Growing places with KPMG

The Gateway speaks to two partners about career opportunities at this Big Four firm

Starting your career at KPMG can take you in many different directions. The Gateway spoke to two partners who told us their stories and explained why they're keen for you to apply to the firm.

Adrian Stone

KPMG Partner and Head of Audit, North England & Scotland

Education

BSc Economics, London School of Economics

What attracted you to a career in professional services?

My interest came from the fact that the work was analytical - my favourite subjects at school were analytical subjects - and that it was business-related. Also, there seemed to be so much variety - you weren't always working in one place doing one job but could go out to different clients.

And the job has delivered everything it promised, and more, beyond my wildest expectations. The pace of change, the challenges and the complexity of the challenges still attract me, and even now there are times when I get up in the morning with butterflies in my stomach because I'm going to do something I've never done before.

How would you describe auditing to a student who wasn't familiar with what firms such as KPMG do?

Businesses prepare sets of accounts which tell the story of that business for the year. An auditor goes in and sees whether they agree with that story. You investigate lots of different aspects of a business. In doing so, if you go round with your eyes open, you can learn a lot about different industries, the people who run them and the way they run them - and that's why doing audit is such good training. You are at the heart of a business seeing how it works. You're learning things that you can't learn in a university classroom, but only by doing.

What's the best thing about working in auditing?

I love the variety of the work. Today I'm at an industrial company, but yesterday I was at a software company. I enjoy seeing how my clients react to the challenges that they face. I've had the privilege of meeting some fantastic business people and I admire the results that they get, and their persistence - how they recover from setbacks is fascinating.

I really enjoy helping people make their business better. For example, a couple of years ago I was introduced to two medical experts. They were good business people but couldn't get all their interests into a corporate structure that would allow them to borrow the amount of money needed to grow their venture. At the same time, another of my clients with experience in the area had just been made redundant. I put them together, and they are now in the process of reorganising this business, which is on the threshold of being really successful. To give an auditing example, today I've been telling a client about the methods that I've seen used elsewhere to solve a particular problem. I'm able to share best practice in this way because I work with lots of different businesses.

Why is it so important for you to recruit graduates at the moment, and what are you looking for?

One of the great challenges we have is that when our graduates have been with us for four or five years and have qualified they become very valuable and so many of them go on to very interesting and fulfilling careers elsewhere, across all aspects of business.

As we can't hang on to all our people for the rest of their working lives, our model relies on recruiting a lot of graduates. We bring in very bright, ambitious people and they have an influence on the way KPMG is set up, and keep the organisation vibrant.

We need a lot of graduates now, especially because many businesses are currently running in very lean ways - and so our clients are asking us for extra help. For example, they might want someone on a short-term basis to help them with an acquisition, or a refinancing, or some other project.

We're looking for people with an interest in business who want to learn. They'll have good people skills, and they've probably already demonstrated that they can handle setbacks and that they are mentally tough.

Can you sum up why you think graduates should apply to KPMG?

We're offering a lot of variety, exposure to a whole range of industries and the opportunity to go and learn about all aspects of the corporate world. I think we produce people with very broad business skills.

Marcus Sephton

KPMG Partner, and Head of Regulatory Services, Europe

Education

MA Classics, University of Oxford

What attracted you to a career in professional services?

I was interested in getting into business, and I explored both the marketing route and the finance route. I thought that the finance route and the training provided by one of the big accountancy firms would be the right way forward for me. After I trained in London I went to Portugal, which turned me into more of an advisor, because that was what the Portuguese market needed. Next, I joined the building societies regulator for two years, and then KPMG set up a regulatory practice, which I built up and ran. I then worked on marketing non-audit services to non-audit clients because, as a result of regulatory pressures, we weren't able to sell this kind of work to our audit clients. In 2007, financial sector regulation came to the fore again and I came back into the regulatory team as the chief operating officer for risk and compliance.

How would you describe your work in risk and compliance to a student who wasn't familiar with what firms such as KPMG do?

All organisations have to deal with uncertainty and the risk that unexpected things will happen, as the airlines saw with the volcanic ash cloud, or BP with the deep sea well explosion. The financial crisis is another example.

Our role is to help clients to turn risk to advantage. We do that by combining deep expertise in a number of different areas. For example, we have accountants who specialise in fraud investigations and actuaries who deal with insurance risk. We have experts in banking who deal with capital liquidity and technology people who deal with data protection and integrity issues. But what really sets us apart is being able to bring all of these people together to address the complex issues that organisations face today, particularly businesses in the financial sector.

What's the best thing about working in risk and compliance?**

What we do is in high demand so the area is growing quickly. The new regulatory climate isn't going to go away.

For graduates, the great thing about this area is that you're quickly going to gain skills, get industry knowledge and form networks, which I think makes it attractive.

Why is it so important for you to recruit graduates at the moment, and what are you looking for?

As the economy is in an uncertain and delicate state, organisations are turning to trusted advisors to help them navigate the risks and turn those risks to advantages.

So at the moment we're looking for incredibly bright people who want to engage with our business and learn, and who are energetic and prepared to try new things. We're not that worried about peoples' academic backgrounds, although if you want to go into certain areas, for example, actuarial work, you'll need mathematical skills. But if you go into one of the general routes it doesn't matter what degree you have.

You need to be able to present yourself well, think on your feet and not be thrown by unexpected questions. KPMG is a people business, so you have to be able to engage with people, particularly our clients.

Can you sum up why you think graduates should apply to KPMG?

There is a huge variety of things you can do at KPMG and you can easily move to an overseas office, or into another area of work. I began as an auditor, became an advisor, then a regulator, and then started doing work which was more with to do with selling to customers. I then returned to regulatory work. We believe in giving individuals the freedom to develop and carve out their own career.

At KPMG, most people are not in the office - we're with our clients. We move around, go to many locations, and meet various clients, regulators, and different colleagues. It's a huge and wonderful mix!

Graduate opportunities at KPMG

KPMG recruits in three specialist areas:

1. Audit where you'll be involved in analysing whether a company's accounts reflect the realities of their business.

Graduate programmes include:

  • Audit
  • Public Sector Audit

2. Tax where you'll be interpreting tax legislation to give strategic advice to clients.

Graduate programmes include:

  • Tax
  • Japan Practice in Tax
  • Pensions
  • Investment Advisory

3. Advisory where you'll work with businesses on financial and corporate strategy.

Graduate programmes include:

  • Performance and Technology
  • Risk and Compliance -
  • Actuarial
  • Risk and Compliance - Economics and Regulation
  • Risk and Compliance - Financial Services
  • Risk and Compliance - Forensic
  • Risk and Compliance -Technology
  • Transactions and Restructuring

Visit www.kpmg.co.uk/careers to find out more, including details of KPMG's graduate programmes, profiles, case studies, videos and hints and tips on applying.

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