Joseph Ucuzoglu is the new chief executive of Deloitte & Touche, a subsidiary of Deloitte. (Photo by Dupont Photographers)

Joseph Ucuzoglu

Position: Chairman and chief executive officer, Deloitte & Touche, a subsidiary of Deloitte focusing on its U.S. audit practice.

Career highlights: National managing partner for government, regulatory and professional matters, Deloitte; senior adviser to the chief accountant, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission

Education: BS, accounting, University of Southern California

Except for a brief stint with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Ucuzoglu has spent his career at Deloitte. He started out in Los Angeles in the company’s audit practice. He moved east to take part in the company’s management development program and then returned to Los Angeles to work in client services before taking part in the professional accounting fellow program at the SEC. Ucuzoglu stayed on to serve as the senior adviser to the chief accountant. He eventually came back to Deloitte, serving as the managing partner for government, regulatory and professional matters. In his new position, he succeeds Cathy Engelbert, who was named chief executive of Deloitte.

Did you always know you wanted to work with numbers?

It actually is what I always wanted to do. Interestingly, my father was an accounting major. He always embedded in me an understanding that if you have a solid understanding of accounting, which is really the language of business, that it opens the door to so many other horizons. Even if you ultimately conclude that it’s not what you want to do over the longer term, you essentially have the entirety of the business world open and at your disposal because of the background you received.

What did you get out of the experience at the SEC?

That was a fascinating experience to be able to sit on the other side of the table and understand how the regulators view the financial landscape and the conduct that they expect of those who are within the public accounting profession. It gave me a keen understanding of the regulatory environment that our firm faces, that our clients face, and an appreciation for the level of conduct that is expected of those in the business community and those in the public accounting profession.

Do you have any regrets about staying at one company for your entire career?

Even though I’ve been in only one place the entire time, I feel like I’ve been in lots of places, and that’s because of the unique opportunity you have in an organization like Deloitte, where our work is going out and understanding how our clients work. As part of an audit, our job is to understand in intricate detail the way in which our clients operate, their business model, their risks, their management style, and so I’ve had the opportunity to see some of the iconic brands in corporate America and how each of them work, and compare and contrast what works well, what doesn’t work well, and bring that learning and knowledge to other clients that I serve. I feel like through that experience I’ve essentially captured the benefit of what I would have learned if I’d gone elsewhere.

The audit profession seems to be evolving faster than ever. What is driving this evolution?

The expectations of the auditing profession have increased substantially. The public expects the auditors to be that independent, objective voice of trust that’s so important to the capital markets functioning efficiently. It’s incumbent upon the audit profession to meet that very, very high standard. One of the enablers of this rapid evolution is the increasing proliferation of advanced technologies. At Deloitte right now, my highest priority is evolving the audit to take advantage of advanced data analytics and artificial intelligence so we’re able to do higher-quality work and deliver greater insights. The markets expect that we as an audit profession should be evolving as quickly or even more quickly than they are.

How is technology transforming the audit process?

It’s enabled us to do higher-quality work. In the past, when the audit process was more manual in nature, you couldn’t look at everything. You were confined to looking at samples. Now we’re able to run analyses on very large populations of data, narrow in on the most-significant risks, focus our auditors not on manual routine tasks but on more high-value-added areas where they can apply their professional judgment and then take and deliver greater insights to our clients. It’s fundamentally changed the game.

What do you hope to achieve in your new role?

We have an ambitious objective to lead the profession. The way in which we are going to do that is by bringing the audit process into the 21st century. The audit plays a crucial role in the economy. We provide an independent voice that’s critical to the effective functioning of the capital markets. But prior to this recent period of technology innovation, our core service had not really evolved at the same pace as the business world. We want to be innovating and evolving as fast or faster than our clients. We’re putting a lot of investment into deploying these rapidly cutting-edge technologies, advanced data analytics, artificial intelligence. We’re also going to continue driving the profession toward being more transparent about what we do so that the public has a better understanding of the nature of our work, and hopefully that will engender a higher level of trust in the quality of our service. We’re going to need to get outside of our comfort zone and become more involved with market-moving information like key performance indicators that aren’t necessarily contained in the basic financial statements that we audit but that are top of mind for investors as they evaluate various investment options.

How do you balance transparency with secrecy?

Clearly it’s incumbent upon us to protect the privacy and confidentiality of our clients’ information. It’s an obligation we take very, very seriously. At the same time, the public wants a better understanding of how we go about performing our work. When they ask these questions about secrecy, we brought it upon ourselves because of the profession. All we’ve delivered for the past half a century is a boilerplate report. Everybody gets the same report as long as you pass. We think there’s a real opportunity to go into further detail around what we’ve looked at, the nature of the risks of the company, how we’ve responded to those risks, so that even though we might not be disclosing proprietary information, we are at least sharing more insight into the way in which we went about forming our opinion on those financial statements.

What’s the most difficult lesson you’ve had to learn as a leader?

I would say don’t dwell on the things that don’t go well. Learn from them and move on. We all hold ourselves to very high standards, and naturally there’s a disappointment when something doesn’t turn out the way that you want it to. But you can’t change the past, and dwelling on what didn’t go right is entirely unproductive so being obsessed with perfection can be a paralysis. It’s important to realize those are learning opportunities. You learn from those experiences, and you move forward.

What is the best advice you’ve received in your career?

By far the best advice I’ve ever received is to focus on doing your current job well. Sometimes people can get very ambitious, and if there’s a perception that you are more focused on your next role than your current role, that’s not helpful to advancing one’s career. It’s important that people map out their career potential, think through possible roles that might suit them down the road, and take on the experiences that will prepare them for those roles, but never in a way that comes across as being more focused on the job that you want than the one you have today.

— Interview with Kathy Orton