Imagine working on confidential, exciting projects alongside people from all over the world, using state-of-the-art technology. No, it’s not the Secret Service, but Operational Transaction Services at EY.
In financial services, large deals such as mergers and acquisitions (M&A), involve complex due diligence and planning. This is where the expertise of operational transaction services teams can prove invaluable, especially when equipped with new technology.
“People’s eyes often light up when we tell them what we do,” says Murray Falconer, a partner in Transaction Advisory Services for EY, covering the EMEIA (Europe, Middle-East, India & Africa) region. “A high-profile deal project could come in on a Monday morning; we’ll start immediately and be finished by Friday, all in secret. It’s exciting, dynamic and very fast-paced.”
The demand for technology advice has never been stronger and a number of innovations are coming to the market, such as artificial intelligence, advancements in machine learning, automation, big data and other forms of new technology. Businesses are using these technologies in many different ways, from cost-cutting and efficiency, to completing major deals and predicting future outcomes.
“In the transactions space, we’ve seen growing demand from our clients for a wide scope of technology diligence ahead of and during deals,” says Falconer. Falconer worked for EY in 2000 followed by over a decade in industry leading complex transformation programmes within blue-chip financial services businesses, before returning to EY in 2014.
“We use some of the latest technology, such as advanced analytics and natural language generation tools, to help our clients identify growth opportunities and potential risks. These insights can be used to help establish their deal price and provide a better view of what they’re buying into. This could be the investment they are prepared to put into transforming their newly-acquired organisation, so they can integrate it into their own business. Or, in the case of a private equity firm, it could be about increasing its value, so they can turn it around into a profit for their investors.
“For example, we might perform an assessment of how automated a target business is and whether cost savings and efficiencies could be made from manual tasks. It’s sometimes possible to help transform a company’s entire digital operating model, moving from just a website and an app to being a truly front-to-back digital business.
“During a deal, clients often come to us for technological advice because they trust us, and because some tech firms are aligned to certain products,” adds Falconer.
EY also helps clients with cyber-security concerns. “We have qualified people who can work with the client and conduct investigations,” says Falconer. “We have EY Cyber Hubs in several countries serving the EMEIA region, consisting of specialised teams who conduct technical assessments of a company’s cyber-security readiness. They look at key elements of the company’s cyber protection, vulnerabilities, strategy, communications, training regimes, real-time operations and tooling.”
Post diligence and acquisition, Falconer and his team also help companies with their growth and value creation plans. This could be looking at cost reductions and process efficiencies – for example, where technologies such as robotic process automation could be used to make improvements to how the business runs. They also look at how the suppliers and supply chain are working, identifying opportunities to help the business more effectively. .
“For private equity transactions, we can often help to improve the customer experience at the acquired company. In insurance, for example, a fully digitised process can enable a customer to purchase car insurance and have all the relevant documents within 60 seconds. That can certainly help with brand recognition and improve customer satisfaction, whilst cutting costs internally improves profitability and adds to their business’s valuation.
“While for corporates, we’ve built user-friendly tools for our practitioners, including an Artificial Intelligence tool that provides insights into the ecosystem of different sectors.”
EY has one of the largest transaction services team in the UK. Falconer says his team has trebled in size in the last three years.
“It’s a very diverse team and there are plenty of opportunities to travel and work abroad, primarily in Europe. The exciting work we do helps us to attract some of the top talent from a range of countries and backgrounds.
“We are still hiring at all levels and across a range of skillsets including IT, cyber security, and operational transformation as well as due diligence.
“There are great learning opportunities all the way up to Partner level. The work is varied, and staff are given personal responsibility, development and growth opportunities, and plenty of training,” says Falconer. “This could be technical education in a classroom, web-based training, or on-the-job learning from colleagues.
“We encourage coaching within the teams, at all levels. We encourage a high level of collaboration, which fosters a positive learning environment. Team members improve their technical skills and, as they become more senior, they develop broader skills, such as relationship management, commercial expertise, and most importantly leadership. I can also truly say I am very proud of the team we have built.”
EY also invests in its employee wellbeing programme, providing support and advice to help employees manage all aspects of their physical and mental health in addition to encouraging flexible working. The firm also encourages and supports its employees to undertake charity work, by offering each employee two days paid leave each year for volunteering. Through its non-profit charitable arm, EY Foundation, there are plenty of opportunities to get involved in fundraising initiatives which support young people and entrepreneurs from disadvantaged communities.
“EY is widely recognised as a great place to work and I genuinely believe the team would endorse that view,” concludes Murray.
All in all, this seems to be an exciting time to be working in operational transactional services at an organisation and in a sector that is expected to grow and innovate further in the coming months and years.