Thinking Outside the Box

Innovation and Transformation at the Heart of Yosef Levine ’94YUHSB ’99SB’s Work

levineYosef Levine’s mantra may not be Silicon Valley’s “move fast and break things,” but he loves the creative disruption that comes from using technological advancements to improve current practices. “It’s in my DNA,” he said, and it shows in his work at Deloitte, which provides audit, consulting, financial advisory, risk management, tax, and related services to clients throughout the world. As managing director for innovation, he is a leader in the firm’s audit innovation technology incubator, also serving as the global risk and controls leader for the firm’s global audit products and solutions.

He grew up in in what he calls a “family of doers” in Fair Lawn, New Jersey. “We are doer-oriented, always doing something, creating something, trying something.” He graduated from the Marsha Stern Talmudical Academy /Yeshiva University High School for Boys (YUHSB) in 1995, then went to the Sy Syms School of Business, graduating in 1999 with a degree in accounting. In between YUHSB and Sy Syms, he spent a year at the Rabbinical College of America in Morristown, New Jersey.

“At YU, I was interested in having unique experiences and learning as much as I could,” he explained. “I used my YU experience to broaden my horizons, which meant that every free moment I had the chance to work on something of interest, I did.” He added, “I am very much an out-of-the-box person when it comes to YU. For starters, being a Chabad kid at YUHSB and Sy Syms was a strength to build on. At an internal level, it was always about bringing an external perspective into the world. Outside the classroom learning experiences were even more important.”

He went to work for Deloitte after interviewing with them on campus. “I interviewed with other companies, but with the Deloitte people, there was a realness to them,” he said. “I felt they were more genuine and open-minded. And I think that still continues to this day.”

While working at Deloitte, Levine was fortunate to serve several high-profile clients such as Heartland Payment Systems and the New York Times. He also did some IPOs and audited retailers like Prada, Toys “Я” Us and Kate Spade as well as technology companies including the Israeli Verint and Comverse.

From left to right, Michael Strauss, associate dean of Sy Syms School of Business; former mayor Rudolph Giuliani; and Yosef Levine

One trend he saw early in his career was the power of data analytics to transform auditing procedures, and being the doer and innovator that he is, he began tutoring himself in the discipline. “Data analytics is a mindset and a toolset. It’s out-of-the-box thinking about how you automate your work processes to be more effective. I took to it because I like to challenge the status quo, which I found I could do at Deloitte, where I was provided with an ample platform and great mentors who still help me today.”

He formed a data analytics team and taught people how applying data analytics would improve their auditing practices. Within the company, he became an “auditor’s auditor,” offering expert counsel on everything the company did in order “to perfect the audit methodology, making tangible and measurable change.” He formalized these thoughts in a 2009 white paper titled “Data Analysis and Audits: Enhancement of Audit Quality and Application of Professional Judgment.”

Today, he takes the lead on audit innovation efforts, working closely with the chief innovation officer and global chief technology officer as well as the hundreds of people now responsible for all the tools and technologies. “I manage risk and controls for all of our audit technology solutions globally.”

“My other full-time job,” he said with a laugh, “is leading what we call the Israel Business Desk for the audit practice.” Levine noticed a growing network of Israeli companies in New York as well as in other American cities and he saw an opportunity for Deloitte to build business relationships with what Levine calls an “ecosystem” of venture capitalists, small and large companies, and interested investors. “Israel nurtures a formidable culture of innovation, supported by large investments and a ready network of professionals. What Deloitte can provide, in conjunction with Deloitte Israel, is a ‘soft landing’ in the United States: offer introductions, broker cultural understandings, drive thought leadership in the ecosystem and provide value. The goal is to hopefully deliver value to clients and help them evolve into enterprise-grade growth companies that can provide a future IPO stream.”

He recently had the chance to pitch the Israel Business Desk at the Israel Dealmakers Summit in San Francisco last March, where he led a panel discussion on “The Future of Mobile, Digital and Commerce” with Jeff Jordan, general partner at Andreessen Horowitz (and former president of PayPal), and Carla Ghosn, head of business development and innovation at Visa.

Nikki Ritcher Photography, Nikki Ritcher
Israel Dealmakers Summit, left to right: Jeff Jordan, Carla Ghosn and Yosef Levine

When he’s not executing his two full-time jobs, he leads an energetic family and community life. He and his wife, Chaya Rivka, have four children: Tuvia (14), Bina Gittel (11), Sterna (9) and Malka Rochel (7). “We do a lot of soccer in our house,” Levine pointed out, and Levine coaches both soccer and baseball teams. He is also president of Camp Shalom (based in Teaneck, New Jersey, with campgrounds in Chestnut Ridge, New York) and a board member of Anshei Lubavitch of Fair Lawn.

He also maintains an active connection to YU. He has led Deloitte’s recruitment efforts on campus for the last 18 years, making more than 250 employment offers. During that time, he has offered important counsel to students about how to confront and succeed in a world of work where “the only thing that is guaranteed is rapid change.” His advice is simple: “If you can’t live with rapid change, it’s going to be very difficult to be successful in business. Be aware of the unexpected every day and be ready to pivot. Treat people how they want to be treated – understand their needs and wants, which will help you relate to them and be a leader.”

He is also currently on the search committee for a new dean for Sy Syms, and he has spoken often to accounting students about cutting-edge auditing matters as well as more generally on disruption and innovation. “I love talking to students about their futures and where they think they fit in to the ever-changing business world.”

However, Levine is equally interested in how managing a world of constant change and disruption affects one’s spiritual state.

“There are powers that we all have, and it’s our job to reach internally to capture those powers, bring them out, and use them for a better good,” he counseled. “Our purpose of bringing good into the world is aligned with technological progress – as a group, we have to find what the solutions are, coming together to provide different parts of the puzzle, and coming out of that will be illumination and transformation. You never know the ramifications of your actions – as a Jew, this is important to remember because it means that we should always do our best.”