Ernst & Young (E&Y) has launched a global infrastructure
services group to co-ordinate and bring more cohesion to existing
practices of skills-sharing across the network.

E&Y US partner Mike Lucki has been appointed to lead the group.
A 28-year veteran of the Big Four firm, Lucki also heads the
E&Y US, Americas and global construction and engineering
practices.

The network hopes to use the group to ensure that the network’s
best resources are always deployed to the right infrastructure
engagements, Lucki told the International Accounting
Bulletin
. “For example, if we need someone who has a lot of
airport experience for a transaction say in Central America, we can
find those resources whether they are in Canada, the UK or wherever
and bring a global team to bear on the opportunities as they
arise,” he said.

The group will be driven mainly by member firms in the UK,
Australia and Canada, where there are existing, long-standing
infrastructure practices. This expertise will then be utilised in
newer markets. “Infrastructure in the UK and Australia has been
alive and well for ten plus years with public private partnerships
and a lot of interaction of funding from the private sector into
the public sector, while the US is basically virgin territory,”
Lucki said. “So my role is to take what we do on a global basis and
be a lot more co-ordinated around the world as infrastructure
funding requirements are requiring more and more private
investment.”

A growing marketplace

Ernst & Young publishes regular infrastructure reports and
Lucki said they indicate the marketplace is moving forward and will
grow to be very large. “We will take the skill sets within Ernst
& Young, whether it’s in the government sector, or the
construction sector, utilities sector and telecommunications
sector, and bring our best resources to bear on a lot of different
infrastructure needs and projects,” he said.

The multi-disciplinary group will include professionals from across
the Big Four network’s range of service lines, combining
transaction advisory experts with audit and tax professionals.
There will initially be about 500 core personnel consisting of
about 300 people in the UK, 100 in Australia, 50 in Canada and 50
in the US. There are also smaller numbers of staff scattered widely
across the rest of the global network. Lucki said he hopes to
enlist another 5,000 people at different points and he foresees the
core group growing quickly.

“We have a lot of people who have a lot of great expertise in tax,
municipal financing, leasing, etcetera, which is basically the
skills you needed to play in the private public partnership arena
or infrastructure arena,” he explained. “It’s [about] just taking
those skill sets and retooling them or applying them to a different
set of facts. So we have a lot of resources around, it’s just
trying to identify the people and have them specialise in this
area.”

In addition to the US, other areas of growth are developing
markets. “Clearly the BRIC [Brazil, Russia, India and China] countries will have a tremendous need and tremendous opportunity,”
Lucki said. “If you look at spending globally, the US is probably
spending less than half a percent of its GDP on infrastructure, the
European nations are probably at 2.5 percent, while China’s
spending 8 to 9 percent of its GDP on infrastructure.”

Development is vital

Lucki is an advocate for infrastructure in general and describes
himself as a missionary in this field. “We believe there is a big
need for future investment in the US and around the world as
infrastructure is key to the economic development of any country
and the survival of that country from an economic perspective,” he
said.

“Our tag-line is we need to create the will to build. I think a lot
of governments have gotten gridlocked or frozen and don’t have the
political will to build anymore. We see that in the US and that’s
really impairing the economic development of many countries and
cities and states so it’s really trying to bring back that will to
build.”

The most significant challenge will be choosing the right
opportunities to pursue. Lucki said: “There are so many
opportunities out there right now, it’s [a matter of] trying to
find and dedicate the right resources to the most important
opportunities out there. You can’t be everything to everybody so we
need to streamline and figure out where we can best provide a real
benefit out there and make a difference.”

Carolyn Canham