KPMG boss: Let's get my successor in place then it's time to shoot for the global job

 
Oliver Gill
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Simon Collins has run the UK arm of the Big Four firm since August 2012

KPMG’s UK boss will throw his hat in the ring for the firm’s global top job, with winning back public trust in business at the top his to-do list.

Simon Collins surprised fellow partners during the firm's annual conference in December by revealing he would not be seeking re-election as the UK chairman.

And speaking to City A.M., Collins revealed his future plans.

At some stage I am interested in putting myself forward as a candidate for our global chairmanship. That’s the job I want to do and can be best at... The process is expected to commence in 2017.

In the meantime Collins is focussed on finding a successor for the UK job he has occupied since August 2012. The hope is to seamlessly transition a new person into his current job before setting his targets on the global role.

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“It would work with a handover period to get a UK chairman [in place] then a handover period if I was lucky enough to be elected on a global basis," he said.

Trust

On Friday, KPMG announced what will be the UK firm's final annual results under Collins' stewardship. Revenues nosed over the £2bn mark but average partner pay fell by 6.6 per cent, the firm put this down to a re-jigging partners and investment in future technology.

And after a tumultuous 2016, Collins believes some of the socio-political trends are in part steeped in an issue the general public has with business. Realising and addressing this is key, according to Collins.

There is a societal angle around business. If you look at the issues around Brexit, around Donald Trump’s election, the underlying movements generally and you look at the government’s green paper on corporate governance. You can’t miss a redefinition of business’ role in society... Public trust is part of this.

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One of the key strands of investment for KPMG has been in technology. He believes the investment is starting to bear fruit for the Big Four firm. Critically, however, Collins feels it is important the firm does not focus too much on specific elements.

Technology

“We should have a terror around what I call the beta-max investment," said Collins, who founded KPMG's debt advisory practice in 1998.

"There is the possibility that people go too hard or too deep into one type of technology. What we are trying to do is to look for the best and brightest in alliances and the way get across technology."

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Two such examples of such partnering are KPMG's tie up with IBM Watson on artificial intelligence tools and McLaren Applied Technologies on predictive analytics.

"So we are thinking of the best and the brightest in innovation, but without making a once in a generation commitment to a technology that could be obsolete in six months time. We’re being very thoughtful about that," he said.

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