View from the Top: Nigel Slater, KPMG

Nigel Slater, KPMG’s UK Head of Management Consulting, speaks to the MCA about the firm’s role post Brexit, Intelligent Working and the firm’s commitment to Consulting Excellence.

The MCA has committed to develop the vision for UK’s economic future post Brexit called New Economy 2020 and Beyond. What is the major focus for your consulting business?

It is trying to work out what the opportunity is for our clients. Fundamentally, we know they will be dealing with a change in flow around people, capital and trade. This disruption causes people to rethink how they operate. We play a big role in helping clients think that through and make the necessary changes to trade effectively, either side of the Brexit decision process.

The clients that we’re working with are rewiring their business accordingly and we are turning it into something they can understand in terms of risk. I think a lot of people are still blind to that, but there are enough people in the consulting world to help clients think through the implications of Brexit.

You’ve been a consultant for over 25 years. How do you think the business of being a good consultant has changed in that period?

There has been plenty of change, but what has remained true is that clients will always want us to help them solve increasingly complex problems.

I was with some of our new recruits on our graduate scheme, drawing comparisons to when I joined the industry in 1989. There was the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Soviet-Afghan war, interest rates were through the ceiling, inflation rates were high and there was low growth. Whatever year you joined the industry, disruption has been the constant. I think the truism is that clients really want consulting advisors to help them solve the problems they can’t solve themselves.

What’s really changed is the way in which we can identify and solve those problems. The reason for this is technology. It has changed how business interacts, it has changed the relationship between businesses and customers and it has changed the type of talent clients need. There is no consulting without technology.

Consultants today need to be digitally enabled, entrepreneurial, commercial to the core, able to live in a constant project environment. That talent base doesn’t always exist in the market so you have to grow it.

You sponsor Intelligent Working at KPMG. How does this change the working patterns of your consultants?

Intelligent Working is essentially bundling our people and assets together to deliver in a way that is reflective of and flexible to the circumstances of the client.

Our clients don’t operate from one constant location or work 10 hour days and nor should we. It’s not the most effective way to get things done. Trust has shifted; there is no correlation between being in a location and being effective in your job. To reflect our clients, we need a much more diverse talent pool who can work flexibly.

Intelligent Working is not about the exception; it is about the norm. Sometimes we will have to work incredibly hard but there needs to be protector points in the working week where you can do something which is for you. For me, the work-life balance is about respecting individuals’ time for the things they want to do for themselves.

What does Consulting Excellence mean for KPMG?

At KPMG, excellence is always the focus of our consulting services, people and products. As a major organisation in the MCA, I think we should increasingly distinguish between things that make the whole industry better and things that we can do to differentiate between ourselves.

There are times when we should compete as an industry and times when we should collaborate to raise the whole bar. We work together on initiatives, like getting senior female talent back to the industry and Consulting Excellence, because sharing ideas make the industry better in regards to reputation, public trust and access to talent.

Clients have to make some tricky decisions about which firms they want to work with. They need to be confident that the firm has got their best interests at heart. With Consulting Excellence, they know the option they choose has got some accreditation behind it. They will have the confidence that they will be working with a firm that upholds ethical values, is committed to the highest standards of client service and that its consultants have the right capabilities to best serve their needs. It is a fabulous step forward for the industry.

Why should potential industry recruits consider a career in consulting?

Consulting offers an amazing variety. New recruits have the opportunity to solve really complex and business critical problems. They have the ability to move around different sectors, see different cultures, and work with different people. From there, you can choose the area of work that you really love and set a path. And along the way you will have the chances to learn from great people and create a network that sees you through life.