Stop talking, start doing

As CRO, Robin Errico is responsible that EY navigates itself and it clients safely through the digital transformation. But Errico is also reducing risk in other ways: by furthering D&I within the organization.

Robin, who are you?
I’m a mother, I’m a wife, I’m a friend, and I’m a colleague. And that probably covers most of the roles that I play in my daily life.

What drives you in your everyday life?
What drives me is my challenges every day. When I can help to make a difference and make an impact. I feel this also with my colleagues, when I’m coaching or mentoring somebody. And then also with my clients: I love working with my clients on projects. I get a lot of energy and drive a lot of passion from all of this.

What exactly is your passion?
I’m really passionate about working with people. I work with so many amazing people within and outside of EY. And I’m also very passionate about the different topics and challenges we’re facing today. I just really want to make things better on every different level.

You’re Chief Risk Officer (CRO) at EY. Are you yourself a risk-taker?
That depends on what you mean (laughs). If you’re talking about skiing down a big mountain, I like to go slow – but I like to go down. There’s always a balance when you talk about taking risks: If you don’t take any, you don’t achieve. More importantly, you don’t even have the chance to achieve, because you will never know what you missed out on. I feel like you really need to balance between a ‘status quo’ risk-taking and intelligent risk-taking. Because we all have to take risks, that’s how we move forward in life.

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Is intelligent risk-taking what you’re trying to do as CRO?
Absolutely, every day. We have so many new challenges with all of the transformations going on around the world today. We have new services we need to offer to our clients, and, simultaneously, they have different demands of us. And each time we have to reassess: Is this something we can and want to do? I think it’s really important that we take risks intelligently, because it would be a shame if we said ‘No’, to a client that might be the next Facebook. You really need to balance out that risk-taking from a professional perspective.

Do you see more or less risk because of the digital transformation?
We’ve always had risk. And whether you’re asking if we have more or less risk today than we did 15 years ago: I think we have a lot of risks today – as we did 15 years ago. The risks are just different, so we have to address them in a different way. It’s all about a learning experience: How do we deal with the risks, how do we mitigate the risks, and what can we do to ensure that we don’t become victims of the risks?

Companies are in the middle of the so-called digital transformation. Do you see your role transforming as well?
I think it’s always additive. It’s different topics you’re addressing, but you’re always building off experiences of the past. I’ve been working in Audit for 30 years. So, as an auditor I understand risk very well, because we audit against risk. It’s really just building your knowledge and understanding of risks so you can properly respond.

Do you adapt your personality when you go from being an executive to being a colleague to being a mother?
No matter what my role, I always try to be my authentic self. In a leadership role people are looking up to you to help guide them. And then, when I go home, my daughter is also looking for me to help guide her, help with her homework, help prepare for her next school day. I don’t look at myself as being a different person when I’m in the office, with clients, or at home. I don’t think I fundamentally change my personality.

Robin Errico
... is EY’s Chief Risk Officer in Switzerland. She also heads the company regarding ‘Diversity & Inclusion’ (D&I). The dual citizen (Canada and USA) studied Accounting at Alfred University in New York. She joined EY in Switzerland in 1995 and became a partner within EY’s audit department in 2004. Additionally, she was the first female member of the management committee. Errico is married and has a 10-year-old daughter.

How important is the topic of ‘Diversity & Inclusion’ (D&I) for EY’s strategy going forward?
At EY, D&I is one of our key priorities from a strategic perspective. If you look at the topic of D&I and how it impacts every single thing we do, with our clients, when we set up project teams, how we interact. On every level D&I intersects to everything that we do in our business.

Successes from D&I can take a while to show. Do these investments of time and money mean playing ‘the long game’?
Absolutely, we can’t expect things to change overnight. Today, there’s a lot of talk of short-termism in the market. And what you start to realize is that this isn’t a good thing for businesses. Because people are moving solely from quarter to quarter, trying to get the profit the market is expecting. We are not looking at the long-term value creation of companies. Therefore, when you have this short-termism, companies are not investing in the things they should invest in. I’m looking at D&I the same way: To invest in D&I, you need to educate people and then get to a point where it's fully integrated in your organization – that it’s basically in the blood of the employees. Then it’s no longer a discussion point.

As it challenges consensus decisions, D&I might also create discomfort for certain individuals within an organization. How do you deal with this?
By having a diverse team, you actually get the best out of people. Whereas, when you think from a consensus standpoint, and you have five people on a team, they all come from the same background and the same education, maybe they’re all the same gender, there’s a leader and some followers: You’re not getting the same innovation and creativity out of that group that you would get out of a diverse group of people. It may be uncomfortable for some individuals, but I think in the end, people will realize what a big benefit it is.

You’re simply not getting the same creativity and innovation out of a homogenous team that you get out of a diverse group of people.

How can employees contribute?
Individuals have to have an awareness, a tolerance and a sensitivity about what the topic is and what it means. We all need to learn to be inclusive colleagues and inclusive leaders. At EY, everyone is welcome to contribute to this, all ideas are welcome. We do a multitude of activities and programs, where we try to highlight the importance of D&I for our organization. Take my role as an example: I was appointed as Head of D&I, and I’m also in the management committee. So, this is not a side job that someone on a lower level is just kind of managing on a daily basis. As I said: It’s really integrated into everything we do in our business.

There’s an ongoing discussion of how companies should institutionalize this topic. Does there need to be a ‘Head of Diversity & Inclusion’?
Today, I think that most companies do need a Head of D&I. There are probably several companies that don’t have such a leader but need one. And there could also be the exception of companies that are so far ahead in this regard that they no longer need a leader. But the goal for all of us as D&I-focused leaders should be that the role becomes redundant in the future.

How do you hope your daughter will experience these topics when she starts her career?
I can start off by saying that she has a good role model at home, as we talk a lot about these topics. But the job she will have in the future – as she’s only ten right now – likely doesn’t even exist today. So, I hope that at that point, we’re not even talking about D&I anymore. Thus, I just hope she picks a career she really loves and is very passionate about.

What would need to happen for D&I to become redundant?
We need to just stop talking about it and need to just start doing it.

Robin Errico was host at the EY "Women in Industries"-Event on November 15 in Zurich: www.forbes.at/artikel/transforming-operating-models

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