The board of Deloitte Australia has identified the firm’s head of assurance and advisory, Richard Deutsch, as  its “preferred candidate” for new Australian chief executive to replace outgoing chief Cindy Hook.

The partners at the firm, who typically go with the board’s recommendation, are voting via an online process, with the final result expected to be revealed to partners by the end of the week and to all staff on Monday.

“While the board has identified Richard Deutsch as the preferred candidate to succeed Cindy Hook as CEO the final decision will be made by all partners of the firm. That process will be finalised within coming days,” Tom Imbesi, the chairman of Deloitte Australia, said.

Mr Deutsch is in charge of a mix of audit and consulting service lines at the firm, including its fast-growing conduct business, which provides advice around reputation and trust to large corporates.

He joined Deloitte in 2015 from PwC, where he had stints as head of consulting and head of audit during 25 years at the rival big four firm. He is also the chairman of charity OzHarvest, which collects and distributes excess food, and a director at Adara Group, a charity that provides support for underprivileged children and their mothers in Nepal and Uganda.

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Interesting times

If Mr Deutsch is voted in by partners as expected, he will be leading the firm at an interesting point in its history.

Under Cindy Hook, Deloitte has experienced double-digit, year-on-year growth. Deloitte Australia generated revenue worth $2 billion for the year ending May 31 and now has a record 788 partners.

Ms Hook, who previously held Mr Deutsch’s role, has made no secret of her desire to grow the firm beyond its traditional statutory audit business, which accounted for just 15 per cent of its income as of last year. This is the lowest proportion of  the big four.

But the shift away from statutory audit has concerned some commentators who think the big four’s move into consulting work has undermined audit quality.

Ms Hook will depart after just one term as Deloitte Australia leader to lead a potentially risky new regional firm – Deloitte Asia Pacific – covering Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand and south-east Asia.

If Mr Deutsch becomes CEO, one of his first decisions will be to appoint a new head of tax, the firm’s fourth since 2012, as the incumbent lead of its tax practice, Dave Kennedy, follows Ms Hook into an Asia-Pacific role from next month.

Email the reporter at edmundtadros@afr.com.au

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