November 27, 2021

Qualified Woman Obviously Pissed She Was Passed Over for KPMG U.K. CEO Job Eventually Given to Guy (UPDATE)

UPDATE: Mary O’Connor quit.

According to the Financial Times, she said:

“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. However, I have decided that my corporate experience and approach are now best suited to a leadership role outside of the firm.”

Partners at KPMG U.K. were told on April 28 that O’Connor was leaving the firm, sources told FT, and KPMG later confirmed O’Connor’s departure. It was reported that KPMG said O’Connor, the firm’s head of clients and markets, was considering her options for future roles at KPMG after Jon Holt was nominated as CEO last month, a position she had held on an interim basis after Bill Michael resigned in February. Although temporary, O’Connor became the first woman in the U.K. to lead a Big 4 firm as CEO.

But let’s face it: After the KPMG board paraded Holt around as the only candidate for the job, O’Connor wasn’t going to stick around.

And she didn’t.

KPMG’s Mary O’Connor quits after being passed over for top UK job [Financial Times]

[Originally posted on April 23.]

Mary O’Connor

I guess technically you could say that Mary O’Connor was the first-ever woman CEO at KPMG U.K., which would then make her the first-ever woman CEO of a Big 4 firm in the U.K.—albeit on an interim basis, but still a huge accomplishment as the firm’s leadership must have felt she was qualified to fill that role until a successor to Bill Michael was named.

Too bad though that the firm’s leadership didn’t think she was qualified enough to sit in that seat full time, and now O’Connor, KPMG’s head of clients and markets, wants to GTFO.

Sky News reported yesterday:

The first woman to head KPMG, one of Britain’s big four accountants, is in advanced negotiations to leave the firm after being unexpectedly passed over for the top job.

Sky News has learnt that Mary O’Connor, who ran KPMG for two months after the sudden departure of Bill Michael earlier this year, is close to agreeing the details of her exit.

[Insiders] said it remained possible that Jon Holt, KPMG UK’s new chief executive, could persuade her to stay in another role but conceded that the prospects of him doing so appeared to be remote.

Why should she want to stay? O’Connor probably did a fine enough job as interim CEO to deserve being strongly considered for the full-time gig. But no, KPMG wanted to take the easy way out, the Financial Times reported on April 12:

[Holt] was the only person put forward by the board for consideration by KPMG UK’s 582 partners after interviewing candidates and taking “soundings” from within the Big Four accountancy firm.

The decision to put forward only one candidate avoided a competitive run-off. Holt needed the approval of a majority of partners to confirm his appointment.

Think of how progressive KPMG would have been having not one but two women—O’Connor as CEO and Bina Mehta as KPMG U.K. chair—in the top two leadership roles at the firm. But maybe Mehta torpedoed the whole thing and didn’t want O’Connor as CEO? Who knows! But it looks like as early as late March that Holt was Mehta’s preferred candidate:

Bina Mehta, KPMG UK chair, said: “Jon was the outstanding candidate and met all the criteria we laid down at the start of our nomination process. We took on the views of our partners as well as using external expertise as part of the process. Jon knows our firm inside out and is a first-class leader.”

This is no knock on Holt, he definitely has been a loyal KPMGer through the years and has the chops to lead the firm. It just seems O’Connor got a raw deal.

KPMG’s first female chief Mary O’Connor in talks about leaving big four accountant [Sky News]
Jon Holt to become KPMG’s UK chief with immediate effect [Financial Times]

Related article:

Another Big 4 Firm Sticks It to Women

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