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Interview - Els De Keukelaere

Interview - Els De Keukelaere

Els De Keukelaere shares her experience.


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Els De Keukelaere

We asked some of our colleagues about their career paths and why they chose to come back.

Els De Keukelaere shares her experience.

What’s your position at KPMG?

I’m an executive director in audit. On the one hand I am responsible for the audit files, so I have my own mandates as representative of KPMG. In certain cases (i.e. PIE’s) I am second in line – so I don’t sign off. On the other hand, my job is linked to business development expansion and putting KPMG on the map in East and West Flanders. Part of my time is spent approaching firms, being present at events, networking and more. Together, along with Henk Van Dorpe I’m responsible for the audit practice in our Ghent office.

When did you first work for us?

I was a recent graduate in 1994 when I started working as a junior auditor in the Antwerp office. What I liked about KPMG were the people, the mentality and the atmosphere. When I became a manager and planning coordinator, I moved to Ghent. I also had some international mandates, which was fascinating.

Why did you leave?

KPMG had started focusing more on business development, which became one of my targets. I didn’t feel like I was always getting enough coaching to really get the most out of my efforts and there was a lack of structure surrounding the project. Furthermore, I wanted to learn from new experiences after more than 10 years managing audits.

I wanted to move forward, but the timing wasn’t right. It made me reconsider what I looked for in a career. When I received an offer to become CFO at Concordia, I decided it was time to start a new chapter.

What did you do after you left?

This new job brought with it a completely different environment. I was now working in a family owned business with a pater familias running the place in a traditional way. It was charming. The company was in a due diligence phase. They had attracted me to help steer the migration from a family owned business to an international group. This meant setting up data rooms, attending share purchase negotiations, monitoring contractual agreements, implementing rolling forecasts, streamlining reporting for the group…There was a lot of interesting work and it was a worthwhile challenge.

What brought you back to KPMG?

After 3,5 years - restructuring in the group led to changes in my job. Some of the responsibilities moved to a higher level within the company, and those were the tasks I enjoyed most. Knowing I would miss these challenges, I decided to move on.

I had been looking for another CFO position when KPMG contacted me. I hadn’t really thought about going back, but I felt I should at least hear them out. It became clear that time hadn’t stood still at KPMG. There were evolutions in business development and the way they approached it. The regions worked differently too. With more collaboration between functions. I rejoined KPMG as a director in March 2017, exactly 4 years after leaving.

Do you notice a difference now, from when you left?

There are clear changes, but I’m different too. There’s an advantage to working in a different environment. As an auditor, I had to have an opinion on annual accounts, but I never needed to make operational decisions. As CFO I learned that decisions I took could make a huge impact, and I was responsible. When I now have a client who’s in the middle of a change project - I understand the difficulty that comes along with it. Change can create feelings of uncertainty in the minds of personnel. They wonder – “will we rent or buy office space”, “will we lease or buy cars?”…. Having to defend these decisions in front of the Board of Directors - preparing budgets … I understand my clients better now, because I’ve been there too. I think that’s a big added value.

Compared to a few years ago, several things have changed within KPMG. The approach to business development has improved significantly. In our region (Ghent – Kortrijk) we work together more closely and cross functionally. This is a benefit. There’s a much more active go-to-market approach. Especially compared to my early years at KPMG, the company has become more structured than it was. I’m excited to pick the opportunities for our business in the region. One of the things that hasn’t changed here is that work is intellectually challenging. That’s beyond dispute. And it’s something I need in my job. I’ve always enjoyed working with young colleagues and coaching them too. That’s why I’m also an instructor for KPMG’s internal training programs. These people already have a good level of knowledge, but are eager to learn more and do better. It’s fantastic to see them succeed and grow.

© 2020 KPMG Central Services, a Belgian Economic Interest Grouping ("ESV/GIE") and a member firm of the KPMG global organization of independent member firms affiliated with KPMG International Limited, a private English company limited by guarantee. All rights reserved. 

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