Monday interview: Mitchell brings a ‘different perspective’ to Deloitte
As the new leader of accounting giant Deloitte in Scotland, there is no shortage of top priorities that demand Angela Mitchell’s attention. Still, inspiring confidence in her female colleagues is clearly a cause close to her heart.
Ms Mitchell, who has worked for Deloitte for 25 years, became the firm’s first female senior partner for Scotland when she took over from Steve Williams.
in June. Having studied for a master’s degree in business information technology systems, Ms Mitchell was at one point ‘used to being the only woman in the room’.
Things have improved since then, especially at Deloitte, where more than 50% of its own team are women. However, there is still work to be done.
Ms Mitchell, who is “delighted” to be Deloitte’s first female senior partner in Scotland, said: “I think I bring a different perspective to the role. I’m generalizing of course, but I think helping other women get through this, which I’ve always tried to do, is really important.
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In this context, it is extremely important to encourage colleagues to be “authentic” and “not to be someone you are not”.
“I just think it gives a lot of women confidence as they develop their own careers,” Ms Mitchell said. “One of the things I always tell the women on my team is to be nice.”
Ms Mitchell said it was also important for women to realize they can take on bigger roles by balancing work and family life. One of the reasons gender pay differences persist, she notes, is due to different seniority levels between men and women.
“It gives women the confidence to think they can take on new challenges,” she said.
Ms. Mitchell assumed the most senior position at Deloitte at a time of acute economic crisis. We’re talking the day before Ofgem announced its latest energy price cap hike on Friday, heightening fears over how households will cope with massive increases in energy bills this winter. The concern over energy costs is also deeply felt in the business community, which is also facing huge increases in other overhead costs, such as raw materials, salaries and recruitment.
Deloitte’s latest Consumer Tracker, released this month, showed consumer confidence fell 4% in the second quarter. That took it to an all-time low of -20%, below the previous record set in Q4 2020 when Covid restrictions were in place.
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However, when asked to comment on the prevailing sentiment among Deloitte clients, Ms Mitchell said the companies were proving to be “resilient”.
“While financials have moved towards more defensive balance sheet strategies, they haven’t battened down the hatches yet,” she said. “Risk appetite is only slightly below average levels, well above the lows we saw during the financial crisis, the EU referendum or during the pandemic.
“I think businesses remain optimistic. They remain convinced that growth and resilience will only come through increased spending on digital technology and the skills to use it.
“The Bank of England and other forecasters are predicting that we will fall into a recession later this year and business confidence will likely be hit. But business growth is not just about the vagaries of the economic cycle; it can be motivated by other factors.
These could include work reorganization, the application of new technologies and investments to improve productivity and staff retention. “So I’m optimistic about the prospects for improved productivity,” Ms. Mitchell said, “and I think we’ll see an increase in investment in digital tools and technology.”
She also pointed to the growing awareness of the link between public health and the health of the economy, which is “crucial to recovery and growth” and which increasingly comes up in discussions with customers.
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Meanwhile, Ms Mitchell said the deal market ‘remains strong’ in Scotland, despite the cost of borrowing rising as base rates rise. Companies north of the border continue to be seen as offering good value to investors such as private equity players from the UK and overseas, she said. Commercial buyers from the US and Europe are also targeting opportunities in Scotland, which she says highlights the quality of independent businesses operating in the Scottish market.
Following the acquisition of a series of large Scottish companies in recent months, with deals such as the sale of Stagecoach to German infrastructure giant DWS, Ms Mitchell acknowledged widely shared concerns that Scotland was struggling to retain its most successful businesses.
But she was encouraged to see the Scottish National Investment Bank team up with the Hunter Foundation to introduce an advanced version of the ScaleupScotland scheme. It will aim to take more businesses beyond the start-up stage and into the realm of £100m turnover.
“Initiatives like this are fabulous because we need to help our businesses achieve greater milestones,” Ms Mitchell said. “It would be nice to see more Scottish scale-ups staying in Scotland.”
Which countries did you most enjoy traveling to, for business or leisure, and why?
I love Portugal. There’s no better place for a family vacation – great weather, great people, and great food and wine.
When you were a child, what was your ideal job? Why did he call?
A pilot. Flying above the clouds, visiting so many countries around the world. I had to start wearing glasses at 14, so that ended that.
What was your biggest break in business?
I became a partner at Deloitte 12 years ago. For me, this was a big step in terms of building my confidence and being able to take on new roles and new challenges.
What was your worst moment in business?
March 2020 – moving everyone to remote work and not being able to see clients or my teams, let alone homeschooling at the same time. But we all did much better than I could have imagined.
Who do you admire the most and why?
I admire many people in everyday life, rather than icons or politicians, for overcoming their challenges and accomplishing wonderful things. If you force me to pick one household name, I’d say Sir David Attenborough – he’s been exploring nature and bringing it into homes for 70 years and I admire his passionate campaign to tackle climate change.
What book do you read and what music do you listen to?
I’m not very current in my musical tastes, I still like to listen to the 90s.
I went to see Hipsway in Barrowlands recently and it was just brilliant – I sang with every word!
Reading is a luxury for me, but I discovered an author named Lisa Jewell last year and have read several of her thrillers, I love gripping stories and they are brilliantly twisty.