Where this current reflection starts is with an interview with myself that was published in November 2013. That particular interview was centred on the Thuthuka Bursary Fund (a major catalyst, successfully driven by the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants, for transformative change in the Accounting and Auditing Profession). In conducting that interview, I gave some specific examples on what we are doing with regard to Transformation at KPMG. While it seems that the reporting of that interview led to some unfortunate misinterpretations, the good news is that I believe there is virtually no position Mr Tshwete takes which is in substance any different to our own view. It seems that the real questions are more around the interpretation of my comments – and not what we are actually all trying to achieve.
As an overarching principle, let me start by emphasising that Transformation is a journey and not an event. However, as for any journey, it is extremely helpful to aim for, recognise and celebrate key milestones along the way. With these check-points of progress, we are able to inspire confidence to all of our stakeholders that we are headed in the right direction as well as to empower actual positive change.
To unpack this, let me focus on a few of the more significant areas specifically raised by the commentator:
- Does there have to be a trade-off between Transformation and capability? This question must be asked as, disturbingly, it still remains a point of contention in our country. At KPMG, we have never been in a position where the capability of our people is a question – whether you are black or white, if you are given a position of authority, there is absolutely no question that you are supremely capable of fulfilling that role. Our entire business model depends on this.
- It is fact that, currently, about 75% of our partners are white. This is not – and cannot be – the end goal. Our equity ownership is already looking better (at over 30%) and 56% of our Policy Board (our highest decision making body) is black, but we undoubtedly still have a long way to go. Transformation is one of the key strategic focus areas for our business.
- We agree wholeheartedly that Transformation cannot be about a singular position (such as the CEO) but is better served by making the company more representative. This is why the singular key priority in our Transformation Strategy is Employment Equity – where we will continue to focus until our business reflects the country’s demographics. Again, we’re making good progress: our Employment Equity score continues to increase. 53% of our 2014 intake is black, and our overall staff compliment is now 45% black.
- In terms of our Partner admission policy, the essence is that in any year at least 50% of new admissions must be black and, in so doing, we’ll accelerate our black equity ownership. Looking more widely, KPMG also conveys equity benefits to the black youth of our firm – effectively providing key ownership benefits to a broader base of our people.
- The commentator talks about the moral responsibility to transform. Yes, we agree! We refer to Transformation as a moral, social and economic imperative for our people, our firm and the country. Unquestionably, Transformation is simply the right thing to do.
- Regarding KPMG’s 2014 National Budget event, Tim Harris was indeed our keynote speaker. Given the success of the government’s achievements in our Finance and Revenue authorities, everybody would love the Minister of Finance himself to be their speaker, who we approached but he wasn't available, along with some others from Government including from National Treasury and SARS. Mr Harris is well qualified to talk directly on key taxation issues which was the focus of our event - and Mr Harris has previously been requested by the Minister to talk on his behalf on these topics.
Transformation will succeed through collective teamwork, and not individual effort nor individual brilliance. It is through Public-Private-Partnerships that we can achieve so much more together, and not through working on our own. KPMG fully supports the B-BBEE policies of the Ministry of Public Enterprises and what, through the Stated Owned Enterprises, is being done to advance Transformation. We enthusiastically embrace the whole Supplier Development Initiative and are firmly on track to meet Transnet’s requirements in this regard. These are certainly exciting times of real change.
In closing, I thank the commentator for posing his questions to me and thereby creating the opportunity to show that his and the country’s goals are indeed not very different to our own.