Well-weathered leather and sunlight on chrome mean different things to different people. If the combination means something special to you, you would get on well with Deloitte’s Martin Jenkins, as Mike Hughes found out.
Rush. For Martin Jenkins, it is not an instruction, but a passion. The very word will immediately attract his attention, but not in a hurried, frantic way. This is Martin’s other life – the rock band balancing the senior partner role at Deloitte. He has been following Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson and Neil Peart around the world for many years – ‘encouraging’ his family to join him and develop their own appreciation of lyrics like those heading this article.
The former choral scholar at Hereford Cathedral admits that if he had been asked what his career was going to be, at an early stage he would have said professional musician. But university took over and his natural skills in professional services came to the fore.
“I have been with the firm for 26 years now, joining as a graduate in Leeds,” he tells me. “I worked for a while in London and then came back with a brief to build a corporate finance business. We started with a blank sheet of paper, against some significant corporate players.
“By 1999-2000 we were recognised as players ourselves and have remained very focussed and committed, as we have generally as a practice.”
The bond with the area and its success is plain to see. Jenkins came here from London in 1989 and is now ‘home’. “I have never had any desire to leave and nor could I ever envisage any scenario where I would want to leave Yorkshire. It is a fantastic county in which to live and work.
“When I was choosing where to work, I remember vividly weighing up Manchester, Birmingham and Leeds and what swayed me – apart from my wife telling me Yorkshire was the place to live – was an article in the FT which I still have. It predicted that Leeds would be the second financial sector in a decade, and it is now beyond doubt that Leeds has established itself as a premier league city in a number of sectors, of which financial services is unquestionably one.”
The evolution of the region backs those early predictions. With its early reputation built on manufacturing, it is the new, adapted, highly specialised engineering around manufacturing that is making waves today.
“We have survived the drift to the East and manufacturing is still part of the foundation
on which Yorkshire is built. The region has been brilliant in evolving the expertise in those new areas – and financial services are at the centre of that, developing business to reflect the local economy.
“If you go back to when the area was dominated by heavy industry, textiles and coal mining and if you would have predicted we would have the sort of balanced economy we have now, people would have said that was quite a big ask. But we have stepped up.”
After 26 years with Deloitte, Jenkins knows that it is great leaders that make a great business. He is one of them, and he values his own team and recognises the value of the bosses and workforce in thousands of Yorkshire companies, from the vast to the start-ups.
“Technology has its part to play because you need the tools in order to grow businesses, but if you have great leadership and build a culture within your business of innovation and outstanding customer service, and you can be agile, then there are these entrepreneurial businesses that can succeed.
“Understanding your clients is absolutely key, I am able to spend the vast majority of my time working with clients – and that is at it should be. My role is about leadership, but we are privileged to lead a company that is full of really outstanding people.
“I am blessed with many good managers - there are 550 staff based at Leeds - so I have always characterised my role as not all about management, it’s about inspiring people, building teams and enabling them to achieve their potential.”
Like the leading universities, Jenkins and his Deloitte team are making entrepreneurs out of their own staff and effectively creating spin-out businesses that they can run. That goal energises staff and creates revenue, but it also adds invaluable experience of the way entrepreneurs think and the obstacles they need to clear.
“When I am recruiting, I look for that combination of IQ and EQ – a passion and energy. It is also about having empathy. They need that spark and understanding of what they are taking on.”
Jenkins has now closed around 140 deals in Yorkshire - “I have a log somewhere, but I haven’t updated it for a while” - for all sizes of business. “It is a measure of experience, certainly, and I think that has real value in what people are looking for in an adviser,” he says. “It is one of the great joys of what I do, building up that incredible experience with people across that spectrum from single digit multi-million pound deals to £780m deals. You interact and work with many fantastic people and build a network of contacts.
“But above all, you learn so much and bring so much by way of perspective to future situations.”
Those situations are spread across many sectors. The scope of audit tendering, for example, has changed dramatically with regulatory pressure for audit rotation, and with the likes of Tescos moving to Deloitte after 32 years with PwC, the landscape and workload are shifting again.
“The trend with the tender process is now for companies to change auditors rather than retain them. I think it is a great opportunity for the development and growth of our audit practice as we increase our footprint in the market.” With so much in his in-tray other pursuits are important to help him switch off.
“Music is a big part of my life,” he admits. “My children are both musical and my wife is musical. But on the drive home, I am as likely to be accompanied by Wagner as something a bit more recent.
“I also like walking and will be taking a week off work to walk the Cleveland Way for Maggie’s cancer charity. I’m the only madman doing it from start to finish, but there are a number of colleagues and clients who will be joining me as daily co-walkers.
“The other passion is historic buildings, particularly cathedrals, having had my formative years at a choir school in Hereford.”
The music and the buildings will come together rather well for a very special holiday this year when Jenkins will return to Hereford for the Three Choirs festival, which he has been attending since it began in 1979.
Time off is ring-fenced in the Jenkins household. “For the first few years, when you are trying to prove yourself as a partner, striking that balance between work and your home and family is really hard. But I think the turning point for me was when my daughter, when she was about 8, started doing impersonations of me walking around the pool with a Blackberry stuck to my ear. The penny dropped and my wife said ‘Martin, you need to get a life’.
“My philosophy is that if you have a great team of people around you at work, then you don’t do them justice if, when you go away, you create the impression that you are indispensible. You are not.”
His next few weeks will be spent working on three significant new tenders and kicking off a couple of major projects his team have won – as well as fitting in a few warm-up walks for that Cleveland Way challenge.
He may not think he is indispensible, but inarguably Martin Jenkins is pivotal and rightly valued by Yorkshire businesses.