What does it mean to you that your colleagues at KPMG elected you to the position of CEO?
Though, when the announcement was made, it was a very sobering moment with the realisation that our Partners had the belief and confidence in me to lead this firm. This continues to remind me, every day, of the responsibility that I have to them, our staff and the KPMG family in Southern Africa – but also as a business leader in the local market.I had decided to ‘throw my hat in the ring’ for the position as I was full of enthusiasm and confidence as I believed I could make some necessary changes that would help the firm adapt to the local business market – and flourish. Being elected – and through the democratic election process, which was the first time we had followed it – was a great honour.
What would you like to have achieved by the end of your term as CEO?
I am in a positon, where the end of my term will also coincide closely with my retirement. Because of this, the question of stewardship is key for me and I want to leave the firm in a strong position.
I want the firm to achieve a level of comfort within itself. Change is often the only real constant in business and – as our firm has gone through a number of changes over the decades – I think we weren’t comfortable within ourselves as we could be and I want to re-engender that confidence; just as our purpose is to inspire confidence and empower change within our clients’ businesses.
I want us to be bold – to be an organisation that is confident, one that is not afraid of facing the challenges of the local business market in South Africa and that continues to be profitable and happy.
How would you describe your management and leadership styles?
I am sensitive to the fact that how I lead influences more than my relationships with our Partners or direct management lines. I have a responsibility to set the KPMG culture; to empower a magnificent team of professionals and inspire them to do their best every day.
People expect a lot of a leader today. They expect a leader to show visibility, they expect you to communicate and to be empathetic – to “be all things to all people”. This can be quite challenging. The reality is that if you don’t embrace your team, engage with them and enable them – by spending time with them on an almost daily basis – you are unlikely to get the most out of them.
Having been a leader before – and in various roles throughout my career – what is interesting for me now is how much time I actually need to spend with people.
What makes you “tick” or keeps you awake at night with respect to your position as CEO?
The local business market currently is a point of great consideration for me, as I suspect it would be for any CEO in South Africa.
There is no denying that the local economy is in a slump. While there are a number of factors and events that have all influenced the current state of the economy – the real challenge is that foreign investors and local businesses, alike, are less optimistic about the prospects of doing business in South Africa than they were a year or two ago.
Personally, I still have a lot of faith in and optimism about the country. I believe that all of us as South Africans are extremely resilient. But, we do need to reverse the effects of some of the crises that the country has been through in recent years. To achieve this, Government has become more supportive of local and foreign business, alike, by improving access to incentives and, decreasing the amount of red tape required to do business in South Africa. Similarly, businesses (whether local and foreign) are looking at re-investing in the country, with a strategic outlook on long-term returns. Both Government and business need to be held accountable – as only then will we rebuild a sense of pride for all parties to belong to SA Inc. and really re-write the narrative on South Africa as a story of success and economic inclusion. The initiatives led by the Minister of Finance, the Treasury and business are already showing encouraging signs and early results.
How do you take part in mentoring others?
Mentoring is and should be an integral way of doing business and be part of every leaders DNA. Be a role model, be authentic and take a real interest in those around you.
If you had to relate a couple of experiences, what would be the highs and what would be the lows of your working career?
Certainly I have found the recent publicity the Firm has attracted a challenge to manage, particularly trying to put it into context.
I was never the person who grew up with a grand vision in mind, other than to be an overall success, to show my parents that I was able to achieve and that I could do well in business. But, I never had a burning ambition to run a company like Apple or to start a company like Google, for instance.
Throughout my working career, I can’t say that I’ve had many lows.
I began my articles at KPMG fresh out of university and over the last forty years of my career I’ve experienced incredible professional and personal growth opportunities. Becoming a Partner at KPMG in June 1988 was a highlight for me. Certainly, another key highlight for me was taking over and heading up the Financial Services group within the firm – and now the role of CEO.
Over the years some other highlights would include achievements we’ve had on certain of our larger clients and being able to help them on significant transactions and to be part of what was exciting for them.
Overall, if I look back on my tenure with KPMG, being able to see how the firm has grown over this time is also a highlight for me. If I think back to when I became a Partner in 1988, I was probably the nineteenth Partner – and that was all we had at the time. Later we merged with Aiken & Carter and I think at the time Aiken had thirty eight Partners. We grew to about sixty Partners quite soon thereafter and today we have about 240 Partners. This just goes to show how sustainably our firm has grown over the years, how quickly things change and it’s been exciting to have been a part of this change.
Apart from the two Universum awards, what other accolades has KPMG received recently?
Internationally, we were also recently named Superstar for sustained excellence and All-Star Company on International Association of Outsourcing Professional’s (IAOP) 2016 World’s Best Outsourcing Advisors list.
How has KPMG fared in terms of achieving its business growth objectives?
In some particularly trying times I am pleased with both our growth and profitability statistics.
Through what means does KPMG ensure that the firm maintains high level of ethics and integrity?
As a multi-national firm, we are bound to conduct our business in line with international best standards, as well as being compliant with local business operating standards and regulation such as Corporate Governance standards as outlined in King III/ IV.
Is transformation considered a key objective at the firm, and if so, how is it attended to?
Transformation is absolutely a key imperative at the firm. I believe that genuine transformation speaks to making a substantive difference. Our transformation strategy is bold and unapologetic with a focus on relating in a meaningful way to our stakeholders, developing our people, and constantly evaluating our successes, remaining cognisant that it is a moving target which we have fully embraced.
KPMG’s commitment to transformation is also embedded in our annual performance management processes, affecting remuneration of all employees. Our commitment to transformation is incumbent on each individual that is part of KPMG, as a result it is the responsibility of all of us.
At the end of my term I want to leave the firm more transformed than it was before, where transformation is something that just happens and is not something that we constantly manage. With this, I also want to leave the firm in a position where it’s more comfortable to engage in conversations about transformation.
Kindly highlight some recent contributions by the firm to the community and to the relevant professions your professionals are a part of.
At grassroots level, the local firm is a participant in the KPMG Family For Literacy (KFFL), which is a global initiative that is aimed at encouraging staff members and their families to collect books and distribute them to less privileged schools or communities – so as to increase access and literacy.
Additionally, for the last few years we have been a keen supporter of the Running Academy at the Vorentoe High School is situated in Auckland Park, Johannesburg.
The athletes from this school and academy have had remarkable achievements, where often these athletes are recruited from rural and disadvantaged areas from the four provinces north of the Vaal River. These athletes are given bursaries to attend Vorentoe High School and are provided with basic hostel facilities and food on the premises, as their parents generally have very limited financial resources. The school therefore continuously needs sponsors to maintain the academy.
Most of this support continues to be financial, however, more recently the firm has started providing academic support through tutoring the athletes in a range of subjects.
Beyond our firm’s CSI focus on education we feel strongly about enticing our staff to be “fit for purpose” and with this we encourage them to partake in sports and activities of their preference and outside of work. In line with this, we launched the KPMG Running Club in 2015, though we also continue to support keen individuals or teams who partake in other sporting activities.
How does the firm ensure that professionalism and good customer service are upheld?
Our values set out what we as a firm stand for and determine the way we behave, both with our clients and with one another. These values are underpinned by acting with integrity and include; leading by example, collaboration and team work, respecting the individual, seeking facts and providing insights, open and honest communication, and commitment to our communities.