Giuseppe Nicolosi: A Psychologist Successful in Finance Arena

An audit and dishonesty just don’t mix. An audit can expose rotten things like corruption in a company or an organization. That’s why corrupt people are usually very careful when selecting independent auditors to examine the financial condition of their companies.

One of the renowned accounting and auditing companies in Indonesia is Ernst & Young (EY), led by Giuseppe Nicolosi, who is of Italian descent. When he was appointed as CEO of EY Indonesia, Nicolosi accepted the appointment without any trepidation even though he knew full well that Indonesia was among the world’s five most corrupt countries. “I see the Indonesian Government has shown a high commitment to fight corruption,” he said, adding that he is optimistic that Indonesia will be able to slowly overcome the problem of corruption.

“This is the most dynamic and most potential country that I have ever known!” he said.

Nicolosi said his evaluation of Indonesia was not mere lip service. He had visited Indonesia several times before he assumed the position of CEO of EY Indonesia. Once Nicolosi, who is married to an Australian, spent a long time staying and working in Australia, a country in close proximity to Indonesia.

Companies like EY, he said, will continue to enjoy development in countries like Indonesia as long as the activities of the stock exchange and the fight against corruption continue.

He mentioned Lee Kwan Yew who, in his book From Third World to First: The Singapore Story 1965-2000, wrote, “at the start of their governance, corruption was rampant. Custom officials at the airport, traffic policemen on the streets, even admission clerks in hospitals: all cadged bribes from those who needed to be in their good graces” … If a country like Singapore, he said, by way of example, used to be one of the world’s most corrupt states but it successfully reversed the situation to become as successful as it is today. “Indonesia can do the same”.

“The problem is,” he went on, “the process will take quite a long time. And it’s such a process! Dealing with problems such as this country is now facing is not as easy as clicking your fingers,” he stressed.

According to Nicolosi, one of the indicators used to measure the improvement of a country’s economic condition is that many companies go public. This is understandable because to go public, a company must be run transparently. “This (transparency) is a must! Transparency cannot be engineered. If transparency is engineered, it will later come to light and the consequences will be worse for the company.

“As more and more companies go public, the economic condition of a country improves,” said Nicolosi, who likes cooking. With the money a company raises from going public, he said, it usually undertakes expansion, driving it to recruit more employees and as a result it helps cut the rate of unemployment.

EY Indonesia does not deal in auditing only, but also in assurance, risk advisory, business advisory, tax advisory, tax reporting and operations and transaction advisory. Many big companies in Indonesia are EY clients. Even some world-famous companies use EY’s services when they want to do business in Indonesia. EY has made these achievements over a long period of time, having established itself in Indonesia 30 years ago.

EY has not only been successful in doing business in Indonesia but has also had success in encouraging a culture of transparency in companies. It has also nurtured the spirit of entrepreneurship through the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year awards, which have been presented annually since 2001.

Many local businessmen have achieved success but they are not known to the public. One of these businessmen is Jacobus Busono of the Pura Group. Jacobus was awarded as the Indonesia Entrepreneur of the Year 2006, and was inducted into the World Entrepreneur of the Year Academy in Monte Carlo, Monaco, at the beginning of June.

Since he assumed the top position of EY Indonesia, Nicolosi said, he has learned a lot, particularly from leading 1,300 employees, most of whom are Indonesians in various offices in Jakarta, Surabaya, Medan and Batam. “One thing that I have learned,” he said, “is that Indonesians are not used to engaging in a debate in an open forum.

“This is a challenge to me. I must encourage the people of EY to always organize open discussions so that they will get used to expressing their ideas.”

The most important thing, he went on, is that a corporate leader must create a good management concept and corporate strategy and a culture based on strong values and ethics. Then he must also be able to communicate this strategy well to the employees. “But also make sure that they really understand the concept and the strategy and that they implement them correctly on the ground, and make sure they live the values of the organization everyday.”

Nicolosi adheres to the concept called People-Quality-Growth. This means, he said, that we must recruit, train and keep the best people in the company. “Only through the best personnel can a company obtain the best job quality. The best job quality will lead to significant corporate growth,” he said.

Thanks to this concept, Nicolosi has successfully led EY Indonesia since 2004. However, he never dreamed of making a career in the area of finance. “When I was a boy, I never dreamed of having this career,” he said. In fact, he holds a doctorate in psychology and for 10 years he was a successful psychologist.

When still in his 30s, he was at the helm of a consulting firm in psychology. “Perhaps I rose so fast that I did not think I could climb any higher on the career ladder at that time,” he noted.

Finally, he changed his course radically, entered the finance and management consulting arena and eventually joined EY in 1994 in Sydney. After several years, in 1999 he was asked to move to London to take on the role of vice chair of human resources of EY Global, a position that opened the door to him being named the CEO of EY Indonesia in November 2004.

And in what field does Nicolosi next intend to spread his wings? “I find EY’s work culture and ethos agree with me and I have no wish to build a career elsewhere,” he said without hesitation.

He has no plans on how to spend his old age. However, he has two home bases, namely Adelaide (Australia, where his wife, Karin, comes from) and Tuscan (Italy).

“Later I may spend six months a year in Australia and the other six months in Italy,” he joked. Obviously, however, he is fond of cooking Italian food at home. “There’s no better place to enjoy it than at home!” he said. (Arif T. Syam andArdimas Sasdi)

The Jakarta Post, June 20, 2007

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