Opportunity Knocks

Paul Casey, senior partner and senior VP for Deloitte, discusses his restructuring efforts for major firms

“There are no problems, only opportunities.” —Paul Casey, Senior Partner & Senior VP
“There are no problems, only opportunities.” —Paul Casey, Senior Partner & Senior VP

Paul Casey is a natural-born problem solver, and as a senior partner for Deloitte LLP in Toronto, serving as senior vice president of Deloitte Restructuring Inc., he works daily to fix the monetary crises that can sometimes befall major companies when the market takes a hit. Recently, his pragmatism and determination helped his company’s clients out one of the darkest financial times since the Great Depression. Below, he explains his approach and discusses the value of mentoring.

Advantage: What are your roles and responsibilities at Deloitte?
Paul Casey: I am the restructuring leader for the Toronto practice here. Our group is part of financial advisory, which integrated five service lines—valuations, forensic, transaction, due diligence, and corporate finance—along with what I do in restructuring services. My group has about 30 partners and staff in Toronto, and we specialize in core restructuring and advisory services as well as performance-enhancement advisory services. The key point is that it’s transaction-driven and there will be some form of crisis that requires a change.

My role, first and foremost, is to serve clients. I also manage the staffing for our group and make sure our professionals are properly challenged, trained, and growing every day. Also, I represent financial advisory on a number of client-service teams.

Paul Casey’s
Career Milestones

1985
Graduates from the University of Toronto with a bachelor’s of commerce degree

1987
Earns his Chartered Professional Accountant certification

1989
Chooses to specialize in insolvency and restructuring

1999
Starts a turnaround-management firm

2001
Joins Kroll Lindquest Avev as the company’s first insolvency professional

2005
Takes the job at Deloitte & Touche LLP as the Toronto restructuring leader

2013
Becomes the chair and director of the Canadian Association of Insolvency and Restructuring Professionals

What does restructuring entail?
We start with the financial aspects. There will be some pending or immediate financial crisis, which needs to be addressed. That will involve an assessment of the current position of the business.

Starting with where the businesses is now is critical. Then we look at the overall viability of the business: Why did it get into the situation that it’s in? Can that be fixed? Is it a one-time external event?

Sounds like you cover a lot of ground.
Being objective and assessing that situation, identifying and analyzing all of the alternatives, and recommending what needs to be done—that’s essentially what we do. It’s stressful, but a good kind of stress. It’s an exciting, challenging environment.

You have to be confident that you can make a difference, that you’re going to make mistakes and that’s business. If you can’t deal with mistakes, then you’re in the wrong trade. How you minimize the impact of those mistakes and how you learn from them to build something better is the art of good business.

What are some restructuring efforts at Deloitte that you are most proud of?
Let me go back to the start of the last great recession. Deloitte Restructuring acted as the Companies’ Creditors Agreement Act [CCAA] monitor of Smurfit-Stone Container, a very significant business in Canada and even more so in the United States and other parts of the world.

We oversaw the successful implementation of [Smurfit-Stone’s] plan of arrangement here in Canada and the Chapter 11 plan in the US. This took wonderful coordination with all the US professionals, lawyers, accountants, the company management, and the courts in Canada and the US. The plans were implemented, and very shortly thereafter the company was acquired at a premium, and they carry on today.

What are some strategies for building successful and effective teams?
You have to have a common goal that is openly communicated and accepted. A leader and mentor listens to all the members of the team, not just “tells.” Encourage ownership and leadership for all team members. Leadership is everyone’s job. Be communicative, seek input, provide positive feedback, and don’t delay bad news—it never waits.

What do you enjoy about mentoring younger professionals? Paint a picture of what that really looks like.
I can’t imagine a greater source of personal and job satisfaction than watching a young professional grow in confidence and skill and [knowing] you’ve had something to do with it. Certainly, success comes from them, but you may have given them directional advice, tidbits, or a positive idea to say, “Hey, have you thought about this?”—which they’ve filtered through their own experiences. You see them succeed at it. It’s not waiting for them to come back and say “thank you”; it’s watching from afar and enjoying that quietly.

Talk about your volunteer work a little bit.
With many other dedicated volunteers, I run a community not-for-profit hockey school every Sunday afternoon at one of our local arenas. We have one thing in common: we all have had people help us, and we all think it’s right and mentally satisfying to give back. We come out every Sunday and work with 150 youngsters and develop young leaders who are all doing something they’ve never done before.

Why hockey?
I admire the hockey players who are under immense pressure from other players on the ice—defenders or attackers—and yet they don’t rush the play. They look, they check, and they wait for the right play to make. There are always options on the ice, and they seem to be patient enough to do that as opposed to panicking and dumping the puck to the wrong spot. That’s where mistakes are made. The same is in business. Practice patience, and execute concisely.

What is it about your industry that drives you?
I like to view myself as a problem solver. My insolvency and restructuring practice focuses on the corporate side. My clients are businesses, lenders, shareholders, and regulators. It can be crisis management, where you have many competing demands on limited resources, be they financial, operational, managerial; and how to dive in and understand the issues and what the goals and priorities need to be is what drives me. We carefully look at what tools we have to solve this problem.

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THE BOTTOM LINE

Job Title
Senior Partner & Senior VP

Industry
Financial advisory, restructuring services

Years in the business
28

Where did you start your career?
In public accounting, in 1985, at Clarkson Gordon

Describe yourself in three words
Practical, positive, energetic.

Advice to those just starting in finance
Find a role that challenges and excites you. Say yes, put your hand up, and jump in the water. Prioritize every 10 minutes. Do something new every day. The one who falls down the most learns the fastest. Have fun. Bring energy.