A global outlook and a drive to make a difference on a larger scale does not mean that you are without roots and a communal perspective. Jørn Jepsen, head of Deloitte’s Private Customer Program, is living proof of just that. For more than 30 years, he has focused on getting Danish small and medium-sized companies to excel globally. But the story he tells when asked about his history with Deloitte begins in Skærbæk. A small town of 5000 people.
“As the oldest child in the family, I was supposed to take over the family’s bicycle business. But when I finished business school in 1988, I was called into the school inspector’s office,” he recalls.
It was not the first time at the inspector’s office for Jørn, he explains with a smile, but this time it was different. Her Royal Highness Queen Ingrid was waiting for him in the room.
“She gave me an award. Not for being the best student, but for being the best friend. And she wanted to send me to the United States, to stay with a family in Florida. And that changed my whole life.”
On his trip, he saw that the world was much bigger than the small town he had grown up in.
“So I got the courage to change my path and do something that involved more than the local family business and the small town community,” Jørn explains.
Punching machines and wire
Inspired by the accountant at the bicycle shop – and the opportunities Jørn saw in that line of business – he moved to Esbjerg, Denmark’s 5th largest city, and started at Deloitte. 32 years later, he is still with Deloitte. His answer to the question of “why” is prompt and honest:
“I love the job. From the very first day, I was just so caught up in it, and I never looked back.”
Jørn Jepsen in the middle to the left (back row)
The walk down memory lane tells a tale of rapid digital changes and a shift from a local to a regional and finally, a global framework around the work and the businesses it involves.
“When I started at Deloitte in 1988, everything was in paper and very manual. The accounts, which consisted of a lot of “green sheets”, were to be sewn together with sewing thread in the back. And we actually had a real drill that we used to drill down through the green sheets, which we then collected with sewing thread,” Jørn laughs.
But even when the computers came, there was a transition phase.
“We first had to become confident that some of these processes could actually be run on a computer. So when we talk about “rapid changes” it’s relative. There have been many small steps on the way.”
Onwards and upwards
With these changed processes, the work itself and the role of the accountants also had to change.
“It’s a completely different approach, where we now have easier access to the company’s systems and data without having to be physically present. At the same time, we have moved further up the value chain and have become a different kind of partner in relation to the challenges the companies have”, says Jørn.
“Where the financial function of many companies previously had its eyes on the past, the role today is just as much to help make predictions of what will be needed tomorrow, in a month or in a year. And to do what we can to support them in making some good decisions for their business.”
In 32 years, Jørn has gone from being a skilled local accountant to being a more strategic thinking and globally challenging advisor, which also reflects Deloitte’s development.
“When I started, we were really into our “geographies” at a very local level. It evolved as we organised more regionally, and now we are not just nationally organised but sometimes growing into the European level,” Jørn says.
He then shifts focus from Deloitte to the businesses they work with:
“Deloitte’s journey follows the same journey that most of our customers have also been on, and that is an important point,” Jørn emphasizes.
Talking about the customers, it becomes obvious what has motivated Jørn for so many years.
“Everything we do, develop, and put into the world must be based on them. And we need to ensure that we have a culture in Deloitte that encourages us to evolve and be entrepreneurial with our customers.”