Mentors and Friends

Martin Vandersteen, 1957 (Arthur Andersen & Co (AA&Co)) – 1997 (Andersen Consulting), Keith Burgess, 1971 (AA&Co, Administrative Services) – 2000 (Andersen Consulting), Tim Forrest, 1967 (AA&Co Administrative Services) – 1999 (Andersen Consulting), Bill Barnard, 1965 (AA&Co) – 2000 (Andersen Consulting), Graham Reddish, 1960 (AA&Co) – 1996 (Andersen Consulting), Vincent Watts, 1963 (AA&Co) – 1997 (Andersen Consulting), David Kaye, 1962 (AA&Co) – 1990 (Andersen Consulting)

I started my working life in 1976 with Arthur Andersen & Co, Management Consultants in London. At the time I was the 90th employee. I stayed thirty years, and more than forty years later remain in regular contact with with many friends and colleagues from those days.

There is a group of people who were among the leaders of the firm in the UK when I joined, and with whom I am particularly pleased to remain in contact. They seemed unimaginably knowledgeable and experienced when I first met them, they were some of my first mentors in the firm and they have remained friends ever since. And so I thought it would be good to capture a photograph of them.

Needless to say it was no easier to get them all in the same room at the same time in 2017 than it would have been in 1976. So eventually I took three different photographs in three different locations which have been stitched together into this composite view located in the Sussex Cellar of Berry Bros & Rudd in St James.

I think that seven of us joined in 1976 and I well remember being called in as a group to talk to Martin Vandersteen, who then ran the consultancy business in the UK. Martin was smoking a large cigar in a small conference room and made an immediate impression, not just on my lungs, as a man not to be trifled with. I was assigned to a team led by David Kaye whose patience and care in the coaching of those who worked for him set a benchmark I have never forgotten.

The UK in 1976 was in considerable economic difficulty and a team from AA&Co, Management Consultants, under the leadership of Vincent Watts and Keith Burgess, had been assigned to HM Treasury to help in developing some key new computer systems which were critical to exercising proper control over public expenditure. I learnt a huge amount from both of Vincent and Keith over the years, though Vincent’s then taste for a suit the colour of smoked salmon was not something I ever chose to emulate. For better or worse, I was rather quicker to latch on to Keith’s guidance in broadening my vocabulary and my palate. As he taught me, basic Anglo-Saxon was very much a normal part of the 1970s business vocabulary, and a working week without some refreshing ale was an idea so alien as to be beyond contemplation.

Tim Forrest, Bill Barnard and Graham Reddish I got to know a bit later. Their deep knowledge of the oil industry, manufacturing and retailing was revelatory to a Politics graduate like me to whom the workings of the business world were completely unknown. And their delight in sharing that knowledge was one of the keys to making our firm so successful.

I joined a firm of 90 people linked with a network of other firms, big and small, around the world. When I left 30 years later, we employed 15,000 people in the UK and were part of a hugely successful international corporation. Success, of course, has a thousand parents and there are many who deserve credit. But at least from the perspective of the UK, the culture and values taught to me and those who followed by the people in this picture were a fundamental part of that success. And nothing says more about those culture and values than that forty years later so many of the people from this period of our lives still meet regularly and remain friends. Truly, I am a lucky man.

Finally, a brief word of thanks to Paola Sammartino. Much though my Photoshop skills have improved over the past few years, I needed some help from a world class expert to finish this picture. Thank you, Paola, as always.