Director Audit Suisse Romande – Beat started his apprenticeship with KPMG in 1975 and celebrates his 45 year jubilee this year.
Director Audit Suisse Romande – Beat celebrates his 45 year jubilee this year.
Beat, you’ve been with KPMG for almost half a century! What kept you with KPMG?
The variety! Chances were low that I would have met so many different people, worked with so many interesting clients on such exciting projects in so many different industries. The mix of young and more experienced people at KPMG is excellent and very stimulating. The continuous trainings and digital transformation and technology progress keep your brain working. Many of the people at KPMG and on the client side have become great friends to me. And they are between 30 and 85 years old! I trust not many have close friends in this age range. That’s the salt of my story.
Your KPMG story started with an apprenticeship from 1975 to 1978 at Fides Treuhandgesellschaft in Zurich. In which departments did you work during your apprenticeship?
I worked in several departments such as the internal organization, the legal department, the gestion department, the Fides accounting and treasury department and finally the audit department. That’s when I launched my professional career in Audit.
What were your early days in Audit like?
In April 1978, I started as a Junior Auditor in Zurich. I worked in different audit teams at that time. Summer and, at those times, December were pretty lazy, which allowed to go swimming in the lake and to make Xmas shopping in December. In 1980, after having spent 18 months in military service, I went to clients to run the audits, without a manager, but accompanied by one or two assistants. With my boss, we also visited most of the Fides offices throughout Switzerland to perform internal audit procedures. One of these visits was in Geneva.
Is that when you decided to ask for a secondment in Western Switzerland?
I wanted to improve my French and definitely be in a water environment like Zurich. So I expressed my wish for a two-year secondment in Western Switzerland. Very quickly I was offered a choice between Lausanne and Geneva – I chose Geneva and I’ve been here now for 40 years.
What was it like to work in Audit back then?
The jobs varied and included so many different companies. Nothing has changed in this regard. But in those days, we had no computers and laptops, no mobile phones, no fax machines even – just 30-column working papers, plenty of binders and calculators with the basic functions. Audit reports were hand-signed. The first computer – the famous but also huge and heavy Macintosh – arrived about one year after the merger of KMG/Peat Marwick, which gave birth to KPMG in mid-1987.
In the meantime, you successfully completed the certified accountant exam and achieved the highest score possible for your practical diploma thesis in 1990!
Yes, I was relieved! I had missed the exam in 1988, but made up for that two years later. I think I am a bit of a born auditor, curious and need to understand what’s going on and how this works, with a very good sense of figures, relations, analytical feeling and a nose when something smells wrong. I still have an excellent memory when it comes to figures.
Please tell us about your main priorities in your job today.
In my current role as Director of Audit and with my long experience in many different industries, one of my major tasks is to coach and transfer my experience and knowledge to Seniors and newly promoted Assistant Managers on smaller engagements pushing them to think more “out-of-the box” than just routine thinking and ticking in the audit tool. Otherwise I have audit engagements in the retail, construction, transportation and the hotel industry.
Based on your considerable experience, what advice would you like to give to anyone starting a career with KPMG?
As I said before, you definitively need to like figures, depending on the area you work in, and you also need to like to work in a team or in teams since you are, at least here in Western Switzerland, not allocated to a defined team. Every week you may work with someone else. So you also need to be flexible and open minded. You should also be curious and have good analytical skills. And in order to think “out-of-the-box”, you really need the courage to question the status quo.