KPMG's first female chief quits over CEO snubby
Interim CEO and KPMG’s first female leader has resigned after unexpectedly being passed over for the top job by head of audit Jon Holt.
Mary O’Connor stepped in as interim CEO at KPMG, following the sudden departure of Bill Michael after he made inappropriate comments to staff in a video call.
Michael had reportedly told staff to “stop moaning” about coronavirus and lockdown and to stop “playing the victim card”. He left the firm altogether days later following public backlash and KPMG investigation.
Despite publicity around Bina Mehta stepping in as acting chairman and as the first woman to lead the Big Four firm, KPMG’s board unexpectedly elected head of audit Jon Holt for the permanent role of CEO.
After two months as interim CEO, KPMG revealed earlier this month that Holt would be taking over her role. It was later revealed last week that O’Connor was considering departing the firm following the sudden promotion of Holt over herself.
As of Wednesday, according to the Financial Times, KPMG partners had been informed that O’Connor had decided to leave the firm. It was previously stated that she was still reviewing options for her future at KPMG in the light of Holt’s promotion.
“I am privileged to have been able to make a significant contribution to rebuilding the trust in our business and to help set it on the path to even greater future growth,” said O’Connor. “However, I have decided that my corporate experience and approach are now best suited to a leadership role outside of the firm.”
In a further twist to the surprise move from KPMG, it has come to light that Holt was put forward by the board as the only candidate for the permanent CEO position. His promotion took effect as of last Monday.
A senior auditor at a rival told the FT that “KPMG has chosen a somewhat more understated leader — one who is “guarded” in his choice of words. It would appear that KPMG is focusing on airtight diplomacy of leadership following the Bill Michael debacle.
“Mary has made a significant contribution to KPMG, and we are hugely grateful for the commitment, focus and energy she’s brought to the firm,” commented KMPG UK chair Bina Mehta. Mehta’s post as KPMG’s first female chair will last until February 2022, while Holt’s will remain as CEO until September 2025.
KPMG has now lost its unusual board ratio of more women to men, taking it back to a 50:50 split of men and women – although still above average for large firms.
O’Connor has also been described as ‘a relative outsider at KPMG’, having only joined in 2018 as chief risk officer and coming from the world of insurance brokerage. O’Connor had previously worked as Willis Towers Waston, as well as the FCA