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60 second interview with Helena Robertsson, EY

3 March 2020

April French Furnell

As part of our 60 second interview series, Citywealth spoke to Helena Robertsson, leader of the Global Family Enterprise platform at EY about onboarding the first ‘digital generation’, and talent concerns within family enterprises.

Tell me about your role.

I lead the Global Family Enterprise platform in EY. We are a truly global and closely integrated network of trusted advisor who facilitate success and growth of ambitious family enterprises by helping them design long-term strategies and implement the right tools, skills and training to succeed across generations. I took the global role eight months ago and prior to that I had the same responsibility in EMEIA (Europe, Middle East, India and Africa) and the Nordics. My core specialty is tax advisory where I have spent more than 20 years helping clients in the Nordics and around the world.

Walk us through your daily routine.

I often start with a wish that I handle the day routinely.
I am an early morning bird and a part of my desired routine is to deal with important emails before 9 AM. I spend most of my working hours meeting clients and colleagues. Productive meetings require both preparation and action taking so I make sure I always spend some time on that. I usually conclude each day with another round of going through emails and reserve the evening hours for my family.
My role requires intensive travel which is part of the wider routine and can sometimes consume an entire week. Global leadership roles require that you bring some flexibility into your routines as highly important and urgent matters may arise at any moment.  

Tell us about a recent client instruction.
There was an inquiry from a family enterprise where a number of spouses joined the business over years. The family wanted to replace an old, basic shareholder agreement with a more detailed family charter to help prevent or mediate any potential conflicts in the future. I also talk more and more with my clients about onboarding the next generation of owners and leveraging on the fact that they are the first ‘digital generation’ that comes with very specific skill sets, interests and values.

What is the most challenging issue your clients are facing currently, and how are you helping your clients to overcome it?

We are seeing several major issues that go hand in hand and it is difficult to single out one. Long-term preservation of the family wealth is a very sensitive task that nowadays requires high level expertise in investments, domestic and international taxation, laws, real estate matters… Many families prefer to have such expertise in-house and under one roof, which is why they set up family offices. Then comes the matter of talent, that used to stand in the shadow of capital issues and geopolitical developments – but is now among the top three concerns in almost every family enterprise. Finally, the owners we talk to tell us they would like to spend more time finding the best way for the future owners to assume leadership responsibilities and fulfil their own ambitions.

What is your proudest professional achievement to date?

I feel proud every time I get a chance to help a client resolve something or enable colleagues around the world to broaden their expertise and add value to their own client work. This is how we work together on fostering and accelerating sustainable growth, and delivering on our purpose – to build a better working world.

What do you consider to be the most important attributes for a leader?

I would start with the capacity to listen and understand. Then comes trust and confidence in your team members. To accept failure is very important, and even more important is to share success and reward it.

Who do you most admire and why?

I admire young people who want to change the world for better and have the knowledge, skills and determination to do their part. They deserve all the support we can provide to them.

Where was the last place you travelled to for work or pleasure?

By the time this conversation is published it will have been Chicago. I recently visited Delhi and Shanghai and I often make business trips to New York, London and Zurich.

If you weren’t in the consulting industry, what else might you be doing?

I think I would probably engage in doing regulatory work for government bodies, or perhaps serve as a professional board member in the private sector.

How do you relax after a long day?

The best way I can think of is to spend some quality time with my family. I love getting together with friends too, as I am a great fan of face-to-face interaction. On the hobby side, I like horses very much and I try to do a horse-riding session at least once every two weeks.

Best piece of advice for Generation Z?

Your knowledge and solutions will save the world – never stop accumulating them.

 

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