Saturday, November 3, 2007

KPMG Victoria

Sector: Accounting
Name of Interviewee:

Derrold V. Norgaard, CFP, CA
Office Managing Partner


KPMG LLP is the Canadian member firm of KPMG, a global network of professional firms providing Audit, Tax, and Advisory services.

Why is working at KPMG different from other accounting firms? KPMG is the largest accounting firm in BC and on Vancouver Island. Unlike smaller firms, KPMG has the ability to invest in many different areas of accounting and provide a variety and breadth of work for its employees. It is also able to set the standards for pay and benefits offered to its employees here on the Island. Because of its size, the structure has more bureaucratic processes (there is a KPMG way of doing things), so other, smaller companies may be able to handle issues with more flexibility. However, in the past the processes and training that this large company can provide have provided a start for many current large and small company accountants.

Derrold’s Career Path

Meet Derrold Norgaard, Office Managing Partner of the Victoria KPMG office. Derrold began his accounting career with a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Simon Fraser University. Although not a “straight A” student in high school or University, Derrold landed co-op positions in small accounting firms in Abbostsford and his hometown of Chilliwak. After graduation, his work experience from the accounting co-ops helped him to find a position at the UK based firm of Peate Marwick Mitchell, one of the “Big 8” accounting firms at the time. Starting out in audit practice, taking his UFE (Uniform Final Exam), and moving into tax accounting, Derrold used his experience at Peate Marwick Mitchell to gain experience and travel around the world. The Peate Marwick Mitchell soon merged with another accounting firm, Thorne Ernst Winney, and eventually became KPMG.

Starting as a staff accountant, Derrold was promoted from senior accountant, to manager, to senior manager, and finally to full partner 10 years later. Currently, as the managing partner, he is involved primarily in tax practice (his area of specialty), but also leads the enterprise practice division of the company.

According to Darrold, there are several prior experiences in his life that most benefited his career:

1. Academic Studies: His experience in highschool and University developed his ability to learn and his love of learning. As an accountant, he is involved in an “industry of continuous learning,” where things are changing by the minute, and where you are expected to acquire that knowledge you need for the job. This ability, he says, is one that will get you the farthest as an accountant.

2. Co-op Terms: Derrold believes that it is thanks to his co-op positions at small accounting firms that he, a small town Chilliwak guy, was noticed and hired by one of the “Big 8” firms in the world.

3. Audit Experience at a Large Firm: Working at a large firm allowed Derrold to experience a breadth of industries, working on many different projects in different areas of accounting. Because he did not have to specialize at the beginning (as you might with a smaller firm with a smaller scope), Derrold avoided pigeonholing his career and gained knowledge on a broad range of accounting areas.

4. International Travel: Derold taught in Asia, traveled to the Middle East and Europe, and saw firsthand the reach and diversity of international accounting.

A ‘Typical Day’ for Derrold

On the phone (¼ of his time): Handling client questions on accounting and tax matters.

Seeking out new work (¼ of his time): Finding new clients, or new tax accounting services for current clients.

Managing staff (¼ of his time): Finding and training employees, and keeping the current employees happy.

Actually doing accounting work (¼ of his time).

Experiences at KPMG

In Derrold’s opinion, the best experiences at KPMG are meeting the many different people (both internally as co-workers, and externally as clients) that you are exposed to in your job. The articling period while working towards a CA, or “boot-camp” as he calls it, is a stressful time but also is a bonding experience for the people experiencing the work load together. Along with the stress of passing the exam there is the formation of friendships and teams amongst you and your co-workers.

Throughout your entire career as an accountant, you will meet some of the most influential entrepreneurs and business people, be involved in teaching, and have the opportunities to travel around the world. These are the best experiences that KPMG has to offer.

The somewhat less pleasant experiences you will have as an accountant at KPMG include the competitive pressures, hard workload, long hours, and meeting client demands. As a business that sells ‘hours,’ accounting is very demanding on your time. At first, this pressure may be reduced by the firm’s help with scheduling and time management. As time goes on and you are expected to handle this yourself, this aspect of the job can become more and more stressful.

Company Structure

KPMG’s company structure is hierarchical, as is the case with many large firms. However, with a growing number of partners (from 500-650 in a given year) and senior managers (~1000) and a lessened need for ‘grunt workers’ due to technological effecincies, Derrold described the top of the pyramid as expanding to form a more “rectangular” shape for the company.

However, KPMG is not just for accountants. If you are aspiring towards a career in Marketing, Human Resources, or even Engineering, KPMG has a position for you too. See the career page on their website for more details ( The general structure of KPMG is as follows:

Company Values

We’ve mentioned that the accounting industry is constantly changing, and the ability to learn is crucial for success within it. One thing that KPMG is looking for in a potential candidate, for this reason, is the ability and interest in continuous learning. As a Chartered Accountant, and especially as a KPMG employee, you will be required to spend a certain number of hours a year on professional development. For this reason, they offer a surprising number of educational opportunities:

  • Mentoring and Coaching
  • Weekly training sessions (some mandatory)
  • Internal Courses (also offered to external professionals)
  • External Courses
  • Web-based courses
  • Programs to reimburse employees for advancement of education

Another competency that KPMG looks for in its recruits is empathy. Accounting is also an “industry of problem solving,” and an accountant must care about the client’s problem enough to be able to find creative solutions. Thirdly, honesty and integrity are a must have for potential candidates. You need to be able to speak honestly, and cannot be afraid of the difficult conversations that come up. This may sound all too familiar, but being transparent and honest is crucial for an accounting firm to avoid lawsuits and scandal (think Enron).

Starting out at KPMG

Now that you know which competencies to stress on your resume and have landed an interview with KPMG, expect to answer behavioral questions. The interviewers at KPMG are all accountants with work experience at KPMG, and as such know what type of qualifications, skills, and more importantly people to look for.

Newly hired employees begin with job assignments that last from 1 to 3 weeks each. As a part of a team, they will be tasked with a certain element of the job (ie. checking that all of the liabilities on the balance sheet are correct), and may spend blocks of time away from the KPMG office at the client’s place of business. (Don’t worry; you will have help from your team, generally headed by a senior accountant and manager, in determining the correct processes.)

Hidden Benefits

Aside from a great pay structure, there are many benefits to a career with KPMG:

  • Flexible hours for a work-life balance (and flex days, as mentioned in our Ministry of Finance entry)
  • Personal care days aka “mental health days” (7 days per year)
  • Medical and Dental
  • Community days (1 day per year dedicated to a charitable cause)
  • Sabbaticals
  • Concierge Program (they pick up your dry cleaning!!!)
  • Fitness program (reimbursement of ~$1000 per year for fitness memberships or equipment)
  • Mentors and performance counselors
  • Encore Program (gifts of $20 to $5000 given from employees to their co-workers for doing a good job)
  • Social committee events

Travel & Other

There are many opportunities to travel at KPMG. Employees have the option of utilizing the “World Tour Program,” where they are sent all over the world on a short term, project basis. This allows them to travel the world, one project at a time. If you really want international experience, you can sign up for the “Global Mobility Program.” This is a longer term program, where you can spend up to a few years working abroad (but you do have to come back eventually!). Combined with travel for everyday business (Derrold had just returned from Toronto days before our interview), these programs give you a lot of opportunities to see the world.

Advice to Graduating Students

Be empathetic. Accounting firms know that you have the academic ability to be an accountant (you’ve made it this far in the process!) But it is very important that you demonstrate empathy for their clients, and that you have the drive to meet their needs and provide creative solutions.


UVIC said...

Good work, you all.
If you could post the audio version of the interview, the would be great. Hope it would not be too much trouble. Just a thought;).

Jen Cheeseman said...

your blog is awsome! It is really helpful, especially for us wanting to work for KPMG! good job ladies!

Hakan said...

Useful blog for a 4th year student like me. Can u also create an other version of this blog for KPMG in Turkey ? :p