KPMG announces hundreds of admin roles to be cut

26 September 2019 3 min. read
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Big Four member KPMG has unveiled plans to shed hundreds of admin positions from its pay-roll, as it continues a UK cost-saving drive. The firm has spent 2019 participating in a number of restructuring exercises, including changes to its auditing wing, and the potential sale of KPMG’s pensions advisory practice.

KPMG saw profits grow 18% to £356 million last year, but has since been battling to defend its reputation amid scrutiny over its audit work for the collapsed outsourcer Carillion, a corruption scandal in South Africa, and a series of senior partner exits. Amid mounting criticism, KPMG has sought to take pre-emptive action to steady its ship, particularly in the UK.

In order to quell further talk of a break-up of its consulting and auditing arms, announcing plans to restructure its UK auditing business earlier in 2019. The move created a new audit executive committee and reshaped its executive leadership team. Elsewhere, the audit and advisory firm has also looked into the sale of its pension advisory wing, with Lane Clark & Peacock reportedly leading the race to purchase the practice in a take-over said to be worth £200 million.

KPMG announces hundreds of admin roles to be cut

Now, KPMG has announced that between 200 and 250 administrative support staff are expected to leave, amid a further savings drive at the Big Four firm. As reported by the Financial Times, the restructuring means some Partners will no longer have access to a personal assistant. Partners, particularly those in non-client facing roles, are subsequently being encouraged to file their own expenses as part of the changes, while secretaries who keep their jobs will see their job title changed to “executive assistant.”

A KPMG spokesperson commented, “We are not taking these steps lightly, but we believe the proposed structure will enable us to deliver the best possible experience for our clients. We are now in the process of consulting with affected staff on the plans.”

A source close to KPMG told the Financial Times the 18-month plan would also see the further centralisation of KPMG’s administrative function, hosted in the firm’s West Midlands office. The person said KPMG is set to create 24 new support roles in its Birmingham office as part of the restructuring. In the meantime, personal assistants worried about their careers are reported to have have contacted other professional services firms seeking alternative work in recent weeks.

This news could be part of a growing trend among top professional services firms. Earlier in the Summer, EY restructured its marketing unit, and while far fewer jobs were cut, it was suggested by a senior manager at EY in the press that the number of secretaries at the firm had dwindled in line with technological advances in the last decade.

The downsizing of admin workers in the Big Four could possibly therefore be seen as part of an early wave of the on-coming workforce realignment many experts predict AI will bring. In the future, professional services firms may employ fewer staff in ‘repetitive’ functions such as administration, favouring machines in those roles, while reallocating those wages toward ‘value adding’ work in other aspects of the business.