Cost-saving KPMG hangs up on staff mobiles
KPMG has taken back hundreds of staff mobiles in a cost-cutting measure which the Big Four firm hopes will “free up funds to invest in the future of the firm”.
The Big Four accountancy firm, which has suffered a number of big fines in recent memory, is cutting back its cost base by taking back mobile phones from junior administrative and back-office staff.
KPMG notified employees in a memo to the change, explaining that “To realise our growth ambition, we need to improve our profitability by building a leaner, more responsive cost base”.
KPMG explained that through cost-cutting measures like this one, the firm will free up funds to invest in recruitment and staff retention. The memo also alludes to further cuts if it wants to get a grip on its cost base.
“Right now, our cost base is the most expensive of the larger KPMG member firms and the most expensive of the big four in the UK. We regularly review our ways of working to ensure they are market-competitive and affordable for the business.”
Front-line employees who need to be contacting outside working hours will keep their mobile phones, however. Those now without a phone have less need for a device, anyway. According to KPMG’s spokesperson: “Over the past year we have invested in a range of technologies to support our people, which enable them to work from home or the office with ease.”
Presumably, this new technology would prevent staff from using their private phones which could prompt further questions around GDPR and client data, not to mention how it will prevent employees from switching off outside of work.
End of the landline?
KPMG’s decision to call time on mobiles diverges from its Big Four cohort PwC’s decision last year to do away with landlines at office desks. By taking away a modern way of working, accountant and fair tax campaigner Richard Murphy reckons the phone-less KPMG worker “may as well become a ghost”.
“They might also take the hint that if their employer is now making them pay for a basic tool of the trade then either that employer is facing really hard times or they, personally, are really unwanted,” wrote Murphy on his blog. “Either way the messaging is dire in a firm where the average partner earnings still exceeds £600,000 a year.”
But then, morale has been hit with another recent cost-saving measure. A few weeks ago, KPMG announced plans to shed between 200 –to- 250 of personal assistant roles. The centralisation of these roles will mean partners, particularly in the non-client facing roles, will no longer have access to a personal assistant and will have to file their own expenses.
All this comes as KPMG prepares to release its financial results in December, and although the firm saw profits grow 18% to £356m last year, its pockets and reputation went on an opposing trajectory.
In the last 12 months KPMG has routinely forked out on audit fines -- the most recent of which being £6m for the auditing of automobile insurer Equity Syndicate Management -- and continuous to be dogged over its audit of government contractor Carillion.
— Tabby Kinder (@Tabby_Kinder) September 30, 2019
Yet the belt-tightening measure is in stark contrast to when the phones were first handed out at multi-million-pound party at the O2 arena. The ‘team-building’ event had entertainment from Tinie Tempah, Madness and Florence and the Machine, and a motivational talk by Jamie Oliver on training unemployed young people.
KPMG workers reminisced about this swanky party on Twitter, with one attendee calling the star-studded event “probably one of the most surreal days of my career”.
What do you think? Are mobiles phones a tax-free perk for employees or have you opted against splashing out on mobile phones?