Wojciech Roman is vice president of Deloitte Poland. He was previously partner in charge of the financial advisory services department.
What do you do at Deloitte?
Corporate finance advisory. This covers general M&A advisory, valuations, business analysis, financial modelling for transactions. We advise people who want to set up a company in Poland; we show them how to raise the finance, we conduct financial due diligence and provide analysis of companies in the process of transaction.
What are your key areas of business?
The main is M&A advisory, both on sell and the buy side. We advise Polish entrepreneurs in making exits. They may have set up a company in the 90s, manufacturing window frames, or a bank and the business has developed over time. They may want to leave or bring in more capital to grow; either way we can work with them and give them advice. And we help both strategic and financial investors to get into Polish businesses.
Very significant is financial due diligence, mainly for the private equity funds investing in Poland. There are plenty of funds that focus on central Europe and Poland is its main market. Investors want to put their capital in companies with growth potential and we help them to identify such targets. We perform due diligence, provide a valuation, analysis and advice.
In today’s economy, what life jackets exist to help keep a country like Poland afloat?
I think the main one is skilled labour. It is still cost competitive and relatively efficient. I can see what has been done in Poland but I think it could have been developed much faster and been better organised. The Polish economy does not have much more than competitive labour and the demand that comes from a market of 40 million people.
There is not much more than that;, we don’t develop technology; that’s all brought in. Labour costs will only be competitive for the next decade or so and EU funding will star to dry up after five to ten years. We need to make the best possible use of it and sort out the country’s infrastructure.
Poland has an interesting past. As it moves forward, what should Poland and Polish people not forget about?
I think it’s a very European thing to celebrate history, but it’s not something I’m into. I think remembering the past is obviously a good thing, to preserve culture, but I’m not a fan of looking back.
You should look to the future; I would like Poles to look ahead, to close the gap with the so-called west and accelerate the process of development. The only way to gain prosperity and wealth is to work for it; the state can’t fix your problems.
Who do you consider to be the most influential Pole of all time?
I think the most influential person is actually not Polish; it was Ronald Reagan, who made the Soviet Union bankrupt. He recognised you could not do deals with the Russians and had a huge influence on my life. I had lived most of it under the communist system, I was a member of Solidarity and went on strike, then it just happened, I couldn’t believe it, everything just changed.
But thinking of Polish people, I think that Leszek Balcerowicz is the one we all owe a lot. Leszek Balcerowicz is a professor of economics and was Polish finance minister in the 90s. Inflation was running at 800%, you can’t imagine. If you bought a loaf of bread from a shop in the morning for 100, in the evening it would cost 200. He said it had to stop, the state was just printing money and his reforms set the foundation for today’s economic prosperity.
He was not well loved in Poland, but in the future people will see what an inspiration he was and how our current prosperity is down to him.
What is your view on the migration of Polish workers?
I think it’s totally normal and a positive thing in the long run. It’s good to learn new skills and new ways of working. Many people come back to set up their own business. The grass is always greener somewhere else and people want to satisfy their curiosity; some will settle abroad, but the majority will return.
What do you do to relax?
I’m a private pilot and I like flying aircraft. Last year, I flew a single engine Columbia (owned by Cesna) from the US to Poland, across the Atlantic. It took six days. I’d wake up at 4am, fly, say three and a half hours to Greenland from Goose Bay (Canada) to refuel and then set off for another three and a half hours to Iceland. The longest leg was actually the last one, from Scotland to Poland, which took almost 5 hours.
That doesn’t sound very relaxing…