• Karen Nickel Anhalt, Author |

After a profoundly challenging year and a half dealing with the pandemic, optimism is rising with the rate of global vaccinations and it feels like it may nearly be the time to breathe a collective sigh of relief. Although so many of us are anxious for things to get back to normal, we know the path forward isn’t back to normal -- that would require a U-turn and time doesn’t work that way. Instead we’re wading into a new normal, and let’s be honest, a New Reality. This is uncharted territory that requires new technology, renewed humanity and razor-sharp management skills to move forward.

From emergency rent subsidies in Canada to the furlough scheme in the UK and tax relief for commercial landlords in Belgium to support for employers in Mexico who rehire staff, political leaders have taken individual approaches to the crisis. But there has largely been agreement that direct action was required to prevent a potential economic global catastrophe taking hold. Take a look at  KPMG’s Covid Tax pages for a better sense of the scale of the political response. Managing the after-effects of the pandemic will continue to require thoughtful action by all.

Business leaders have also had to respond rapidly in the face of complete disruption, forced to rethink how to even operate in an environment where all the rules and parameters had changed. They had to accelerate technology investments and drive digitization strategies as social distancing requirements and lockdowns forced millions of workers to transform their kitchens and spare rooms into workspaces. They had to rethink their business model and how they could support their overall value chain to deliver to their customers and keep their employees safe.

This rapid transformational change is more than a temporary solution to challenging times. It is part of a journey and there’s no turning around. KPMG’s latest CEO Outlook Pulse Survey revealed almost a quarter of leaders believe their business have changed forever and 61% are now planning to invest more on digital collaboration and communication tools. Interestingly, more than half (57%) also indicated that they are shifting their customer engagement approach away from face-to-face towards virtual tools such as chatbots, web and social media. 

The pandemic also showed us just how fragile our world is and how urgent it is that we act now. We saw a spotlight on the existential challenges of climate change, biodiversity loss and societal fairness so that people could no longer look away. In response, we’ve created our own IMPACT plan and use it to help assist clients in fulfilling their purpose and helping to deliver on the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Against this backdrop we hosted our first ever virtual Global Analyst Day event this week– to show how KPMG firms can deliver technology for this New Reality and helping clients use technology for good. Every other year, KPMG brings together analysts for the event, to show them some of KPMG firms most innovative and transformative recent work, in dialogue with our clients. The event has two goals: to help the analyst community understand our vision and capabilities as leading professional services providers, and to learn from their insights and data.

The event featured amazing clients showing how they are opening up for business again with insights-driven technology solutions. We also offered deep dives on ESG and blockchain, AI and data & analytics, Innovation, and Cyber and risk solutions. Analysts also heard about what KPMG professionals have learned from the pandemic, through two innovative, collaborative solutions in healthcare and education, two industries particularly challenged by the pandemic.

A great example of how KPMG firms are supporting this is their work with educators helping them respond to policy and service delivery challenges, from early learning through to higher education and lifelong learning – with technology to deliver the highest of standards and exceptional student experiences.

At KPMG our focus remains on the support firms can offer to clients, our employees and our communities to embrace ‘technology for a better world’. Growth is no longer a standalone theme, with the New Reality a good reason to hit the refresh button. As businesses look to recover and rebuild, how they do it is becoming increasingly important with Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) considerations at the top of leadership agendas.

For KPMG, our priorities remain our people, our clients and our communities. Our people are the key to our success and it’s this approach that will help to drive real change. The last year has been challenging and, at times, exhausting, but we’ve shown that by using the tools of technology and innovation ethically and responsibly, we can deliver more sustainable outcomes, creating meaningful growth.

It has been exciting to share our stories and insights with analysts this week and showcasing the innovative work KPMG firms are doing to support clients, economies and wider society. And I’m looking to the valuable feedback we’ll get from them on how we can continue to foster change.

Read more about some of the recognition we’ve received in recent times from leading analyst firms across the world.

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