EY New Zealand chair Braden Dickson exits following allegations

19 March 2024 Consultancy.com.au
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While the full details have yet to emerge, the New Zealand branch of Ernst & Young has confirmed that its former chair Braden Dickson has departed the firm following a recent behavioural investigation.

Consulting veteran Braden Dickson has departed the firm following an unspecified historical behavioural matter which was raised toward the end of last year.

Dickson has been with Ernst & Young for more than half of his thirty-year advisory career, including in a string of senior leadership roles, but local media outlets have failed to clarify if the allegations relate to the workplace or even occurred during his time at the firm.

EY New Zealand chair Braden Dickson exits following allegations

In response to questions from online news publication Stuff.co.nz, an EY spokesperson remained cagey on the details and said the firm doesn’t ordinarily comment on partner departures, but issued a statement which simply read; “Following a historical behavioural matter being raised in December 2023, EY conducted an investigation and Braden Dickson departed EY in early February. He is no longer a partner of the firm.”

Graduating commerce at Massey University in 1987, Dickson has over his career spent time at LSI Consulting (which has since merged with fellow SAP consultancy Invenio), as a supply chain director at KPMG, and then with its management consulting spin-out BearingPoint, where he was a partner and served as the firm’s Oceania consumer products lead. He also spent five years on the Auckland Grammar School board until the middle of last year.

Since joining EY in Auckland in 2007, Dickson has served in a number of senior roles including as regional business development lead, although according to Stuff the details of those positions have been erased from Dickson’s LinkedIn account since the publication first began making its inquiries. Presently, Dickson is listed as an Australia-based strategic advisor at ‘Speargrass Consulting’, but there is no clue as to whether this company actually exists.

Stuff has since been contacted by former EY staff detailing their experiences at the local firm, including one who described the conduct of its personnel as ‘horrific’, yet the publication didn’t provide any time-frames on their periods of employment and little was alleged beyond what is now – rightly – acknowledged as unacceptable behavior born of an outdated industry culture. If made, no specific accusations against Dickson were published.

As an example, one former employee recalled an audit partner making sexist and homophobic jokes, while several spoke of an insular culture of excessive drinking, although, as described, that appears largely to have gone on between lower-level colleagues outside of business hours. The tenor of the complaints mostly centred on prevailing EY power structures and a tolerance of inappropriate conduct, creating an uncomfortable atmosphere where junior staff felt unable to raise concerns.

Notably, Dickson was previously a member of the Male Champions of Change group – “a high-profile coalition that involves men of power and influence working together to achieve change on gender equality issues in organisations and communities” – alongside current EY New Zealand managing partner Simon O’Connor. Under the latter's guidance, the firm last year jumped 20 places into fifth on a Linkedin list of the best local companies for career growth.

“We’d strongly encourage anyone to come forward and report their concerns so appropriate action can be taken,” O’Connor said in a statement to Stuff, referencing the Oceania firm’s far-reaching cultural review conducted in the wake of an employee’s death in Sydney, which revealed widespread accounts of bullying and sexual harassment. “We’re confident that recommendations of the review, which have all been accepted by EY, will make meaningful improvements to our culture.”