What the auditor discovers: Plenty

Posted: January 21, 2014

What, you might ask, could possibly be interesting about being an auditor? Isn't it mind-numbing, dealing with dense financial documents coupled with excruciatingly arcane regulations?

Not for Robert J. McNeill, 48, the newly elected chairman of the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia and the managing partner of Deloitte's 1,500-employee Philadelphia office.

To him, the audit practice provides an opportunity to learn about many different business sectors - without actually having to work in them.

"I'm not sure there's a day that goes by that I'm not learning something," he said. "That's what makes me tick."

Question: Your bio says you speak on accounting hot topics? What, exactly, would be an accounting hot topic? What's hot now?

Answer: Lease guidance.

Q: Explain, please.

A: [In proposed accounting standards,] most leases would need to be recorded "on the balance sheet" as opposed to "off the balance sheet," which is the treatment today. This has widespread implications on companies as it relates to the size of their balance sheets, level of debt and liabilities, and overall compliance with debt covenants. This will be a big deal.

Q: On Jan. 1, you became chairman of the Economy League. What's your 2014 forecast for the region?

A: I'm bullish.

Q: Why?

A: What gets me excited is I can see the formation of networks, of groups that say, "Hey, we're onto something." I can feel the momentum starting to turn. It could be StartUP PHL [a venture capital fund]. It could be PHL MADE [an advocacy and marketing group]. It could be folks that are real business entrepreneurs that have had a history of success now saying: "I'm going to take my capital and I'm going to deploy it. I'm not going to Silicon Valley."

Q: On June 1, you became managing partner of Deloitte's Philadelphia office. What's the biggest change in moving to the top?

A: I think it has to do with the need to interact personally with so many people.

Q: Is it a volume issue?

A: That volume, the types of questions that come, are things I haven't focused on in my career.

Q: For example?

A: It's budgets. It's the holiday party.

Q: The party? Really?

A: Before, I just said: "Tell me where it is and I'll show up."

Q: And now?

A: I'm responsible for selecting the location and adding my views about when and where and how. I felt that I was the host now, so making sure we had the right day of the week, the right time of day, the time where the greatest number of our people [could] show up and making sure they have a good time.

Q: You have four kids and often coach their teams. Any similarities between coaching teenage basketball players and managing accountants and auditors?

A: As a leader, whether it's for youth sports or a professional services firm or the Economy League, I start with listening.

Q: What's a skill you have that people don't know?

A: I like [the television show] Jeopardy! because I end up doing very well, against myself in my living room. Someone will say, "What's the southernmost capital of the world," and I'll say, "Wellington, New Zealand."


Work title: Managing partner, Deloitte & Touche L.L.P., Philadelphia.

Civic title: Chairman, Economy League of Greater Philadelphia.

Home: Wayne.

Family: Wife, Karen; children, Kelly, 17; Robert, 15; Ryan 12; Megan, 10.

Diplomas: Villanova University, accounting. Certified public accountant.

Resume: Rose through ranks at Deloitte, last heading its Philadelphia audit department.



New York.

Local headquarters: Philadelphia.

Business: Accounting, auditing, consulting,

and risk management.

National revenues: $13.89 billion, fiscal year ending June 1, 2013.

U.S. employees: 60,951 in 2013, up from 56,827 in 2012.

Local employees: 1,500.


Robert J. O'Neill, on Philadelphia's New York problem.



215-854-2769 @JaneVonBergen

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