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How to Create Value in Today’s Professional Services Marketplace

An Interview of Nichole Jordan, Andersen Alumnus and now National Managing Partner Markets, Clients, and Industry at Grant Thornton LLP US by Jesse Rothstein, Enterprise Account Executive LinkedIn

II’m here in Dallas with Nichole Jordan, National Managing Partner of Markets, Clients & Industry at Grant Thornton LLP. Today we’re talking about the professional services industry, how Nichole got into her current role at Grant Thornton and future trends that she is seeing across the accounting, audit, tax and consulting fields.

Jesse: Nichole, great to see you again – thanks for making the time to connect with me while I’m in town.

Nichole: Jesse, thank you. Great to see you as well. Welcome to Dallas.

Jesse: Wonderful to be here. Please tell me a bit more about your role at Grant Thornton.

Nichole: Sure. I am privileged to work with the team that oversees the design and execution of our firm’s growth strategy. This strategy is centered on bringing value to clients and building lifelong relationships. To achieve this, we prioritize investments in our own people. That means helping them build the skills and industry expertise they need to enable strategic conversations and cultivate lifelong relationships that inspire the deepest levels of client loyalty. For me, that could mean helping a client who needs to resolve a challenging regulatory issue or collaborating with a team to develop customer feedback loops that enable them to streamline their processes and focus on customer priorities real time.

Jesse: How did you get into the accounting industry?

Nichole: I’ve always enjoyed the precision of numbers and data. My father was actually a math teacher -- I remember helping him grade papers when I was a little girl. Then as I got older, I started to understand how we can use numbers to solve problems, especially in public accounting where success is so often the result of conversation and collaboration. It’s funny now. I got into accounting because of math. It’s quantitative, really black and white, you know? But what I’ve grown to love even more is the teamwork. Understanding data and numbers gives you the unique ability to have those substantive conversations that get to the heart of the issue. We can exchange ideas with our clients based on what the data tells us: “I understand what you are trying to solve for. I respect your goals, and our team can help you get there.”

Jesse: How has professional services evolved since you first started?

Nichole: There’s just so much more data out there now. Not only are we and our clients able to monitor progress and make necessary changes as the market moves in real time, but we are in an age of transparency and everyone can monitor and capitalize on transactions and best practices in ways they never could in the past. At Grant Thornton, we try to sift through the noise to find what is most relevant for our clients. And it’s not a transactional kind of conversation. It's one that is ongoing over a long period of time. Our clients feel empowered to constantly circle back with us and evaluate how they're doing against best practices and their peer groups, as well as in how the market is changing.

Jesse: What trends are you seeing in the market today?

Nichole: In the past, building relationships with clients was really all about face-to-face interactions -- the kind you cultivated from meeting in person at a client’s office or working just down the hallway. Today, we also leverage our virtual networking environment to connect, understand and monitor the interests of our clients through online sources. We are continually pushing ourselves to raise our game — anticipate, not simply react to, customer needs. We can walk in, even in those initial hellos, already knowing enough about that person to engage in meaningful conversation and begin focusing on their priorities. Because customers are more sophisticated today, it’s so important now to think bigger and differently about what our clients are interested in and be able to pivot immediately when those interests change.

Jesse: How will your industry be different in the next 10-15 years?

Nichole: I believe our work in the future will become more automated and centralized into lower-cost centers. Machine learning will complement our human workforce and free up accounting and professional services specialists to focus less on day-to-day data crunching and more on innovation and advice in their respective fields; which, in turn will likely sprout a whole new range of services and value for our clients, as well as opportunities for our people.

Jesse: Nichole, thanks again for the time today.

Nichole: Thanks Jesse – so pleased to catch up with you.