KPMG elevates two female partners amid probe into Bill Michael's remarks

·1-min read
The KPMG logo is seen at their offices at Canary Wharf financial district in London

(Reuters) - KPMG has elevated two female partners on a temporary basis and vowed to overhaul an unpopular performance management system in an attempt to calm relations with staff amid the ongoing probe into remarks made by Bill Michael, who stepped aside as KPMG UK chairman on Wednesday.

"The firm has asked Bina Mehta, as Senior Elected Board Member, to step in as Acting Chair of the Board and Mary O’Connor, Head of Clients and Markets to assume Bill's day-to-day Executive responsibilities as Acting Senior Partner during the period of the investigation," Zoe Sheppard, a KPMG representative, said in an emailed statement.

The Financial Times reported earlier that the accounting firm told its 600 partners about the appointments at an online meeting on Thursday.

It is the first time in KPMG's 150-year history that either role has been held by a woman.

KPMG said on Wednesday that Michael was stepping aside while the firm probes comments he made this week, after a report that he dismissed staff concerns about job stress during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Financial Times on Tuesday reported that Michael apologized after telling consultants in an online meeting to "stop moaning" about the impact of the pandemic on their work lives.

He also said staff should stop "playing the victim card," and two insiders reported he told staff that he was meeting clients for coffee despite lockdown rules, the newspaper said.

His remarks triggered angry responses from some staff on an app used to post comments anonymously during the meeting, the FT reported.

(Reporting by Kanishka Singh and Nandakumar D in Bengaluru; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Daniel Wallis)