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KPMG chairman speaks at fireside chat

Published: March 6, 2014, 3:58 am ET
Ada Liao /The Collegian
John Veihmeyer gives advice to students during his fireside chat at the Robin's School of Business on Tuesday

After his fireside chat on Tuesday, John B. Veihmeyer, chairman and CEO of KPMG LLP, said the key to picking the right firm to work at came from getting a sense of the organization’s culture.

KPMG, one of the “Big Four” audit firms, offers audit, tax, consulting and other services to many publicly traded and private companies.

“Picking which firm you want to join is like a picking a college,” Veihmeyer said. He emphasized that there were many great firms but all of them were not right for any one person.

One of the main features of the culture, or personality, at KPMG is that the firm has a team-oriented environment. Work is collaborative in approach rather than being hierarchical.

“You’ve got to love teaming with other people, and if you’re somebody who’s a lot more comfortable being the lone wolf then there are probably other places that are a better fit for you,” Veihmeyer said.

During the fireside chat, Veihmeyer shared an account in which he had to make a tough decision. The Department of Justice was investigating one of the firms partners who had acted in a way that did not align with KPMG’s beliefs, including sharing confidential information.

Veihmeyer said in situations that required a quick yet tough decision, a complete set of facts was not always available at the moment the decision needed to be made. The firm had a choice between evaluating the matter in a long, internal and confidential process or taking an alternative route, he said.

KPMG decided to take the alternative route. By that Monday morning, Veihmeyer addressed a group, and shared a list of accomplishments that needed to be completed by 4 p.m. that day. Someone spoke up saying that the firm had more time than those few hours because the information would not be public knowledge by that time. In this instance, Veihmeyer said it would, in fact, be public because KPMG was going to put out a press release on the matter.

Veihmeyer considered these actions to be one of the best moments for the firm, and the reaction from their clients was universal in appreciating the company’s response to the situation.

“The measure of an organization is not whether you have somebody do something that’s totally inconsiderate of [the company’s] values,” Veihmeyer said. “The measure of an organization is what you do when you find out about it.”

Veihmeyer’s advice to students focused on three main points: having a sensitivity to the workings of a global economy, having the ability to work affectively as a team and being invested in learning past college graduation.
“Your learning doesn’t stop the day you graduate from the University of Richmond,” he said. “You will learn more after you leave Richmond that you ever did while you were here.”

The ideal job candidate for KPMG could not be defined because the applicant portrait is constantly evolving, Veihmeyer said. The process is getting tougher for student applicants.

Veihmeyer spoke with Nancy Bagranoff, dean of the Robins School of Business, as part of the 35th annual Stanley S. Watts Memorial Lectureship in conjunction with the Robins Executive Speaker Series. The Watts lecture series brings leaders from business and government roles to the university to talk about the financial services industry.

Contact reporter Rebecca Wilson at

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  • Another exKPMGer

    Klynveld Peat Marwick Geordeler LLP doesn’t exist. The author has done a Wikipedia search on the firm and found that these are the names associated with KPMG, but the firm of Klynveld Peat Marwick Geordeler LLP does not now nor has it ever existed. It’s simply KPMG LLP.