Deloitte CEO

In what one of her peers called “a momentous occasion for the CPA profession,” Cathy Engelbert has been elected to a four-year term as CEO of Deloitte LLP, becoming the first woman to head a Big 4 consulting-and-accounting firm in the United States.

Engelbert, 50, will move up from head of Deloitte’s auditing unit and replace interim CEO Frank Friedman on March 11, the firm said Monday in a news release that cited her “strong track record of advising some of the firm’s leading clients, and working with regulators to advance our industry-leading audit practice.”

Deloitte CEO

Cathy Engelbert, Deloitte’s new CEO.

“I’m deeply honored to lead Deloitte,” Engelbert said. “I look forward to collaborating with all our people to continue to lead our profession in quality and innovation.”

Other women in leadership roles at Deloitte have included Sharon Allen, who was elected independent chairman of Deloitte LLP in 2003, and Cindy Hook, who became CEO of Deloitte Australia on Feb. 1.

“This is a momentous occasion for the CPA profession,” AICPA President and CEO Barry Melancon said in a news release. “Cathy has demonstrated great ability and tremendous leadership during her career with Deloitte.”

Engelbert joined the firm in 1986 and has served as chairman and CEO of Deloitte & Touche LLP since June. Deloitte elects a CEO every four years.

She told Bloomberg that Deloitte will invest “boldly” and accelerate hiring to increase the workforce to about 74,000 from 65,000 by the end of May 2016. Another focus will be boosting spending on technology to help clients manage regulatory changes, reshape their businesses, and assess risk such as cyber breaches.

“We’re making big investments in technology and innovation,” Engelbert said. “It’s a key priority because that’s how we’re going to meet the demands of our clients in the future.”

She also said the accounting profession faces a challenge making sure talented young people continue to stay committed to the profession. “I think we have a very unique opportunity in this profession right now to show people the value they bring and that they can be along for this journey while we all innovate,” she told Journal of Accountancy.

Deloitte also announced Monday that Mike Fucci, 56, will succeed Punit Renjen as chairman. Fucci has been a member of Deloitte’s board since 2012.

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