Friday 7 May 2021 3:43 pm

KPMG UK puts a woman back in charge of its audit division

Catherine Burnet has been made KPMG UK’s new head of audit, taking over from Jon Holt, who recently became chief executive at the Big Four firm.

Burnet’s career with KPMG spans more than 25 years and has seen her as regional chair for Scotland, Edinburgh office senior partner and a lead partner on a number of company firm audits.

KPMG’s previous female head of audit was Michelle Hinchliffe, who held the position between 2017 and 2019. She then became UK chair of audit, a position she still holds today.

This year’s flurry of movement at the top of KPMG followed a controversial start to the year for the firm, after former CEO and chair Bill Michael resigned after facing backlash for telling staff to “stop moaning” about working conditions during the Covid-19 pandemic.

After his resignation Holt was made the new chief executive, having gathered “overwhelming” support from partners.

In the process KPMG also interim CEO Mary O’Connor, after she was passed over for the top job, having initially taken over as CEO when Michael left.

Bina Mehta took over as chair following Michael’s departure, and has remained in her role. Michael’s old role is now split between Mehta and Holt.

On Burnet’s appointment Holt said: “The audit profession is undergoing significant change through operational separation with further transformation on the horizon with the proposals outlined in the Government’s white paper.

“I know Catherine will bring her leadership, energy and focus to lead our audit practice through these changes.” 

Burnet added: “We have much to do given the amount of change in the industry but I’m confident that by working with the great people in our business, we will continue to lead the transformation and rebuild trust in the profession.” 

In addition to Burnet’s appointment, the firm made changes to its executive committee in order to “simplify” decision making at the top, the Big Four firm said.

The firm’s current executive governance of an Executive Board and a separate Executive Leadership Team will be simplified to form one Executive Committee for the firm. No executives will have to step down because of the change.

The new Executive Committee will consist of 14 partners from across the firm and comprise 43 per cent women.