It’s no wonder Ernst & Young recently completed an extensive renovation in its downtown office.
With all the new talent coming on board, the accounting giant needed the space.
Ernst & Young’s presence in Los Angeles has doubled over the past decade, with a substantial 2,200 employees now packing into the Figueroa Street location.
Driving that expansion has been Patrick Niemann, managing partner for Ernst & Young’s greater Los Angeles office.
A 28-year veteran of the firm, Niemann has overseen the growth that lifted the accounting firm into the top spot on the Business Journal’s list of the city’s accounting firms this year after finishing in the No. 2 slot last year.
Before becoming managing partner, Niemann led the firm’s greater L.A. audit practice and served as industry leader for consumer products, media and entertainment.
In 2020, Niemann gets to preside over a major milestone for Ernst & Young, which will celebrate 100 years in Los Angeles — a feat not many companies can boast of.
The office renovation itself is an expression of the company’s appreciation for L.A. as it includes a tribute to iconic sites such as the Hollywood Bowl, the Capitol Records building and the Griffith Observatory.
We caught up with Niemann as a busy 2019 drew to a close.
What are the main things you’ve done over the past year to help boost Ernst & Young to the No. 1 spot on our list of accounting firms?
I’d say it’s been truly a team effort. I’m exceptionally proud of our local team. We care a lot about what we do, and caring a lot about the clients we serve has made a huge difference. For us, we have to provide exceptional client service, but that’s only possible by attracting and retaining top talent. So, we do a lot to focus on our people. We want to ensure that they’re developing their skills and careers.
How do you increase the size of your staff so dramatically but at the same time ensure that you have top talent?
We are fortunate to be in a place like L.A. that has so much talent. But at the same time, the competition for that talent is fierce. So, there are a lot of things that we have to do to attract the best people. One of the things that comes to mind is how much we invest in our people. When I think about our firm as a whole — and L.A. is part of that global effort — we invest about $550 million a year in the development of our people.
Can you highlight any big changes that have happened in the office over the past year?
We’ve redeveloped our downtown office workspace, and we’ve really transformed it into a very state-of-the-art, high-tech office space that drives a lot of collaboration. That’s been significant. It brings about a new energy, and it’s more productive.
Also, we have continued to focus on innovation in a lot of ways. One example is how we are expanding our digital audit and using new tools that we think provide not only a higher quality audit but give our people more interesting and fulfilling work through analyzing data and using technology much more extensively.
The third thing is we continue to grow our private client services practice. It surprises some people to know that over 90% of our clients are private companies as opposed to public companies. We really hold that as a priority. We serve a lot of family businesses and family offices, and have expanded our services greatly, and it is driving quite a bit of our growth.
What important plans should we know about for next year?
In 2020, EY will celebrate its 100th year in Los Angeles. We’ve been in downtown Los Angeles since 1920. It’s such a thriving, entrepreneurial and diverse business community and economic landscape that is so important to the U.S. economy and to the global economy. So that’s really something that we take a lot of pride in and that we will celebrate both as a team and with the greater L.A. business community.
We will continue to prioritize helping clients as needed. We’re in what seems to be a strong economy — but with some caution and a lot of uncertainty. So for us, it’s about being ready to serve our clients no matter which way the economy goes. While we hope that the economy stays strong, we’re always prepared to help our clients through tougher times and navigating uncertainty if that’s where it turns.
Can you tell us about your influences personally and professionally and how they’ve helped you make EY successful in L.A.?
My late father spent close to 35 years with EY and was a partner. He retired a few years before I joined the firm. So, watching him and seeing what motivated him no doubt was a big influence on me.
I’ve also had two brothers that have gone into accounting ahead of me. One of them works with EY now back in my hometown of St. Louis, and one spent his career at Arthur Andersen.
We gravitated toward the business side of things, but what I learned from them is that it’s a people business and a relationship-oriented business, and I saw how proud they were of helping their clients in so many ways. And I know how fulfilling they found helping people in their careers.
I should also point out I come from a big family. I am the 10th of 11 children, and so I have great role models in my parents. After my mom raised all 11 of us, she went into the real estate business and was one of the top real estate professionals in her market.