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APRIL 2007

Corporate  Contributions to Education
An Interview with Deloitte COO Joseph Fennessy

By Emily Sherwood, Ph.D.

It’s a cold, sleet-driven Friday morning in March and Joe Delaney is late for work at his Manhattan office of the global accounting firm, Deloitte. But it’s not weather problems or subway snafus holding up Deloitte’s hard-working Eastern Regional Director of Alumni Relations: Delaney was busy volunteering his time to teach a 7 AM class at Norman Thomas High School, where he and his Deloitte colleagues are helping students prepare their school’s virtual business for an upcoming international fair. Delaney’s generous volunteer commitment is part of a NYC Department of Education-sponsored Virtual Enterprise (VE) program that takes place in public high schools citywide, in which students simulate a business that they run all year long with the guidance of a teacher and business partner. (An astonishing 70 Deloitte professionals teach or train teachers at Norman Thomas and three other VE programs in the city.) The virtual business that Norman Thomas has created is a firm much like Deloitte, fictionally named ACT Professionals (the acronym stands for Accounting, Consulting and Tax Professionals); Deloitte’s other virtual businesses are in the fields of printing, insurance, and travel. “We work with the students from organization to business plan writing to business plan presentation to selling and marketing of services to the actual business fair,” explains Delaney. In preparation for an April 30 year-end, Delaney is helping his students to get their numbers together for their annual report: “Of course it’s crucial that we do very well at our international fair and sell our products and services,” he adds with an enthusiasm that makes it hard to discern whether he’s the student or the teacher. Virtual Enterprise represents but a small sliver of Deloitte’s community service “portfolio”, bringing new meaning to the term corporate social responsibility. Perhaps their most visible volunteer effort culminates on Impact Day, scheduled this year for June 8, when 20,000 Deloitte employees nationwide – a staggering 50 percent of their total workforce – will take a day off from work to participate in more than 500 hands-on community service projects, cleaning city parks, painting dilapidated buildings, and facilitating literacy programs in schools and libraries, among hundreds of other unpaid jobs. There’s more: Deloitte is one of the NYC sponsors of Youth About Business’ (YAB) New York Summer Business Camp, a two week summer program for high school seniors located at Columbia University where students engage in a business competition by performing a mock merger and acquisition activity. “The students become the CEO, CFO, CIO, and COO,” explains Deloitte’s Northeast Region COO Joseph Fennessy. “Some of them will represent an actual company who is going to be acquired (the acquiree) and others will represent the company who is the acquirer. They will go through due diligence and other activities that are involved in one company acquiring another.” Deloitte also has embraced the mission of the nonprofit international Junior Achievement (JA) program, which seeks to educate young people to value free enterprise, understand business and economics, and develop workforce readiness. Deloitte’s own senior partner, Ainar Aijala, is the worldwide chair for Junior Achievement, and some 44 Deloitte employees volunteer their time to teach an introductory business curriculum about five times a year in the city high schools. In an interesting and effective student-mentor partnership, JA students often work side by side with Deloitte employees on Impact Day. Deloitte’s deep commitment to giving back seems hard-wired into their corporate culture. “Our culture is one that supports lifelong learning and encourages people at all levels to share their knowledge and their experience,” explains Fennessy, who himself is a powerful role model by volunteering his personal time in his Nassau County community, with an impressive array of honors and awards reflecting his many local contributions. “It’s such a wonderful feeling for us to share our knowledge and skills with individuals who really don’t have much depth or breadth in the business world,” he adds sincerely. At the end of the day, Deloitte believes that their investment in the future of young people will pay off many times over, as new generations of workers “become impactful players in the business community,” in Fennessy’s words. The benefits may even be as overtly tangible as identifying and nurturing future clients and employees. “The war for talent is big,” notes Fennessy. “From a business perspective, engaging with young people who will ultimately work for us benefits and enriches the firm.” Deloitte offers a select number of internships to students beginning in their freshman year of college, as long as they are enrolled in an accounting program and maintain a high GPA. Twelve current Deloitte interns and 3 full-time Deloitte employees began as high school students in one of the many Deloitte mentorship programs. Interestingly, 14 of those 15 new employees speak a second language fluently. “For a firm like Deloitte, with global commitments and responsibilities, imagine having staff people who can speak Mandarin, Cantonese, Korean, Spanish and Polish…They reflect the great diversity of the NYC schools that we can tap into.” By mentoring aspiring young business students, Deloitte has clearly discovered a win-win solution with rich payback for both the young people and the firm. Bottom line analysis would probably reveal, however, that the ultimate winner is society.#



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