Last Thursday, KPMG announced plans to hire 250,000 people over the next five years. Globalization, regulation and offshoring were among the reasons cited for the hiring push by Rachel Campbell, the firm’s global head of people.
KPMG currently employs 138,000 people around the world, according to Kent Miller, a company spokesperson. Is growing that number over the next five years a response to KPMG-rival Deloitte’s similar announcement in September? Where will the hiring be focused? And what does the big four firm seek in job candidates who want to join up?
FINS spoke with Campbell to discuss the initiative.
FINS: What accounts for the new hiring push?
Rachel Campbell: I think in part it is because we’ve got good organic growth and we expect that to continue. We need to make sure we’re resourced. It’s also in response to looking at our overall strategy over the next four or five years.
FINS: In September, Deloitte announced that it would hire 250,000 people over the next five years. Are KPMG’s plans in response to that?
RC: Obviously we want to remain competitive, but we’ve been working hard over the last eight months for the firm’s plans for the next eight years.
FINS: How evenly spread will the hires be over the five years? Are you expecting to bring on 50,000 a year?
RC: It’s not quite as evenly spread as that, but it’s a reasonable approximation of what we think we need to achieve. We’ve started to recruit already, particularly at the high-end partner level. We’re full steam ahead.
FINS: What type of candidates are you looking to hire? Are you hiring across all levels of experience?
RC: Yes. We’re continuing our [hiring] of 16,000 graduates a year. We still have a strong graduate intake. But we’re also looking to recruit at the high end of the market. We want to accelerate the progression of our own talent and also look at the market in areas that we think are going to be really key. There will be several thousand partner hires, and the balance will be manager-level grade.
FINS: What areas do you think are going to be important?
RC: Clients are experiencing a very complex environment with globalization, regulation, offshoring, etc. That’s the context. In terms of sector, we’ve got a career focus on the financial sector, on healthcare and on government.
FINS: Which practice areas is the firm focusing on when it comes to hiring?
RC: There’s certainly opportunity across all practice areas, particularly in performance and technology and in tax.
FINS: What does the firm prize in candidates for the tax practice?
RC: We want candidates with cross-border international expertise. There’s an emphasis on global transfer pricing and international tax, the globalization of business and the way tax authorities are now talking to each other.
FINS: Can you speak to the turnover rate for the next few years?
RC: It was annualized 18% pre-financial crisis. It’s not as high now, it’s about three percentage points below that. We are anticipating that we might see that turnover trending upward. We will certainly seek to make sure that we’re managing our turnover as best as we can, but it will trend up, probably to pre-financial crisis levels.
FINS: In what geographic region and in what practice area does turnover tend to be the highest?
RC: Asia turnover tends to be higher than in the Americas. Europe tends to be the lowest. You’ll typically see tax having the lowest level of turnover, then audit and then advisory.
FINS: Speaking of Asia, the firm has reiterated its commitment to expanding there. Are there any countries in particular the firm will focus on?
RC: We’re interested in many emerging markets there, but certainly China and India.
FINS: Some recruiters say there’s a supply and demand problem — too much demand and too few qualified workers. Has KPMG experienced difficulty in hiring?
RC: There’s no doubt that these are ambitious recruitment targets and we’re going to have to really focus on competing in a tight market for talent. It is difficult in some emerging markets — we need to think far more globally. We’ve been working hard on a number of months to connect up on recruiting efforts. If we only looked in China for people to work in China, we would struggle.
FINS: Does the firm emphasize transferring, then?
RC: We very much want to promote people with broader breadth of experience. In response to the hiring challenge we need to encourage more of our talent to take the opportunity to work overseas. We’ve been working on bringing the right people with the right skills to the right places.
We’ll support language and cultural training. It’s not an inexpensive business [to send people abroad] so it’s important that you send the right people and give them the best training to succeed.
FINS: Where else is the firm focusing on hiring?
RC: Practices in the U.S., Europe, India, China and other emerging markets. Obviously we’ve got a focus on BRIC economies, but we’re looking at next wave of emerging markets, like Africa and the Middle East, and positioning ourselves early.