KPMG’s Bill Michael: from hosting the Queen to abrupt resignation

Less than two months ago, Bill Michael welcomed the Queen on a virtual visit to KPMG’s new innovation hub during the accounting firm’s 150th anniversary celebrations. One imagines his comments during the video call with the monarch were less blunt than those he made to staff during Monday’s virtual town hall meeting, which have now prompted his resignation.

The 52-year-old Australian with a straight-talking manner had led the big-four firm since 2017, having worked his way to the top after time as its global head of banking and capital markets.

The son of Greek and Cypriot immigrants, Michael grew up in a working-class Melbourne suburb, and his election to the role of chair by the firm’s partners seemed to signal a desire for change at KPMG. He was reportedly called the “Donald Trump candidate”.

In the job, Michael, who is married with three children, was known for his direct, even abrasive, style. Some insiders at the firm seemed unsurprised by his forthright remarks at this week’s town hall meeting. One anonymous staff member said it was “not the first, second, or third time that Bill Michael has made such insensitive, throwaway comments”.

The leaking of the video of the Zoom meeting, during which Michael told colleagues to “stop moaning” about the Covid-19 pandemic and the effect of lockdown on their lives, and described unconscious bias as “utter crap”, points to unhappiness and anger inside the firm.

Michael took a 14% pay cut in 2020, more than the rest of the firm’s partners, bringing his earnings to £1.7m, but that was not enough to quell discontent over the partners’ pay cuts or the wider cost-cutting measures he pushed through during his tenure.