EY revamps German leadership in wake of Wirecard saga

05 March 2021 Consultancy.eu 3 min. read
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Henrik Ahlers and Jean-Yves Jégourel are set to take over as joint leaders of EY Germany, replacing five-year CEO Hubert Bath. The change is part of broader restructuring efforts, partly to restore trust in EY following the high-profile Wirecard scandal.

Barth has led EY Germany since 2016, and now vacates his seat to “take on a new role at the European level,” per a statement from the Big Four accounting and advisory firm. EY managing partner for EMEIA Julie Teigland noted Barth would “continue to play a key role at the organisation.”

Taking his place are Henrik Ahlers and Jean-Yves Jégourel. Ahlers has been EY’s managing partner for Tax in Germany, Austria and Switzerland since 2018, prior to which he was a partner at the firm for over a decade. The former PwC man has over 20 years of consulting experience, including time on EY Germany’s management board.

Henrik Ahlers and Jean-Yves Jegourel - EY

Jégourel is EY Global’s vice chair for assurance – the latest post in an EY career spanning nearly 18 years. Barring a two-year stint in New York, Jégourel has been solely based out of EY’s Paris office. He will now fly in from the French capital to take on his new charge at the helm of EY Germany.

According to Tiegland, each brings something unique to their combined leadership position. “Henrik Ahlers knows the German EY organisation and the German market and also brings extensive experience in setting up and managing quality, risk and compliance departments.”

“Jean-Yves Jégourel's expertise in the areas of governance, assurance and quality qualifies him in a special way for his new role. Henrik and Jean-Yves both enjoy a high level of trust among clients and employees.”

Restoring trust

And trust is worth its weight in gold for EY Germany at the moment. Per the statement, the German leadership reshuffle is part of a broader adjustment of management structures across EY Europe – with the aim of delivering a more “integrated and comprehensive” offering for its clients across borders.

That said, it is no coincidence that the new Germany leadership is specialised in assurance and compliance – indeed, Jégourel is responsible for setting, implementing and monitoring EY’s global audit standards. The overhaul is part of efforts to clean up EY’s tarnished reputation in Germany.

For more than a decade, the firm has been the primary auditor for Wirecard – a payments and financial services company that has been implicated in several cases of regulatory breach and fraudulent accounting. EY has been accused of negligence and a violation of its professional duties – in a case that is still under investigation by the German parliament.

Despite denying any wrongdoing from its employees, EY is “mindful that the Wirecard matter caused a loss of trust for us and the profession in general and it is important to take steps to rebuild that trust,” according to EY Global managing partner Andy Baldwin – who spoke to the Financial Times.

New leadership appointments aside, the Germany practice has also launched a new “Trust in Quality” programme aimed at strengthening governance at the firm. Leading the initiative is Karen Somes – recently appointed assurance managing partner for EY Germany, Switzerland and Austria. Trust in Quality activities will be supervised by a newly formed independent expert commission – led by Germany’s former Federal Minister of Finance Theo Waigel. 

Wirecard investigations are coming to a head in March, and EY – one of Germany's top advisory firms – will hope these concerted efforts lay the foundation for trust among clients staff alike.