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Willis takes road less travelled

THE collapse of Andersen triggered a change of direction for former corporate finance partner Justin Willis.

After nine years as partner in charge of Andersen corporate finance in Perth, Mr Willis now divides his time between a handful of strategic corporate advisory projects and broader community involvement.

Mr Willis, a WA Business News 40under40 award winner in 2002, said his main project was the recapitalisation of an offshore company.

As well as being lead adviser, Mr Willis said the project provided him with a new opportunity as a promoter.

He has also been engaged in strategic consulting roles and as an expert witness in a Federal Court action.

Mr Willis said he was now able to devote more time to the Securities Institute, where he is a member of the WA regional council and a lead lecturer, and the Starlight Children’s Foundation.

He was a founding member of the Starlight Children’s Foundation in WA and presently has overall responsibility for coordinating its core activity of ‘wish granting’ for terminally and chronically ill children.

The foundation has grown to the point where it has nine staff in WA and expects to grant around 100 wishes this year.

Like other ex-Andersen people, Mr Willis fondly remembers Andersen as a firm with a strong culture and an unstinting commitment to excellence.

He looked closely at the offer to join Ernst & Young, which has one of the largest corporate finance practices in Perth, and actually spent a brief period there after the merger, but decided it was not the right fit.

Mr Willis said one of the attractions of Andersen’s corporate finance practice was that it focused on lead advisory roles and shied away from activities such as valuations and independent expert’s reports.

Another attraction was that Andersen had a comparatively small audit practice and, as such, there was a correspondingly low risk of running into ‘audit independence’ conflicts.

Mr Willis said he was currently committed to the offshore project but in the longer term had an open mind about future work opportunities.

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