KPMG: We will not tolerate bad behaviour
After a KPMG partner stepped down amid bullying allegations, two senior female executives at KPMG weigh in on allegation processes, inclusive attitudes and the business case for greater diversity.
“To be absolutely clear, as a firm we have never, nor will we tolerate bad behaviour,” says Michelle Quest, head of tax, pensions and legal services at KPMG.
“The way we see it, we will deal with it. And that doesn’t [depend] on your gender, it will always be the case. I joined KPMG because of its culture.”
Earlier this month, KPMG partner Sanjay Thakkar stepped down to take a leave of absence “in the wider interest of the firm”, according to an internal email which was leaked. It followed revelations the firm had been reported to the Financial Reporting Council (FRC) over its handling of Mr Thakkar’s behaviour and subsequent internal handling of the investigation.
According to the Financial Times, employees reported that issues with Mr Thakkar’s conduct had been raised back in 2017 but ignored by senior executives. Most recently, KPMG acquitted Mr Thakkar of bullying allegations made on its whistleblowing hotline in September 2018.
While Quest was unable to comment on the ongoing investigation into Mr Thakkar, she was able to offer insight into complaint procedure.
“As a former head of people at KPMG and now head of tax and sitting on the executive committee, we have processes in place, we follow those processes – not everyone will always like the outcome of those processes, and we have to always look at continuous improvement,” she said.
Two senior female executives – Maggie Brereton, head of UK transaction services, and Ina Kjaer, former head of UK integration – resigned in February in protest of how KPMG had dealt with the allegations.
Likewise, Melissa Geiger, head of international tax and tax policy at KPMG, praised the firm’s inclusive culture.
“Michelle [Quest] and I both joined KPMG well over 20 years ago,” says Geiger, “from my perspective, KPMG has a great number of female role models. I work for a head of tax who’s female, and a global head of tax who’s also female.
“We have a fantastic Women’s Network, I have two small children, and we have a great parenting network. From my personal perspective, I found KPMG to be a great place to work with a very inclusive culture,” she says.
“It’s absolutely vital to have diversity and there are endless studies around how a more diverse workforce is more profitable and a business case to be made,” says Quest, adding that, as a firm, they need access to as wide a talent pool as possible by opening up to all demographics. That includes gender, people from BAME backgrounds and diverse socio-economic backgrounds.
“It’s all about building up talent,” says Quest. “As we move into technology, having people who understand tax and also understand tech is going to be vital to help our clients.
“I sit on our executive committee, and without exception we meet monthly, and without exception there is some area of diversity that we will be focusing on as mission critical to our strategy,” she says.