Simon Fahy and Susanna Carlstedt on EY’s exciting new investment in Northern Ireland

  • Hot on the heels of EY’s announcement of a major investment in its Transactions, Strategy and Execution (TSE) practice in Belfast, Sync NI caught up with local senior Director, Simon Fahy and Susanna Carlstedt Assistant Director in EY’s London office.

    Simon will be managing this new development here in Northern Ireland while Susanna is based in EY’s London office, and works closely with Simon and 260 other professionals supporting private equity and corporate clients undertaking mergers and acquisitions.

    Before we delve into what TSE involves, we first asked why Belfast was selected to build out this specialized team within EY. Simon has recently relocated from Toronto and explained that there was strong competition from several regional EY hubs in the UK. Aside from the obvious attraction of Belfast and Northern Ireland as a desirable place to live, with a vibrant technology sector, the strong talent pool of professionals in the FinTech space played a part in the decision. The move has created Northern Ireland’s first specialist TSE resource within the region. Ireland represents around 10% of the UK market for M&A activity and the new division will not only support UK and Ireland businesses but will in time provide services to EY clients globally undertaking cross border transactions.

    Simon explains that the evolution of remote working practices accelerated by the pandemic means that the opportunities to work within teams on a global basis is now a reality. Susanna underscores this point by highlighting that she is currently working on a deal for a client to acquire another company in New Zealand. It was the variety of working across many different industries and sectors that attracted her to the job and why she finds it so rewarding. Traditionally EY has been recognized as one of the ‘Big 4’ accountancy firms and while many would think of them as an audit specialist EY is also an emerging global leader in Digital Transformation, Cyber Security and Sustainability and of course TSE. As Simon explains, this is borne out of ‘the need for EY as an organization to evolve with the wider economy while continually striving to be ahead of the competition.’ In part this is driven by EY’s diverse talent pool across both its global and local employee base and a desire to build inclusive teams in line with the needs and demands of its corporate client base.

    The Transactions, Strategy and Execution practice is comprised of dedicated teams of professionals with a broad range of technical skills and has grown exponentially over the last 15 years due to the strong support and leadership of EY London Senior Partner Alex Gaunt who has been there since its inception. Supporting Private Equity companies and corporates they can pull together and deploy teams of experts with multiple skill sets to analyse, quantify and ultimately realise or enhance the intrinsic value within a business or organisation making it more valuable as an asset, accelerate growth or as a proposition to sell accordingly. Drawing on teams with accumulated skills and experiences across multiple functional areas and industry sectors EY’s TSE team are well adept at maximizing the inherent and potential future value of a business. Susanna uses the term ‘plugging and unplugging’ when talking about how they execute for success. In short this basically means removing the less valuable aspects or parts of a business and /or adding complimentary products and services to a company or organisations offering to incorporate and increase value.

    Simon and Susanna are classic examples of bringing diverse skills and backgrounds to the table, which means their clients benefit from a host of expertise across their teams. On graduating from Nottingham University with a masters in Chemical Engineering, Simon spent 5 years on the factory floor in manufacturing with GlaxoSmithKline in England before moving into his first role at EY, advising corporate and private equity clients on operational issues around M&A. He then progressed through a variety of roles within Grant Thornton and PwC, most latterly in Toronto specialising in operational value creation in deals before his recent move to Belfast to lead the new team here.

    Meanwhile Susanna, originally from Finland, completed a degree in Mechanical Engineering at the Aalto University followed by a masters in Economics and business administration from Hanken School of Economics.   She completed her apprenticeship in Edinburgh then working for Nokia and Microsoft, deploying and driving adoption of IT solutions before joining EY in 2015. Susanna is in her own words ‘passionate about delivering exceptional IT end user experiences - ensuring that the process of blending businesses, functions, technology or cultures after the conclusion or a merger, acquisition, joint venture or investment is a success’

    It became apparent during the interview that both Simon and Susanna are passionate about their work. The satisfaction they derive from meeting so many people who are dedicated to driving innovation across industries is palpable.  Susanna says that ‘one of the most satisfying benefits of my work at EY is seeing so many of my colleagues becoming friends.’ The sense of doing great work for clients seems built into the company culture but it’s clear there is also a huge emphasis on employee well being and personal development. In house careers counsellors are on hand to support and develop individuals to achieve their personal goals, to help find new opportunities within the business, including overseas secondments all the while emphasising that there is no cap on promotion.

    Every EY employee is given the opportunity to pursue a Tech MBA certified by Hult International Business School, that can be achieved part time while working and completed online. The course comprises 16 modules and the scope of modules includes areas such as AI, Blockchain, Robotics, sustainable development as well as a range of DI and ESG disciplines. Susanna explains; “The MBA is a unique opportunity for any employee to develop both the technological skillsets and business mindsets they will need to continue providing exceptional client service and to thrive in tomorrow’s workplace.”

    Sync NI enquired about the sort of people and backgrounds they expected to join the new Belfast TSE team and Simon shared just some of the qualities he was most interested in. From junior level with broad technical skills to mid and senior level appointments Simon told us ‘ideally we are looking for individuals with a good knowledge of enterprise applications, Cyber, Infrastructure and networks along with Data Centre experience are desirable. Just as important we want people with transferable skills who can learn quickly. We want people who are curious and analytical with ability to ask questions, people who want to know how things work and why. We want individuals who are looking for a new challenge, are interested in learning about transactions and are comfortable with a high level of uncertainty within projects, that is not having all the information but can make informed conclusions.’

    In the short time Sync NI spent with Simon and Susanna we came away feeling that there has never been a more exciting time to work in tech.  The opportunities to grow a career within EY are practically infinite and the benefits from both a professional and personal standpoint are super. We wish Simon luck as he builds out his new team within the TSE practice for EY in Belfast and the positive impact they will make for EY’s global client base.

    About the author

    Aoife is a Sync NI writer with a previous background working in print, online and broadcast media. She has a keen interest in all things tech related. To connect with Aoife feel free to send her an email or connect on LinkedIn.

    Got a news-related tip you’d like to see covered on Sync NI? Email the editorial team for our consideration.

    Sign up now for a FREE weekly newsletter showcasing the latest news, jobs and events in NI’s tech sector.

Share this story