Against the backdrop of the pandemic, the groundswell of change witnessed across industries in the time that followed was hard to miss. Many societal issues were brought to the forefront, raising several challenges that permeated the business arena, quickly ascending the leadership agenda within many organizations.
Businesses would no longer be permitted to adopt the role of passive observer or remain agnostic on topics that shape society, which was entering a new dawn where commercial survival and growth would not rely on numbers alone. Recent research taken from KPMG’s Global Customer Experience Excellence Research 20211 found that nearly two-thirds of customers are willing to pay more to a company that they see being ethical or giving back to the community. Industry would now take a front seat in the journey to drive systematic change in society and pay homage to the values which, for a few, may have been nothing more than a marketing tool or space filler on a company website – more spoken of than acted on.
Taking up post three months in to 2021 as Global Head of Financial Services to deliver a strategy refresh, I understood that KPMG needed to be more than just financially strong – of course that was a necessity, but there was an obligation to be so much more. Reflecting on the momentous events of the last 20 months as I’m sure many do, I often consider how fortunate I have been during this time and conversely how dissimilar my current position could be if a few factors were different. Despite diversity scaling the global agenda, according to UN Women2 (the global champion for gender equality), women were still disproportionality affected during the COVID-19 pandemic. Being a father to a daughter, the subject of gender parity is very close to my heart. Would my daughter’s experience with the world of work be the same as mine?
With diversity at the very core of KPMG’s values, I was determined to pay close attention to parity in the workplace – society would now not only expect but demand this and why shouldn’t it? It would be an iterative process, where the challenge would be to continue to proactively embrace change. It is widely acclaimed that diversity is the bedrock of innovation and can help lead organizations to a stronger financial position. So as part of my commitment to focus on quality across the business and further expand upon shareholder and societal expectations, I sponsored a number of ambitious initiatives, with one being the introduction of the Global Financial Services Women’s Steering Committee with a clear goal of raising the level of female leadership. The program cultivates, nurtures and mentors female leaders, empowering them through bold initiatives across insurance, asset management, banking and capital markets. Diversity would underpin all efforts and support the wider business to retain and attract talent – it would underpin all the committee does and will do.
And the data in support of diversity continues to grow. A survey undertaken by a leading US think tank3 found that 48 percent of companies in the US with more diversity at the senior management level improved their market share over the previous year.
Sharing the same values, KPMG in the US was humbled to be recognized by JPMorgan Chase as one of a select group of Gold Suppliers who have embraced their challenge to set ambitious goals by committing to increase spending with diverse-owned businesses to support the bank in reaching its billion-dollar targets. This is one of the ways KPMG firms intend to reinforce the message at an industry level and, in turn, serve their stakeholders, communities and employees more efficiently.
As I reflect and consider the current landscape, it’s imperative that we continue to have those uncomfortable conversations and continue to challenge the status quo. Society demands we do not rest on our laurels – and now is not the time for passive observation but for determined values-based action.
1 KPMG’s Global Customer Experience Excellence Research 2021- Orchestrating Experiences
2 UN WOMEN, From insight to action: Gender equality in the wake of COVID-19, 2020
3 Diversity boosts profitability, Financial Times, 2017