BUSINESS: A Personal Journey from Student to CEO
Recent Western Cape Business News
CEO and Senior Partner of KPMG Southern Africa, Trevor Hoole’s original decision to become a chartered accountant (CA[SA]) was motivated by his father, who recommended accounting as an honourable, secure profession. Many years later, the profession has delivered more than honour and security.
‘The profession has changed in many ways; with increased regulation and public scrutiny, independence issues, and a changing landscape of competition and client expectations,’ notes Trevor. His father would be proud of his son’s resolve in facing all these changes and the challenges they bring. Trevor accepted the top leadership post at KPMG in August 2015 and is determined to make a difference during his term of office, which stands until 2019.
‘I have been able to make significant moves and it’s my absolute promise to stakeholders to judge me on my transformational results and not on my skin colour,’ says Trevor – who significantly is lily white. ‘We have made significant strides on the transformation journey and plan to make a whole lot more. The important thing is that we don’t do it simply because it’s part of a checklist or scorecard. We do it because it’s good for our people, our clients, our business, and for the country.’
He reflects on the less than favourable initial reaction from some quarters to the announcement of his appointment. His professional standing was not the issue in question. Trevor observes, ‘I am the only white CEO leading a Big Four firm, whereas a few years ago KPMG was the only firm with a black CEO.’ But there was a strong business case for Trevor’s appointment. The firm had just bid former CEO and founding member of KPMG, Moses Kgosana a happy retirement, after he successfully led the firm for nine years.
Like his predecessor, Trevor has a wealth of experience. He has been a partner in KPMG’s specialised Financial Services Practice since the early nineties and headed up the division, among other portfolios. His in-depth knowledge of statutory and regulatory standards will serve him in good stead in this era of increased regulation.
Trevor glances at Nhlamu Dlomu, drawing her into discussion. She sits on KPMG’s executive committee and heads up people, which in the current landscape, is a complex role. ‘Nhlamu is an important part of our transformation and not only because she is a black female, but an extremely talented black female. Clearly in our profession HR is our lifeblood; who we recruit, attract and how we develop youngsters, train and keep them. Successful succession planning is critical. The work that Moses and others did over the past decade enabled me to make big bold moves in that space.’
‘Right now our biggest unit is financial services, across a multitude of financial institutions. Sipho Malaba - the head, was a natural appointment for me. We also have a black female, Makgotso Letsitsi, heading up our Advisory Division which is half our business.’
‘We recognise that we are not going to get to our transformation targets without extraordinary means of attracting and retaining talent. Thuthuka has been an absolutely wonderful part of this process of innovation. It has been a great success story, but the reality is there are still not enough numbers coming through to sustain the big five.’ The Thuthuka Bursary Scheme supports black and coloured CA(SA) students from disadvantaged backgrounds. KPMG invested more than R20-million in its own bursary schemes last year, besides their investment in Thuthuka.
Trevor began his articles at KPMG fresh out of university. “Over the last forty years of my career I have experienced incredible professional and personal growth opportunities,’ he says. Reflecting on the firm’s substantial investment in bursary schemes for trainees and KPMG’s strong focus on transformation, Trevor makes the point that few trainees actually start out with the mind-set of becoming a partner. So while being a CA(SA) is an esteemed profession, not all CAs share the same level of ambition to stay in the auditing profession. ‘We are a major training office for business, and we are proud of this role, but we need to identify as early as possible the trainees who have the potential to be partners at KPMG.’
Of his own career Trevor can pinpoint several highlights. ‘Becoming a partner at KPMG in June 1988 was a highlight,’ says Trevor. ‘Another key highlight was taking over and heading up the financial services group within the firm. Over the years some other highlights would include achievements we have had with regard to some of our larger clients and being able to help them on significant transactions and to be part of what was exciting for them. Overall, if I look back at my tenure with KPMG, being able to see how the firm has grown over this time is also a highlight for me.
‘Economic growth is linked to our potential to grow our revenues. Higher GDP levels give us more space to transform. The squeeze economically does squeeze our ability to create more opportunities and to pull more people through in the short term.’
Stand for what you believe in
Trevor has learned what works best for him as a leader. ‘There is a need to be visible, authentic and to have integrity. You have to communicate,’ he says. Trevor has the grace to acknowledge when a situation warrants closer inspection to ascertain an accurate, unbiased standpoint. In a recent media interview he reported being ‘absolutely miffed’ when he discovered that the entire African continent had been left out of a global outlook survey of chief executives by KPMG International.
The survey assesses the confidence levels of over 1 000 chief executives in the United States, Western Europe, China, India and Australia. Then Trevor took a step back and realised the significance of what was happening. He concluded that other regions were focused on their own issues, rather than not seeing emerging markets as important; that is his job.
Trevor’s areas of expertise includes risk management. That has at times meant ‘exiting certain clients where we believe the risk profile was not acceptable to the firm,’ says Trevor. ‘Sometimes how you react to a crisis helps define you, what you stand for and what you believe in.’
Defining his work day
‘Generally I spend a lot of time on clients and related risk issues, global and regional matters. Market perceptions are important as are the views of external as well as internal stakeholders. People issues!’ says Trevor. Strategy also takes up much of his time.
Innovative thinking is encouraged by the firm. ‘Our professionals are constantly encouraged to come up with innovative solutions that will address our client’s concerns. Whilst it is part of their normal role, we encourage continuous innovation and improvements and recognise their efforts through innovation recognition awards, bonus schemes, long-term retention incentives, and our performance development process,’ he says.
Recharging his batteries
‘I admit it is tricky to switch off completely but that doesn’t mean that I don’t look for balance. I have a great family with two older children, two younger children, a grandchild and one on the way. A grandchild that is!’ he adds hastily. ‘I love spending time with them but sometimes when I am with them; I am not really with them,’ acknowledges Trevor. ‘I try to get to the office at 7am and arrive home at 7pm. I then spend two hours with the kids, before doing some work.’
He believes in the value of taking holidays to avoid burn out and describes his life outside of work as ‘pretty simple and routine.’ Trevor loves sport, the bush, overseas travel and fine wine. We reckon that he deserves these rewards for the dedicated leadership he continues to invest in the CA(SA) profession. One thing is certain, in a world of increased uncertainty and economic turmoil, trainees in this business have a leader they would do well to try to emulate
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