Accenture’s New North America CEO Jimmy Etheredge On How the Southeast Shaped His Innovation Mindset

jimmy etheredge

After serving as senior managing director of Accenture’s U.S. Southeast region for the better part of the last three years, Jimmy Etheredge has ascended to oversee all of the company’s North America offices.

The Atlanta-based executive will now oversee a market that finished last fiscal year as an $18 billion business, making it Accenture’s largest territory globally. It encompasses 55,000 employees across the U.S. and Canada and clients making up 95 of the Fortune 100 and over 70 percent of the Fortune 500.

Etheredge succeeds Julie Sweet, former CEO of North America, who has assumed Accenture’s global CEO position. 

And he credits much of his success to his learnings as head of the Southeast, a territory which, for Accenture, stretches from Puerto Rico to Washington, D.C.

“Part of what has prepared me for this role is the focus I have led in the Southeast around innovation,” Etheredge tells Hypepotamus. “I spent so much time with our clients face-to-face, across the C-suite… talking about innovation, how to do it continuously, how do they work with partners like Accenture.”

This push for the consulting giant, Etheredge points out, is illustrated in the opening of 11 (thus far) Innovation Hubs in North America alone. One of those Hubs opened in Atlanta directly under Etheredge’s direction last year. 

“The work we have been doing around innovation in the Southeast is really indicative of what we’ll be doing throughout North America,” he says.

Etheredge identifies two critical factors he has honed in on in Atlanta that he believes will be required for effective innovation on a company-wide basis. 

The first, the importance of partnerships. 

“For example, working with startups, or in the case here in Atlanta, with a research institution like Georgia Tech,” he says.

The second factor that was really driven home for Etheredge in his home region is what he calls “inclusive innovation.”

“Recognizing that tech is going to change the workforce, we need to make sure that people are not being left behind in a digital economy,” he says. Accenture has doubled down on its apprenticeship program, which trains and employs a technology-savvy workforce that may come from non-traditional educational backgrounds.

Incoming apprentices are primarily employed in the Innovation Hubs, including Atlanta’s. About 450 apprentices have been trained in the U.S. thus far.

“We have for a number of years put a lot of our corporate social responsibility focus on ‘skills to succeed,’ where we train people to leverage technology to get a job. What this program is doing is, we’re putting our money where our mouth is and saying, not only will we train you, but we’ll employ you,” Etheredge says.

As he assumes his new role, Etheredge will continue to be based in Atlanta. Accenture’s new Executive Chairman, former interim CEO David Rowland, is also based in Atlanta. 

Meanwhile, Sweet and new senior managing director of the Southeast, Marty Rodgers, are both based in Washington, D.C. This concentrates a significant portion of Accenture leadership in the Southeast, a region which Etheredge points out is one of its fastest-growing.

Accenture is currently in the process of consolidating its Atlanta operations to their base in Midtown’s Tech Square, the same location as the Innovation Hub.