Rowland Atiase is a director at EY-Parthenon.
Whether it’s digital transformation, sector convergence and dislocation, the needs of a whole new set of stakeholders, or financial and operational complexities that a business is facing, consultants bring a wealth of experience to help solve strategic issues. This is where consultants like Rowland Atiase come in.
Rowland is a director at the consulting firm Ernst & Young LLP, EY-Parthenon practice. He works in the firm’s transaction strategy and execution practice, advising and supporting clients throughout the M&A transaction lifecycle. His specific experience has been working with clients in the life sciences; chemicals; and technology, media and telecom industries. He has advised them on corporate development strategy, brand launch execution, M&A integration, and buy- and sell-side operational due diligence.
Recently, we spoke with Rowland to get an overview of what he does and what it’s like to work for one of the largest global strategy consulting organizations.
Firsthand: Can you describe for us what your practice area entails?
Rowland Atiase: Within EY-Parthenon practice, we have three practice areas we go to market with across industries: corporate growth strategy; transaction, strategy and execution; and restructuring strategy. I focus on our transaction strategy and execution practice, where we concentrate on supporting companies and financial sponsors on M&A initiatives.
FH: What types of clients do you work with?
RA: We support clients across a host of industries, including advanced manufacturing and mobility; consumer products and retail; education; energy; financial services; healthcare; life sciences; private equity; real estate; and technology, media and telecom (TMT).
Since joining EY-Parthenon, I’ve supported a range of businesses—from helping a small pharmaceutical company in developing their future state business model that needed to be modified for their growth strategy, to managing the launch of a new business unit for a global advertising agency in more than 10 countries.
FH: What types of projects do you work on?
RA: Primarily I work on supporting our corporate clients on buy- and sell-side M&A initiatives. A typical engagement would involve an EY-Parthenon practice team supporting our clients’ deal team in managing all the functional roadmaps for a transaction. Additionally, small groups of EY-Parthenon practice teams will directly be supporting our clients’ functional teams in defining the future state operating model, post-transaction.
FH: How involved are you in the actual implementation or execution of your recommendations? Is this more reflective of your firm’s specific services or your practice area in general?
RA: In M&A we have the benefit of being on the front side of the strategy when working with clients on due diligence analysis, but also the opportunity to focus on the execution of operationalizing the business, so that the business maintains its continuity after the close of the transaction. We participate in conversations with clients on both strategy and execution work. Our corporate and growth strategy practices largely focus on front-end strategy for our clients, while our transaction strategy and turnaround and restructuring services dive deeper into helping our clients execute those strategies.
FH: What is a typical day like for you? What are some common tasks you perform?
RA: Our typical days are composed of three disciplines: independent analysis, team discussions and client engagements. It’s not uncommon that consultants put together executive-level presentations, and there’s a lot of effort that goes into identifying our problem statement and key assumptions. Once I’ve put together my own independent thoughts on key questions our team is trying to resolve, I’ll have regular check-in meetings with the rest of the EY-Parthenon practice team.
FH: What training, classes, experience or skills development would you recommend to someone who wishes to enter your practice area?
RA: Having a strong understanding of the pillars of business building (business and corporate strategy, supply chain, finance and accounting) is key to being a successful strategy consultant. A couple of book recommendations I have are: The Lords of Strategy, Barbarians at the Gate, Good Jobs Strategy, and Good to Great.
Also, staying in touch with the latest business news will keep you close to trends. I listen to financial and industry podcasts, subscribe to my local business journal and watch business news to stay close to big topics that may be trending across industries.
FH: How did you end up in your practice area? Did you actively pursue it, or were you assigned to a client in this practice area?
RA: I joined EY-Parthenon’s transaction team because I find M&A a very interesting area in an organization. During business school, I spent time interning with an investment bank and, while I enjoyed the strategic elements of M&A, I also wanted an experience that would give me visibility into key operational considerations by different areas of management during transactions. What I really enjoy about M&A is that it brings all the leadership of an organization to the table; in this environment I’ve been able to enhance my understanding of all the key considerations and interdependencies that organizations should balance to create value-added services.
FH: Do you feel your firm provides you enough flexibility or opportunities to explore other practice areas?
RA: Plenty of networking opportunities exist here for consultants/associates. There’s a dedicated rotation program to provide candidates early in their career with opportunities in various consulting roles. As you progress in the firm, there are also internal initiatives that EY-Parthenon professionals can explore related to our internal training and development initiatives, sponsorship and networking, and market research.
FH: What do you like best about your practice area?
RA: The opportunities to be involved in internal initiatives. The EY-Parthenon community has been great since I’ve joined. I often tell candidates I meet that I appreciate how close I am with my colleagues who are spread out across the country.
Additionally, I serve as our national Black Professional Network (BPN) recruiting lead, and in this role I work with a team of BPN members to drive programming and engagement with Black potential candidates for EY-Parthenon. I grew into this role after supporting recruiting events at my MBA alma mater. As I started meeting more people and proposing additional initiatives, I found myself co-managing diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) recruiting initiatives for the practice.
Since taking on this role as the BPN recruiting lead, it’s been heartwarming to see both our BPN and non-BPN practitioners sign up for the full lifecycle of candidate support. It’s also been an amazing opportunity to meet EY-Parthenon professionals at all levels in every part of our Americas practices, and it has shown me that my colleagues do value paying it forward.
FH: How is your firm innovating in your practice area? How have your firm’s capabilities evolved since you joined the firm?
RA: There’s an EY-Parthenon analytics practice that is focused on helping our consulting professionals leverage data in our conversations with our clients. The more proactive we are in coming to our clients with trends and methodologies, the more thoughtful EY-Parthenon’s value proposition is to our clients.
Apart from tools and methodologies, the firm is actively investing in DEI initiatives. This is an important activity, as our leadership recognizes that without diversity in our workforce, equity in our systems and an inclusive environment, EY-Parthenon practice is not going to meet the demands of our clients and our workforce. As a member of our DEI team, I’ve witnessed our firm establish governance and programs to develop a thoughtful support structure to lead DEI initiatives. While the job’s not done, we are actively engaging in the right conversations to create an environment that helps diverse candidates/employees get the right opportunities at EY-Parthenon.
The views expressed by the author are his own and not necessarily those of Ernst & Young LLP or other members of the global EY organization.