An Interview with Adam Barraclough – Partner at EY

An Interview with Adam Barraclough – Partner at EY

 Parkinson Lee Executive search are delighted to be sharing a series of interviews with Business Leaders from across the region. Each month we will be publishing “an interview with…” that our Managing Partner, Lee Bhandal, has conducted with highly respected Executives from across the region.

Our eighth interview is with Adam Barraclough, Associate Partner in Strategy & Transactions at EY. Throughout his exceptional 25-year career, Adam has worked with and advised businesses across Yorkshire and the Northeast regions in the sale and acquisition of a number of high-profile brands.

EY’s purpose it to work with entrepreneurs, companies, and entire countries to solve their most pressing challenges such as, data piracy, guiding governments through cash-flow crises, unlocking new medical treatments with data analytics and pursuing high quality audits to build trust in financial markets and business.

Since joining EY in 2020, Adam has become a trusted advisor for businesses across the region, supporting them through EY’s broader expertise.

In this interview, Adam has given a great insight into his impressive career journey, his major standout deals to date and his expert advice on making it to the top in world of M&A/Dealmaking.

Interview with Adam


Can you give us a whistle stop tour of your career?

I began as a roadie for bands like the Rolling Stones, Bon Jovi and the Eagles right after university, then thought I’d better get a proper job. So started my career as an auditor for KPMG in Sheffield, qualifying as a chartered accountant after 3 years.  Hard work, long hours and exams on top.

I then moved to Halifax Treasury and worked on a special project which resulted in the merger with Bank of Scotland and the creation of HBOS.  Following the completion of that project I worked in M&A for BUPA for 3 years before 15 years in corporate banking with Bank of Scotland, Barclays and Lloyds.

I left Lloyds to join William Jackson Food Group where I spent 4 years as head of M&A, and latterly became FD of their Bakery Business before joining EY 2 years ago.

Why did you choose to pursue a career in finance? Were there any particular influences on your decision?

I wasn’t good enough at football or golf, although I haven’t given up yet!  I did actually want to become a teacher, but my degree subject didn’t qualify for funding (Politics and History) at the time.  Accounting is agnostic on degree subjects, so I applied to the Big Four – and KPMG had a local office that impressed me most at the time.

Over your impressive 25-year career, you have held various positions of influence and leadership, can you share with us, some of your greatest professional achievements to date?

Crikey. I won corporate banker of the year in 2012 and was also nominated for dealmaker of the year but Neil Thompson posthumously won it that year, so I didn’t mind one jot – top bloke and sadly missed.  One of my closest friends also died that year so it was a very strange and awful time – great professionally, tragic personally.

I enjoyed my time working with Innocent Drinks from a relatively small start-up through to becoming part of Coca Cola – that was a fun ride. They nearly got me the sack twice but that’s another story – see below.

Best of all is seeing the people I’ve worked with over the years going on and doing great stuff.  Tom Beahon at Castore is a great example but so are others who’ve decided to get off the ride and do something completely different, which I admire, I’ve got a pal who rents bicycles in the dales after having had enough of the corporate life and is as happy as anyone I know.

Can you tell us more about what your role of Partner in strategy and transactions at EY entails?

I originate and help clients across the region in both buy side and sell side transactions covering everything from diligence to lead advisory.  We are sector agnostic, though I do have a food & drink background so anything that is in F&B I tend to get involved in.

As one of the region’s leading deal makers, what particular deal stands out if your career and why?

I’m not sure I fall into that category, but I’ll mention three for different reasons:

  1. Synetiq – I worked with Tom Rumboll, CEO at Synetiq, to help lead their merger which was an was an incredible opportunity and we have since become great friends. The EY and Synetiq teams gelled instantly, and we delivered a terrific result. A truly special business, and Tom is a top-drawer CEO.
  2. CEPAC – strangely enough, this was one that myself and Tom did together back in our Lloyds days. We completed 3 acquisitions, over 6 days for a new bank client, the last one was completed at midnight on New Year’s Eve! That was tough and I’ve never had so little sleep – but it was immensely satisfying!
  3. Innocent’s refinance – I can tell this story as the individuals have now moved on, but I fought hard to get a refinance and cash out for the Innocent shareholders in 2007.  The banks head of credit at that time just didn’t get Innocent and didn’t want to do the deal as he thought that smoothies were in his words “a here today gone tomorrow fad”.  I got annoyed and asked him if he still pointed at planes – for which I received a written warning! But we got the deal over the line, and they’ve just gone on to become one of Europe’s leading drink brands.

What are your thoughts on the strength of the UK M&A Market in 2022? And in your opinion, what types of deals are we likely to see?

It is as strong as most of us have ever seen, certainly in my 25 years in this game.  Lots of liquidity driving demand for good quality businesses.  In terms of types of deals – right across the spectrum from PE both majority and minority, trade deals, cash outs, and the deal you guys have recently done with the ESOTs.   No one particular type, and neither should there be, each set of circumstances are different for business owners.

In 2018, you completed a course at Harvard Business School in Executive Education Mergers and Acquisitions: Strategy, Negotiation and Post Merger Management, how have you used this knowledge in your roles since?

That was a cool course.  Not sure I’d have lasted 3 years on a degree there, but great fun.  The networks you build there are unbelievable.  I became pals with a Canadian guy who had been to prison for 12 years and had emerged with a doctorate and now owns Canada’s biggest chain of Dentists and is best mates with Justin Bieber!

The biggest thing I learned at Harvard was the value of storytelling to illustrate and articulate particular messages you want to deliver.  If you can’t explain something to a 10-year-old you are either failing to get your point across in plain English or don’t know your stuff.

If you could give the 25-year-old version of you some career advice now on how to make it to the top in world of M&A/Dealmaking, what would it be!

Enjoy the ride, and if you don’t, go and do something else – life is too short.  Keep learning and let that be your North Star – when you stop being stretched, learning, or getting new experiences it’s probably time to move.

And keep yourself fit (I try and fail but I try), it’s a long and exhausting career and it’s going to be a lot longer if you’re starting out now.

Oh and have an opinion, your own opinion, not something you’ve read on the internet that sounds clever – that’s not yours – and is dull.

Outside of your successful profession, what are your greatest loves and hobbies?

My family and friends.  My football team – SWFC they’ve been ruining my weekends for 40 years, but I love them, nonetheless.  I play golf (6 handicap) should be better, but I think I am Seve and go for shots even he couldn’t pull off – ending in disaster.  Wine, food and music – did I mention I roadied for the Rolling Stones 12?

For more information on this interview or to discuss how Parkinson Lee could assist your organisation in hiring an Executive or Board Level appointment, please contact our Managing Partner, Lee Bhandal on 07590 529 274 or l.bhandal@parkinsonlee.com.

Contact our

South Yorkshire Office

01709 303 330

  • The Heriot Building
  • Dodds Cl
  • Rotherham
  • South Yorkshire
  • S60 1BX

London Office

0203 488 3570

  • 1st Floor
  • 99 Bishopsgate
  • London
  • EC2M 3XD