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My journey from Trainee to CEO: 10 Years at Gerald Edelman

My journey from Trainee to CEO: 10 Years at Gerald Edelman
Carl Lundberg

By Carl Lundberg

21 Apr 2020

Carl Lundberg is CEO at Gerald Edelman (GE) and specialises in corporate finance. After joining GE in 2010 to complete his training contract, Carl moved to a ‘Big 4’ firm, before returning to GE. Since then he has celebrated 10 years at the Firm.

Learn more about Carl’s career journey and his experience at GE.

How did your journey begin at GE?

In the book Liar’s Poker, Michael Lewis explains that all new recruits at Salomon Brothers in the 80s hoped to be placed in the team trading bonds in New York, with the opposite end of the spectrum being trading ‘equities in Dallas’. Well, I began my career in September 2010 doing ‘audits in Whetstone’. Only a few years earlier, I had a dream to become an airline pilot, which due to a lack of funding to train was not to be.

Accountancy seemed to be the sensible option. I was good with numbers and had heard stories of ‘the partners’ (both good and bad) at another mid-tier firm, where my dad worked in tax. So I decided that’s what I would be. I left it too late in applying for roles (I didn’t have a PA to organise me back then!) and everywhere had already filled their intake for the year. Thankfully, one of the two trainees for the September intake at GE pulled out of their place, leaving a vacancy and an opportunity for me. The rest, as they say, is history.

What made you want to switch to a larger firm?

After getting some great experience working with SMEs, particularly owner-managed businesses, and working in a mid-tier practice, it was quite clear in my mind that I still wanted to be a partner in a mid-tier firm. However, I thought it would be remis to fully commit to that endeavour without experiencing something else. I was sure that practice was the place for me, so industry wasn’t an option, and the logical choice was therefore one of the big four. I specifically targeted Deloitte because the brand appealed to me more than the others.

What was missing from the big four firms that you found at GE?

There are many positives about working at a big four firm – I know this both from my own experience but also from the experiences of many of the team here who have spent time at big four firms before joining us. During my time at Deloitte, I worked a lot and I learnt a lot. Ultimately, I had to make a decision about work-life balance and where I wanted to end up longer-term.

There were two main reasons behind my decision to return to GE. Firstly, the personal, friendly and collaborative environment of a firm like GE is a huge factor. This comes from the size of GE when compared to much larger firms, but it has been retained as we have grown and I am confident that it is now engrained in the firm’s culture and will remain as we continue with our growth.

The second major factor is the ability to make a significant difference to our clients. We are more than their accountants and they look to us to provide valuable advice to them and their businesses, which is incredibly rewarding.

Why Corporate Finance?

I was quite happy to remain in audit initially after qualifying, whilst I continued to gain experience. My role at Deloitte was a mixed audit and advisory one and I found myself involved in financial due diligence engagements as well as reporting accountant engagements on IPOs, amongst other things.

This whetted my appetite for advisory work and when an opportunity arose that would see me return to GE to take on special projects, including those types of engagements, it was something I couldn’t refuse. Since then, we have grown that into a solid and growing dedicated corporate finance function within the Firm.

What advice would you give yourself x years ago knowing what you do now?

There is so much I have learnt over the years and I still continue to learn every day from experiences, from getting things wrong, from taking advice, from not taking advice. If I went back and gave myself knowledge without it being earned, it would mean missing out on valuable experiences and potentially change my path. So, sorry ‘x years ago’ Carl, no cheat codes for you.

What has been your greatest achievement so far?

As I have navigated through my career there have been a few milestones that have really felt like achievements. The biggest is probably still becoming a partner. That was the most exciting one at the time of it happening and the one from which the rest have evolved.

What has the transition to CEO been like?

My predecessor, Richard Kleiner, told me before I became a partner that I will be doing the role before I formally have the role. The same was true for the role of CEO. What this means is that on the first official day in the new role, not much changed in terms of day to day activities.

However, Richard was in the role for a long time, so this is a big change for the Firm. Thankfully, Richard and the other partners have been incredibly supportive, and we have all worked together to ensure that the change is managed as best and as smoothly as possible.

That said, the experience has been a little bit like having a first child. Since taking over I feel an incredible sense of responsibility and custodianship, far more than I had anticipated.

What do you see for the future of GE?

The Firm is well established as a mid-tier practice and I want us to build on that foundation. The primary focus right now is on quality, in all aspects of what we do.

We have a great team and great clients, and we will continue our journey of growth and development over the years to come.

If you are interested in joining Gerald Edelman, view the latest opportunities here.

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