purpose is building a better working world, which underpins everything that it does.

The professional services organisation's business is divided into four service lines: Assurance, Advisory, Tax and Transaction Advisory Services. Over the past decade, EY has innovated and expanded its capabilities to meet evolving client needs amid increased complexity and disruption in the business landscape.

"In our daily interaction with clients, many have shared with us their business concerns in areas beyond assurance and tax - the traditional business functions that EY was associated with. Thus, we recognised that we too need to invest and diversify beyond our core competencies by branching into new areas," says Max Loh, EY Asean and Singapore managing partner, Ernst & Young LLP.

For instance, the professional services organisation launched four centres of excellence in Singapore to provide innovative services in digital transformation strategy, cybersecurity, analytics and manufacturing to businesses in Asia-Pacific. The centres are connected to the EY global teams of advisory professionals worldwide to provide a seamless experience to companies.

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In dealing with corporate transactions, many companies work with different organisations and strategy houses for support at various stages of their deal or restructuring processes, which is not always ideal. EY saw the gap in the marketplace and innovated and expanded capabilities to provide end-to-end services across the whole transaction value chain - from front-end strategy, deal due diligence and support, to merger integration and structural operational turnaround.

Today, EY has added new services in areas such as digital transformation, cybersecurity, big data and analytics, robotics, people advisory and even law and operational transactions and strategy. Not surprisingly, the global organisation's fastest growth areas are in Advisory and Transaction Advisory Services.

"Essentially, what we are focused on is helping businesses, entrepreneurs and governments around the world to solve their most pressing challenges and take advantage of emerging opportunities. For that to take place, we must constantly innovate and be at the forefront of technology, talent and transformation," says Mr Loh.

An era of innovation

For EY, building a better working world means solving big, complex issues and capitalising on opportunities to help to deliver outcomes that grow, improve and protect its clients' businesses. And just like its clients, the professional services is subject to the same threats, and has had to adapt.

Globally, EY is driving growth through strategy acquisitions to bolster the services it offers. It is also investing in strategic alliances with organisations such as GE Digital, IBM, LinkedIn, Microsoft and SAP so it can respond better to new growth areas. Yet, the organisation recognises that innovation is more than just new services or technology.

In 2015, EY appointed a Global Chief Innovation Officer to drive all its innovation efforts throughout the business. The Global Chief Innovation Officer leads a global team to provide the visibility needed to forecast the technologies and trends on the horizon.

"This insight helps EY to move faster and dive deeper into local ecosystems to identify with the latest concepts and practices that can be leveraged on a global level. Beyond internal innovation, the team also works to develop new technologies, strategies and solutions that our clients need," explains Mr Loh.

He also shared that digital advances are driving unprecedented change across industries, and with it, redefining the professional services sector. Hence, EY has developed an integrated 'whole of EY's digital strategy that involves increasing digital fluency across the organisation, enhancing its digital presence in the market and building new digital capabilities.

"Professional services firms that move too slowly, or underinvest, risk threats to their business from traditional competitors and new entrants. We believe that embracing and capitalising on digital will make the difference between organisations evolving or dying," says Mr Loh.

As part of this strategy, EY has introduced digital technologies into its core services. For example, it has introduced data analytics into audit such that clients can extract greater insights and value from company audits.

The road ahead

Many would not dispute the potential of Asean. The EY report, Rediscover Asean: A growth story of 10 countries, highlights that global and regional investors remain vested in the region. Further, the establishment of the Asean Economic Community (AEC) in 2015 has continued to draw interest from companies that seek to invest in the region. Other regional processes such as the China-led Belt and Road initiative are also spurring investment interest and opportunities.

Yet, many companies face barriers and challenges in their Asean forays, given the diversity and varied stages of growth of the member countries.

"A lack of clarity of regulatory policies and processes, disparity in trading rules and barriers, varied market practices and even local customer preferences are some of the issues that companies face when they seek to invest in Asean. Some of these answers may not be straightforward. That's the reason many clients come to us for our advice due to our strong sector and local market knowledge," shares Mr Loh.

Today, EY has over 250,000 people in more than 150 countries, and operates in 34 cities in Asean alone. Yet, despite the expansive construct, being the most globally integrated professional services organisation in their mindset, actions and structure allows EY to respond faster than its competitors.

"As our clients ride on the wave of Asean's robust growth, they need advice and support in diverse areas, and assurance that the quality of service they receive is consistent globally. And this exceptional client service is what we take great pride in providing. To us, that is what we do to build a better working world," concludes Mr Loh.