Right or Wrong: Bill Michael Is No Longer KPMG U.K. Chairman Because He Didn’t Mollycoddle Millennials and Zoomers

After a roller coaster of a week that ended with the fall of Bill Michael at KPMG, it is time to don the forensics hat to determine how it went horribly wrong. The Titanic may have hit an iceberg, but where did Michael trip over his didgeridoo?

Bill Michael

Michael the F-bomber: Ben Marlow, a business columnist for The Telegraph, wrote recently that he met Michael at 20 Grosvenor Street, KPMG’s premises in Mayfair, for schmoozing clients. Apparently Michael dropped so many F-bombs he could have been mistaken for a NWA rapper. English is a rich and colorful language, but British business culture is still conservative. A couple of F-bombs though aren’t going to result in much collateral damage.

KPMG’s millennials and Generation Z (MAGZ): The MAGZ (pronounced “Mags”; I coined this phrase, I thought it was rather good!), like many finance professionals in the U.K., have been working from home since March 2020 because of the pandemic. It was amusing at first, but the novelty has definitely worn off. Lockdown No. 3 to stem the rise of COVID-19 has turned into Groundhog Day. While Michael can probably sit in his study at his £3 million home in Richmond, Surrey, many associates are probably sharing digs in less glamorous parts of London. Living in Balham or Clapham isn’t so chic when the restaurants and bars are shut. Following last Monday’s Zoom call, they probably wanted Michael to “feel their pain.” He didn’t. Instead he told staff they were well off and should be grateful.

Cue cries of “privilege” from the MAGZ, but Michael is from a Greek-Cypriot background and grew up in a working-class suburb of Melbourne, Australia. That doesn’t smack of white privilege. On paper Michael is progressive; his LinkedIn profile states that he is interested in “how businesses can help create a more even society.”

So are the MAGZ in the ascendancy, or was Michael justified with his Macmillan-esque “you’ve never had it so good” speech? One could side with Michael because he is the voice of experience, not the voice of youth. Unemployment due to COVID-19 is creeping up. The airlines, oil and gas, retail, and hospitality sectors have been hit hard. The U.K. government’s furlough schemes will end at some point and the economic recovery may not be instantaneous.

Many banks and asset managers have suspended their graduate recruitment for 2021. They couldn’t even get the 2020 intake through the door, let alone 2021’s. That means more grads on the market who may switch to accountancy as a second choice. With student debt to clear, they won’t be so precious about being “woke” but being broke. The competition for jobs will be more intense than it already is. The recessions of the early ’80s and ’90s were grim affairs; Michael probably recalls these. To date, the accountancy firms have weathered the storm. I wouldn’t criticize the boss too loudly.

As for Michael, the filthy lucre probably precipitated his downfall and trip down the billabong. It always has, it always will. As Marlow notes, KPMG partners have seen their profit share decline from £690,000 in 2018 to £572,000 in 2020. Some of this isn’t Michael’s fault; he didn’t eat a bat in Wuhan and give us COVID-19, but the other KPMG partners clearly had other thoughts.

About the author:

Tim Ames is an accountant based in the U.K.

KPMG boss falls victim to the woke brigade [The Telegraph]

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21 Comments

    1. Literally the kind of comment that shows what’s wrong with the MAGZ across the whole workplace.

      The issue KPMG now has is alienation of the other half of its workforce, a good number in more senior roles, to appease the MAGZ. Let’s say most of those are manager and above, they’re the ones who put food on the firms plate and face off to clients. Appeasing the majority (not all) of the MAGZ who in all likelihood will want a workplace “experience” somewhere else in a few years is a bad long term idea.

      The funny thing is if the MAGZ think it actually had anything to do with them and their views they’re sorely mistaken. This was a partnership coup plain and simple. They’re just a convenient smoke screen.

      Got to admit watching my fellow partners “distance” themselves from Bill faster than a republican from Trump has been very unedifying. To own the firm means nothing, we are just experience providers for Generation Z.

  1. Not sure if the author is being satirical or serious, so many prejudices appear in their language from bat eating to didgeridoo, this must surely be satire?

  2. He was absolutely right. The woke will go broke and I will be happy when it does. Nanny state has created far too many who think God or someone else will always provide. It can’t continue. Those of us with jobs are very fortunate those with lucrative ones even more so. I’m sure those ungrateful whiney so and so’s will have to face the music and when they do it will be a real wake up call and long overdue. Bill should never have had to apologise. As the boss he is in charge and if you don’t like, you should leave not him. I wish him well and every future success as I’m sure it won’t be long before another company gratefully takes advantage of his skills and knowledge. More fool KPMG.

  3. Oh and at the lower/mid end of thirties, I am (possibly?) a Gen Z partner, which will make the graduate GenZ and other Millennials cry I expect.

  4. No right time to express your thoughts as we all know the younger generations must get a soft landing. Surely we all thought the USA Republicans would stand up and be counted at the Impeachment of Donal Trump. Alas that did not happen. Josephine Murphy.

  5. he didn’t eat a bat in Wuhan and give us COVID-19

    Now that’s ignorant and offensive. If you want to brush me off as another snowflake MAGZ I would say it’s your judgement that needs to be severely questioned

    1. Yes you are being a snowflake because it’s clearly a satirical line. Most people who are educated enough to be offended by the statement are (probably) educated enough to also know that virus transmission doesn’t happen just by one person eating “a bat”

      So you’re choosing to ignore the satire to be offended.

      Besides which the world is an offensive place. You need to get used to it. Don’t want to ever be offended by anything – don’t go outside, don’t interact with anyone, don’t read anything. The rest of us will take the rough with the smooth.

  6. Is this true, that there is an accountant oversupply in the UK? My impression in the US is that accounting is a dying profession, most are set to retire in the next decade or so, and some of the “mollycoddling” is an attempt to keep up with other industries as a viable career choice for young people. I know several people who have left not for industry but for coding or other tech jobs in the last few years.

    1. No not oversupply, the role of accountant is changing mind you.

      There’s a lot more data science in it. Larger accountancies are attempting to pivot into this by offering “coding/tech” jobs as part of hybrid audit/tech grad schemes. Success of these is currently in watch this space mode.

      But that’s the way it’s going. Why sample when your magic software can ingest every transaction from clients ledger and so on.

  7. I always thought forcing Bill to step aside for such inconsequential reasons reeks of entitlement. Glad someone else agrees. These are the symptoms of a dying wealthy society. As much as employee job satisfaction is necessary, it is important for MAGZ to realize that business isn’t sunshine and rainbows.
    People talking about his $3 million like he didnt work his ass off to get there need to wake up. He certainly wasn’t living the life when he was at their stage of career growth.

  8. For an executive to believe that people are not discriminated against as a result Of conscious (or unconscious ) bias is absurd. I don’t care if he’s a Cypriot or an astronaut, an individual with that lack of human understanding should not be in charge of people.

  9. I don’t care if he’s a Cypriot or an astronaut, or anything else. One who believes that there in no such thing as unconscious bias is both naïve and and dangerous, and therefore should not be a leader of any kind. I’d love to see his research on unconscious bias. What a fool.

  10. “Oh and at the lower/mid end of thirties, I am (possibly?) a Gen Z partner, which will make the graduate GenZ and other Millennials cry I expect.”

    The Gen Zs aren’t even employed yet. My kid is a Gen Z. They are mostly Gen X offspring.

    Z=~2000-2020ish
    Millennials=1982-2000
    Gen X=1964-1982
    Boomers=1946-1964

Comments are closed.

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