Finalist: Technology Consultant of the Year – Lee Crooks

Lee Crooks is a senior software testing consultant at KPMG, delivering testing projects for a wide range of clients as well as internally within the firm. You could describe him as a ‘career tester’ as he now has over 20 years’ experience in the field.

As Lee describes it, testing is critical because, without it, no software could actually go live. An analogy Lee uses is with aviation – testers build the runway so that planes can come in to land!

Having worked in a number of testing capacities across the private sector and major government departments, Lee joined KPMG six years ago since when he has led some major testing projects for multi-national clients, including the turnaround of a multi-million pound testing project for an international bank. He is currently his team’s sector lead for the Infrastructure, Government and Healthcare (IGH) sector. Lee manages the pipeline and oversees the delivery of testing on projects, including governance, assurance and management oversight. At any one time, he is usually overseeing six or seven significant external projects involving around 30 testers.

Lee has also run a number of important internal testing projects at KPMG and is leading a review of all of the firm’s internal testing capabilities and maturity across its different functions, in order to create a testing Centre of Excellence. This includes writing a testing policy and standards which will drive best practice across the firm.

Lee is someone who is truly putting testing on the map!

Finalist: Lifetime Achievement Award – Michael Robinson

As the driving force behind KPMG’s Financial Services Consultancy practice, and previous head of the overall consulting practice, Michael is a mover and shaker in the fullest sense of the words.

After a distinguished career with PWC and IBM consulting, Michael was engaged in 2008 to rebuild KPMG’s Consultancy business, sold during a period of industry disruption. He knew success would depend on tech-driven innovation and business reinvention and created a technology-centric practice, based on state-of the art capabilities. The FS consulting practice is now worth £350 million and the overall consulting practice, £700 million.

Michael is a practice-builder and hands-on engagement leader totally driven by client outcomes. He has steered some of KPMG’s biggest and most complex projects globally, with his engagement teams twice scooping MCA awards, including best technology consultant and best client engagement of the year for NatWest’s remediation of PPI.

Michael also set up KPMG’s pioneering managed services business, combining deep subject matter expertise with technology and world class operations, now circa. 25% of the firm’s business.

His foresight in building KPMG’s Client Due Diligence platform is helping banks reduce their financial crime risk, while also, critically, tackling the illicit activities that impact individuals, communities, and economies everywhere.  Built around Cloud and big data processing, the platform showcases a new commercial structure, transferring risk from the bank to KPMG and shifting costs from fixed to variable.

Someone who specialises in game-changing solutions, Michael remains the go-to expert for banking’s biggest hitters. 

Finalist: Change and Transformation in the Private Sector with Ricoh Europe

Ricoh’s journey from market leader in printing and documentation to major new arrival in the digital services sector is a prime example of successful reinvention. The company knew a change of direction was imperative, and the explosion in demand for digital created by the outbreak of COVID-19 emphatically confirmed it was making the right strategic choices.

Ricoh underwent a major digital transformation to ready itself for its new sector. That included a timely acquisition programme, comprising 17 specialist digital businesses of different sizes and locations across Europe, to introduce the complementary skills and technologies the business required.

The priority then was to ensure that the right internal systems were in place to quickly assimilate the new businesses into the existing organisation. Ricoh first introduced a single Cloud tech platform provided by Oracle, and then engaged KPMG to support its strategic business vision and growth strategy. The firm worked in close collaboration with the client to standardise Ricoh’s operating model and harmonise the processes, risk and controls, people and ways of working at the heart of the organisation.

The first step was to help Ricoh create a clear overarching vision, for which it achieved full support from the company’s leadership across Europe, including the newly acquired businesses. That alignment was secured through an extensive series of interviews, workshops and leadership visions sessions – all of them virtual - to explain Ricoh’s strategic goals and the shared future ahead.

KPMG then supported Ricoh in building a new operating model to harmonise the range of different systems it had acquired into a seamless whole. The goal was to ensure that all its processes, risks and controls would be industry-leading across finance, sales and supply and procurement operations - driving smarter and more agile ways of working, a clear view of common activities, and best-practice delivery methods, efficiencies and optimisation.

This process was underpinned by KPMG’s Powered Enterprise solution, a functional transformation solution that provides clients with a pre-configured model answer for adopting leading practice across the business.  The solution focuses on the organisational design, technology and operating models used within key business functions and redesigns them as required. It taps into advanced processes, implementation methods and tools, leading to improved performance, enhanced agility and better value for businesses. It can also accommodate specific local circumstances and evolving customer needs.

The first deployment of the new operating model went live in Italy at the end of 2021, and it will be rolled out across Europe over the next three years. Within a very short space of time, Ricoh has moved from a product-based market leader to a thriving digital services company, the sector of tomorrow. It now has a significant operation across Europe, housing some of the best talent and expertise in the industry and state-of-art digital solutions for ever more sophisticated customers. 

Finalist: Performance Improvement in the Private Sector with Tesco

Tesco, the UK’s largest retailer, embarked on a major transformation programme to implement a new cloud-based HR and payment system for its workforce. This has been a programme on a massive scale: one of the largest cloud-based HR and payroll implementations in the world. The numbers involved are striking: 260,000 colleagues are now live across all UK retail stores, office and Tesco Bank, with more to follow.

KPMG has supported Tesco on its People Programme since late 2017. Then, the programme was experiencing a troubled start and Tesco asked KPMG to review the programme and make recommendations. We proposed redesigned leadership and governance structures and were delighted that Tesco asked us to join with the Leadership team to steer the  restructured programme. We have since brought leadership, experience and expertise to work alongside and support them and, where required, advise, coach and develop them. It has been about putting key KPMG expertise into the right areas to support the Tesco teams – a truly collaborative effort.

Since then, the programme has been proceeding in highly successful stages, culminating in a series of rollouts in 2021 – despite Covid – to the entire UK retail store population. Over 260,000 colleagues are now benefitting from the system, with pay accuracy running at over 99.8%. There have been significant efficiency and cost savings for the business and now Tesco can focus on bringing the system to remaining parts of its business – living up to its core philosophy that it’s people who make their business.

The programme will evolve further with the introduction of new applications, which will create a simple ‘one stop shop’ for every digital touchpoint connected to the colleague experience, including Work, Skills, Comms, Reward and Benefits. It will enable colleagues to self-serve the management of their personal information and work schedules, access any training they require on demand, engage in two-way communication and more. It will support an engaged and agile workforce, with improved colleague digital confidence and support managers to ensure they have the right hours in the right place, with teams that have the breadth and depth of skills they need to deliver for their customers.

Tesco has an optimised system that brings colleagues a better working experience and self-serve ability, and that enables managers to manage their teams better. It also provides a foundation for further transformational change to meet Tesco’s vision of the future. KPMG looks forward to continuing to work alongside Tesco as this programme continues.

Finalist: Performance Improvement in the Public Sector with Birmingham City Council

Birmingham City Council is the largest local authority in Europe and twice the size of the next largest authority in the UK. In recent years it has faced a number of significant challenges, such as when the Kerslake Review was published in 2015, which resulted in the Government putting in an Improvement Panel to oversee planned improvements. Separately, a review of the council’s financial management by CIPFA in 2019 gave the council a one-star rating, noting “a damaging lack of accountability for fiscal performance.”

When a new Assistant Director of Service Finance was appointed in 2020, she was determined to turn this around – and enlisted KPMG to help drive a finance transformation. We are proud to have been their delivery partner from day one. This includes defining an ambitious vision for the Finance function, supporting technical design considerations for a new ERP system, transforming key finance processes, changing cultures and ways of working within siloed teams, creating a new development framework for staff progression, and seconding individuals to deliver key elements of the accounting function.

Our work has gone much wider than finance processes – helping change the culture within the team and boosting Finance’s standing as a business partner to other key functions in the council.

Many of the tools and templates that we have worked with Finance to introduce have also been adopted by other functions within the Council Management Directorate. We have helped establish Finance as an exemplar that other teams in the council can learn and benefit from.

The results have been rapid and impressive. CIPFA’s second review saw the council receive a three-star rating just eighteen months later – a year ahead of target – putting it in the top quartile of authorities. CIPFA noted that “Birmingham has real potential to achieve four-star status”.

Finance has also begun to shine externally – such as being shortlisted for two awards (Covid-19 Leader of the Year, and Achievement in Financial Reporting and Accountability) in the 2021 Public Finance awards.

The strength of the progress being made has also led Sara Pitt, Director of Finance, to embark on a mini-roadshow with other councils around the Midlands – sharing the learnings, insights and improvements the team has been deriving. There is a visible difference in the Finance team itself too, which took on eight apprentices last year – the biggest intake in recent memory and a sign of its new confidence for the future.

At KPMG, we are proud to have been supporting Birmingham City Council in one of the biggest financial transformation projects ever seen in the public sector. The work is driving significant operational improvements and helping propel Finance towards its vision of becoming truly ‘best in class’. We continue to be a trusted partner in improvements across the resources function.

Finalist: Sustainability Award with UCL

University College London (UCL) is one of the world’s top 10 universities, globally renowned for its academic and research excellence. In 2021, the university was looking to raise debt finance to boost its  net £1.4 billion 10-year estates capital investment programme.

Keen to capitalise on favourable debt market conditions, with interest rates at a historic low and significant debt investor appetite for attractive new investment propositions, UCL engaged KPMG’s Debt Advisory team to offer independent advice on potential financing options.

KPMG assessed several possibilities, out of which UCL chose to target a debut long-term public bond issue. KPMG advised on the merits of a sustainability bond, given the potential for enhanced demand among an increasingly ESG-focused investor base, as well as the opportunity to showcase UCL’s own commitment to sustainability. The proceeds of this bond would therefore be invested in a range of eligible green and social projects.

KPMG acted as lead financial advisor to UCL on the bond issuance process, working closely with senior stakeholders at the university and external partners, including lawyers and arranging banks. The key was to ensure that the client felt comfortable at every stage of the process, forming their own considered decisions, supported by rich independent insights, experience and supporting analysis from KPMG’s experts.

KPMG’s role included steering UCL towards achieving an outstanding debut external credit rating (in line with the UK Government’s credit rating), awarded by Moody’s. Drawing on KPMG’s leading credit rating advisory proposition, this result reflected the university’s strategic and financial strength and resilience, particularly against the backdrop of COVID and Brexit.

KPMG also advised on selecting arranging banks and legal advisers, and project managed UCL’s creation of a sustainability finance framework, which sets out UCL’s plans to support a wide array of green and social projects with the proceeds from the bond. This was a collaborative process working with UCL leadership and several external experts, including Barclays as the bond’s Sustainability Coordinator.

The projects chosen aligned with UCL’s Sustainability Strategy, the UN Sustainable Development Goals and recognised sustainable financing standards such as the ICMA green bond principles.  They included green estates development, based on stretching targets on energy efficiency and sustainable construction methods, as well as funding for charitable research and inclusive access to education programmes.

The final stage of the process was a virtual investor roadshow, reaching large numbers of market participants to explain the bond’s merits and highlight UCL’s ESG commitments.

The hard work by all involved paid off. When the university’s debut £300m 40-year sustainability bond was launched on 28th May 2021, it was the first of its kind for a UK higher education institution. It was priced highly competitively at 1.625%, with the lowest interest cost ever achieved for the sector in the UK, and the issue nearly three times oversubscribed. UCL had amply demonstrated its sustainability credentials to a broad new stakeholder base and given its employees and internal stakeholders concrete goals to be proud of.