Dino Ebneter comes from a family of Swiss entrepreneurs. Stepping out from the robust Swiss economy, where he had the potential of a decent career in an established consulting firm, in 2004, was a very conscious and calculated decision.
For young and unattached Dino the adventure of Romania was more of an opportunity than a risk: a place where he believed he could build and contribute to major changes. Together with partners, he started a consulting company from scratch. The path to a successful business was full of obstacles, privation, disappointments but, in time, it also brought important rewards. He always tried working in solid partnerships and that made him go through different experiences of merging into companies and demerging as well. The fusion with Mazars was a well-calculated step and also an ideal match. Although comfortable with being just another member of the team, Dino did not reject the CMP position in Mazars Romania when it became vacant, in 2015. “It obviously meant to be my turn and I embraced the chance with all that comes along: good and bad”, he explains.
Ebneter answered a few questions for OZB.
Dino, you picked some tough times to lead a company like Mazars. Tell us more about your vision.
A healthy vision for Mazars could be this: a great place to work, where one can excel in professional and personal abilities. And that should work for all stakeholders.
Long term leadership is needed, especially during tough times. This is actually, what I attempt to achieve. My love for endurance sports is certainly helping me when it comes to following long-term goals. This is also linked to the fact that ethical behavior in business is crucial; it has and will always pay-off.
Generosity is always possible; teamwork is not only more fun, it also brings more value. I rely on the fact that our company has strongly embedded values, which I fully shared even before joining the partnership. Responsibility is what drives me in all decisions.
A few words about your team: what makes you optimistic? What is your biggest concern?
A strong core team creates the foundation for any company – we have that. I am more concerned about the easiness of young professionals moving today from firm to firm, for sheer opportunistic reasons.
What was the most difficult thing you had to do as MP of Mazars, so far?
Defining my role as MP: a precise job descripton was needed. It had to be done my way, in total respect with the complexity of the context we are living in. A simple copy from a predecessor was not an option.
What yardsticks do you use to measure yourself day to day, year to year?
One simple question in the mirror, every evening: did the cake become bigger today so that many others may benefit from my doing, beside myself?
What do you want to achieve till 2019?
I want Mazars to have a team well reputed for its proficiency and stability, with an indepth understanding of the real world and good drive towards applied social responsability.
Some advice you would give to new entrepreneurs?
Entrepreneur means to be hands on your business 100% and 24/7. Let it be clear in your mind what you want and follow your target astutely. Know and trust your abilities!
Mazars Forum – why do you think such a quality event is needed?
Our Forum is a platform where we bring expertise and meaningful discussions back on stage. Critical thinking is highly necessary when it comes to seeing the big picture. We live in a paradox having access to so much information, which, at the same time, tends to overwhelm us. Business leaders are not excluded from this phenomenon.
Mazars Forum 2017. Photo credit: Cristian Gache
How much of a threat are cyber vulnerabilities for your company?
We are managing sensitive data, so we take utmost care not to enter in a data breach. Any incident small or big is one too many.
How will Blockchain technology change the financial services industry?
The effect appears to be significant. It is about the underlying technology for crypto currencies – traditional banking entities have reacted already. Blockchain is decentralized (no central unit is required). That makes it safer than any technology before. An example is the Government of Estonia that has secured all its national records with Blockchain – they could digitalize the public administration entirely that way.
Question is: for how long will it remain un-hackable?
If you could spend a day hanging-out with people from history, who would they be? Why? What would you ask them?
Jesse Owens – athlete at the 1936 Berlin Summer Olympics in Nazi Germany. An US sportsman in times of separation of blacks & whites in his own country. I’d ask him this: how do you gain the strengh to overcome all these mental stress factors? One can
train a body; as for the talent, others have it as well. Still, the brain is the most important muscle in any competition. So makes mental fitness in business the difference.
Neil Armstrong – astronaut. My questions for him would be: how was it possible, in the 60s, to fly to the Moon without computer help? And what was his biggest fear at that time?
What are your thoughts now that the 2018 edition of the Forum is in the past?
We all like technology and machines working for us. However, it is humans who created these machines. Inviting Prof. Dr. Manfred Spitzer, brain researcher and psychiatrist working in the areas of cognitive and social neuroscience, founder of the Transfer Center for Neuroscience and Learning in Ulm, Germany, had its reasons. Continuous evolution is only possible with a functional brain – so we have to go back to basics about how the brain learns.
Tomáš Sedláček has a outstanding way to put economy in a historical, religious and philosophical perspective. Let’s take the story of Matrix: we create robots to serve us, but then, at some point, all changes and it becomes the opposite. Same happened with debts, that should have served us, but it went the other way around. So, I’m left to wonder: is economy scientific or are we constantly just taking moral decisions? We sold stability and bought growth.
Discussing tectonic shifts in society: prof. dr. Manfred Spitzer, neuroscientist; Tomáš Sedláček, economist; Ioana Avădani, Center for Independent Journalism; Pete Swabey, editorial director EMEA & global lead, The Economist Intelligence Unit; Peter H. Frank, journalist and writer; Dino Ebneter, managing partner Mazars Romania.
Prof. dr. Manfred Spitzer Tomáš Sedláček
Prof. Spitzer: “What does dementia mean? Literally “down with the mind” as in latin ‘de mentia’. The harder you study and train your brain, the later it decays. Education is the best preventive factor for dementia.”
Coming back to Romania. How did it become the centre point of your life?
It was more by chance and coincidence. The people make you stay. Some specific characteristics of Romanians resonate with me. For instance, the more relaxed way to see things is good for me, having been raised in a very organized environment with potentially more rules than the usual written ones. I find beauty in imperfection, it calls for creativity. Switzerland is already perfect.
Nevertheless, sometimes I wish predictability of mature economies could be brought along.
Let’s go more into this, Dino. Which of your personal values form common ground with Romanian local culture?
Family and friends are the most important to me. This may sound banal, but there I find happiness that money cannot buy. Romania has this warm culture and should protect it – as individualism is spreading more and more.
A community only functions well when people communicate and genuinely contribute. In a democracy like Switzerland this works very well. It means efforts from everybody. What I see in Romania is that a large part of the people are gradually quitting the dialogue.
So you agree with Romania having a lot of idle capacity and untapped potential?
Romania has plenty of bright people, very pragmatic, with a can do mentality. Sometimes we smile at the multifaceted concept of “Romanian creativity”.
In fact, it can be a great thing, if we refer to the habit of playing like kids do. It is probably one of the best ways to find solutions. Romanian teams are pioneering in world class companies. Their language skills are remarkable, which is a big asset and makes people more valuable. Also, gender diversity is better represented in former communist countries. It’s a big plus for women, and we see more and more rising into top positions, even internationally. I am definitely a promoter of diversity in every way – this creates better culture and results.
Not to mention Romania is famous for welcoming its guests. That fosters new businesses, conducted by companies and people from around the globe.
The challenges in terms of infrastructure have to be seen rather as an opportunity for the time to come. There will always be solutions, but at domestic pace. If we can adapt to the different speed, investments are and will be profitable.
Mazars is permanently taking steps towards transformation. One of the latest is the acquisition of the French prescriptive data analytics start-up Zettafox, a strategic acquisition for the internal transformation of the business. Marc Atallah, Mazars Partner: “Mazars Lab mision is to enable AI for Mazars. The create the augmented auditor. Focusing the technical expertise to address the issue truly required. A faster, more efficient audit.”