Speech at opening of Grant Thornton Offices

12th November, 2018


Good afternoon,


Thank you for inviting me to officially open the new headquarters of Grant Thornton here at City Quay right in the heart of Dublin city.


This confident move is a testament to the hard work and great success you have enjoyed over recent years in Ireland and is a strong vote of confidence in the capability and future of your firm.


I congratulate you.


Much has been written on the dominance of the ‘Big Four’ in the space in which Grant Thornton now operates.


I note that earlier this year Grant Thornton UK announced that it was withdrawing from the audit market for FTSE 350 firms.


I am glad that Grant Thornton Ireland feels that the corporate landscape in Ireland for these kinds of services remains competitive and note that you see it as a key part of your strategy to grow the business.

The economy needs a wide variety of different operators of different sizes, specialities and skillsets and Grant Thornton has much to offer public and private clients.


Getting our bearings

Given we are but a stone’s throw from your old office there is clearly something to this area which drew you and kept you here. Let us get our bearings for a moment.   


In front of us is the river Liffey, a waterway with a thousand years of economic pedigree to it.



To the Northwest of us stands Liberty Hall, long a focal point for the trade union movement in Ireland.


To our North East the docklands and the banking and financial services hub that grew up in the place of industries of old.


From fewer than sixty people working in the Dublin Docklands in 1987, the International Financial Services (IFS) sector now employs over 35,000.

We have a deep pool of staff, managers, professional advisers, regulators and service providers with sophisticated domain knowledge in the key mobile financial services sectors.


There are only a limited number of places in the world with such an ecosystem.


And just up the river a wave of modern technology companies have opened up yet another new frontier making Dublin one of the world’s premier tech hubs.


All of this is a real microcosm for some of the major elements of our economy and our society.


Directly across the river, in the middle of all of this, quietly sits the figure of commerce atop the dome of the Customs House.


Apart from all the hustle and bustle around her.


A solemn figure built atop firm foundations, a structure laid down for all to see.


I find that quite symbolic.


The Language of Business

A few weeks ago I addressed the Collins Institute on the great economic and political challenges we face domestically and internationally.


Years of hard work, sacrifice and prudent decision making have taken has us back to strong economic growth and back in control of our finances.


Yet we continue to wrestle with the consequences of painful financial mismanagement and strive to ensure this never happens again.


We lost our sense of economic reality during the Celtic Tiger.


We lost track of the fundamentals of what a successful stable economy and society should and could be.


Our political institutions, our banks and much more, stopped dealing with the real language of the economy and dealt instead with unsustainable mirages.


They sacrificed transparency and real innovation.


We paid dearly for this.


Accounting is the language of business. It is the communication of economic realities and the base upon which all sustainable and innovative economies are built.


The accounting, auditing and other services you provide allow Governments, investors, shareholders, employees and citizens to see the economic reality.


Now it was clear that there were deficiencies in some key accounting standards and rules which applied throughout economies across the developed world.


And extensive work has been done on improving these at both a national and international level.


The language of business has evolved to better serve our needs.


I note that this week Collins Dictionary announced its newly inducted Word of the Year – ‘plogging’.


The combination of picking litter and jogging.




The Grant Thornton Corporate Challenge 5k is a great success each year.


Might I humbly suggest incorporating some upper body work into the mix via plogging?


Other words of note inducted included ‘single use’.


As in ‘single use’ plastic items.


Our language evolves to reflect our evolving concerns in this ever changing world.


Clearly concerns around sustainability are to the fore here.


Sustainability in environmental terms.

In health terms. In economic terms.


And the language of business is no different.


The language has changed in response to real world economic problems and deficiencies.


And within these new rules, these new approaches, is the concept of a different culture.


One where transparency, diversity of thought and innovation go hand in hand.


But it will only ever be as good as those who speak it and teach it.


And that is where you come in.


As a firm, as individuals, graduates and seasoned professionals.


Firm Level

We need you to speak the language of business with ever more clarity, transparency and passion.


We need you to help businesses understand the present in a different way so they may better strive and innovate for the future.


Regulators have spoken extensively of the importance of culture in financial services firms.

In a city like Dublin, with its eco-system of accountancy firms, law firms, other advisors and combined labour pool, financial services firms are an important part of culture transmission in our society.


A phrase often attributed to Peter Drucker goes that ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast’


So your culture is an integral part of what you do.


I am heartened to see how prominently cultural transformation and change features both internally and in the work that Grant Thornton does.



The new headquarters opened today by Grant Thornton is part of a major investment which includes training 240 of Ireland’s brightest graduates.


I applaud those who are beginning their careers, the young women and men who will start their professional journeys with accounting and associated services with Grant Thornton in this innovative and collaborative new workspace.


I note that Grant Thornton was named employer of the year in 2017 by the International Accounting Bulletin (IAB) and has been recognised consistently for its excellent workplace, so you are starting on fertile ground.


After many years of hard work and determination we once again have much more to offer our graduates than emigration.


We have the fastest growing economy in Europe and you are, thankfully, in a position where you have many choices.


Know that the choice you make now in following an apprenticeship in the language of business will be challenging and illuminating.


You are placing yourselves at the centre of our economy, at the crossroads of a multitude of different companies and sectors.


Some of which are small, some of which are large. Indeed many of which do not yet exist.


You have long rewarding careers ahead of you.


You will learn much.


I am sure many of you will move to a multiplicity of different firms over the courses of your careers and that is something to be applauded.


One thing I would like to see more of is some of you consider getting some experience in the public sector at some point.


It is quite common in the UK for financial services professionals to move in and out of the HM Treasury.

I believe this trend would be of enormous benefit to both financial services firms and the Irish public sector.


So if the opportunity ever presented itself to undertake a temporary ‘secondment’ to an arm of the state please consider it.


Then you can return to City Quay with another string in your bow or, as may well be the case, those of you who move to the public sector may decide to stay there, embarking on fulfilling and worthwhile careers.


Seasoned Professionals

To those experienced professionals who are the in the mid to senior echelons of Grant Thornton, much is required of you as well.


You have to speak the language of business in a way that embodies the transparent and innovative way our society and economy needs and demands.


As discussed previously, culture is key to all of this and ensuring the makeup of decision makers reflects society as a whole.


I am heartened by the clear buy-in management has in creating a culture of diversity and inclusion right at the core of the business.


The Embrace programme run by the Head of Diversity and Inclusion, Sasha Kerins, is a powerful statement of intent and I am pleased to see a pragmatic and data driven approach in understanding and assessing your progress.


The International Accounting Bulletin (IAB) recognised Grant Thornton’s Women in Business report with the Thought Leadership Initiative of the Year Award last year.


The Families blog by Sinead Donovan, the Gender Diversity blog by Maura Cronin, the Multicultural blog by Catherine Taguiling, the LGBT blog by William O’Carroll and much more on your website really give an insight into an organisation that is embracing change and a new way of doing things.



I will finish with a quote attributed to the King himself, Elvis Presley:

I have no use for bodyguards, but I have very specific use for two highly trained certified public accountants’.


Little could Elvis have known that they would become one in the same – we need strong, transparent and innovative financial services firms like Grant Thornton to safeguard our economies and our futures.


To speak the language of business in a way that protects us today and delivers future growth and prosperity tomorrow. 


Thank you.