Professional services company Deloitte has set a target to achieve 51% black ownership as part of a two-pronged strategy to retain black staff and reward talent. At the moment it is 28% black owned.
The company planned to raise the target to 32% by 2014 and thereafter increase it to 51% "as soon as possible" even though it had a target of achieving this by 2020.
The big four professional and auditing groups are battling to retain key staff‚ particularly black chartered accountants‚ some of whom are being lured by banks‚ private equity funds and asset managers.
In an interview‚ Justine Mazzocco‚ a member of Deloitte's executive committee in charge of talent and transformation‚ said the black ownership targets would be achieved by appointing more black partners in the company.
She would not give the current existing number of partners nor the planned target for competitive reasons. She said it took between nine and 12 years before one qualified to be a partner at Deloitte.
She said Deloitte did not necessarily have a problem attracting talent but retaining them was a challenge.
Mazzocco said among the reasons why professionals left any organisation was the perceived lack of a career path. Deloitte had identified this as a threat to it achieving its transformation goals and chief executive Lwazi Bam had asked that the black empowerment programme be "accelerated".
A statement from Deloitte said Bam's ownership target would represent the "tipping point" at which the critical mass and total number of black and female partners‚ directors and employees would drive the growth of ownership towards reflecting the country's demographics.
"Our ultimate goal is to make transformation irrelevant but we need to start creating these conditions now to make sure that it will be so‚" said Bam.
He acknowledged the transformation goals of Deloitte would continue to be affected by the shortage of qualified black professionals including accountants.
Mazzocco said the current turnover of black staff at Deloitte was still higher than that of their white counterparts even though the overall staff retention was within "acceptable" global norms.
"We want to use a series of measures and initiatives to retain talent but we will be selective about the process. We want to get to the 51% goal as soon as possible and this is a robust plan that we have‚" she said.
Mazzocco said one of the key pillars of the transformation strategy is was the "each one‚ grow one" initiative.
This is where each Deloitte partner or director was required to identify a talented senior black professional with partnership potential and to mentor that individual to partner level over the next few years.