KPMG appoints Mary O'Connor as new UK risk leader

30 July 2018 Authored by Consultancy.uk

Following mounting pressure from auditing watchdogs relating to a string of accounting scandals, Big Four firm KPMG has appointed a new Chief Risk Officer in its UK arm. Mary O’Connor arrives from Willis Towers Watson, and will become part of KPMG’s Executive Committee and the UK Board.

KPMG has created a new position to oversee both its risk and legal operations in the UK, while the Big Four firm grapples with a string of damaging accounting scandals and the resulting scrutiny from regulators that it has brought. A spokesperson for KPMG told the UK press that the creation of the new role was unrelated to the scandals, and part of a “long-term investment plan,” although it comes as the firm works to shrug off a period of intense criticism. This included new measures in June, when the Financial Reporting Council took unprecedented steps to monitor the auditing work of KPMG, citing a decline in the quality of audits by the Big Four as a whole but singling out KPMG in particular for closer scrutiny, with a quarter of all audits by the firm to be examined by the watchdog for the current financial year.

Until now, roles monitoring KPMG’s risk and legal functions have been kept separate. However, while the firm attempts to steady its ship following a rocky period, the professional services firm said it had appointed Mary O’Connor as its Chief Risk Officer for its UK arm, in a newly combined role which will “oversee the firm’s risk management framework, including quality and risk management and the legal function.” O’Connor is an internationally recognised technical risk and regulatory expert, with a CV boasting extensive experience in advising C-suite clients in relation to all aspects of risk.

KPMG appoints Mary O'Connor as new UK risk leader

When O’Connor assumes her new office in August, she will arrive from consulting firm Willis Towers Watson, where she has held the role of Global Head of Financial Institutions Industry – acting as Chief Executive Officer with responsibility for Willis Towers Watson’s world-wide practice in relation to all financial services clients – following a six year spell with the company. Prior to this, she served as a senior regulator in both the US and the UK, including four years with the Financial Services Authority, where she latterly held the position of Head of Approved Persons. David Matthews, the current Head of Quality and Risk at KPMG UK, will stay on in the role to hand over to O’Connor, before moving to a strategic projects role, according to a KPMG release. 

Commenting on the change, Bill Michael, KPMG UK’s Chairman, said the group was investing in its “risk management processes and procedures”, adding that “the risks we are facing are evolving” and “societal expectations of large businesses are also shifting”.

Michael added, “Mary is a high calibre leader in her field and I am delighted to welcome her to KPMG. Like any professional services firm we are operating in a period of significant change, and the risks we are facing are evolving – from complex regulatory and geopolitical change to providing new technology based services for our clients. Societal expectations of large businesses are also shifting, particularly for firms which have a public interest responsibility. It’s therefore essential that we continually invest in our risk management processes and procedures and seek fresh insights as to how risks are anticipated and managed.”

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