£1.7million KPMG chairman from Australia compared to Trump

The ‘Donald Trump’ of KPMG: Fast-talking £1.7million chairman from Australia who was compared to ‘The Donald’ for his swaggering style but now has been forced to step aside after complaints from ‘woke’ staff

  • Bill Michael made comment to 1,500 in event about pay, pension and bonus
  • ‘Stop moaning’ and ‘playing the victim card,’ KPMG boss reportedly told workers
  • He also dismissed the concept of unconscious bias as ‘complete c**p’
  • Michael apologised immediately after meeting conceding that ‘words matter’  
  • But last night he dramatically stepped aside as probe was launched into speech

The KPMG boss forced out by ‘woke’ staff upset by his straight-talking online seminar is a self-made ‘red-blooded’ Australian who was branded the ‘Donald Trump’ candidate before getting the £1.7million-a-year top job, MailOnline can reveal today.

Melbourne-born Bill Michael, 52, told consultants asking him about pay, pension and bonus cuts to cease ‘playing the role of victim’ and called the concept of unconscious bias ‘complete c**p’. 

His warning to staff to ‘stop moaning’ in lockdown came after KPMG’s annual results revealed that its hundreds of partners still earned an average of £572,000 each in 2020, despite the pandemic that is expected to see hundreds of thousands of Britons lose their jobs.  

A recording of a Zoom meeting on Monday shows Bill Michael telling employees they are in ‘a very lucky sector’ and should not ‘sit there and moan’.

But today Mr Michael, who has apologised, is at his £3million home in Richmond, south-west London, as KPMG investigates the incident on Monday night. He lives there with his glamorous wife Chloe and their three children Alex, Sofia and Xanthe.

It is not known what Mrs Michael thinks of her husband’s comments but judging by her social media posts extolling the positive effects of lockdown, calling it a ‘reset for humanity’, it is possible she too may not like people moaning about the pandemic either.

However, she is also passionate about green issues, especially the banning of plastics in supermarkets, meaning she is likely to have something on common with ‘woke’ KPMG staff calling for her husband to be sacked.  

Australian KPMG boss Bill Michael, pictured with his wife Chloe, has been suspended as chairman of the UK business after staff were offended by his words on a virtual conference this week

Mrs Michael’s wife Chloe smiles today as she declined to comment on her husband’s words on a Zoom conference

The accounting company boss lives in a gated home in Richmond, said to be worth around £3million

Chloe Michael was all smiles as her husband stayed inside their £3 million detached home in Richmond busy making telephone calls after his suspension.

Asked for her feelings at their five bedroom house over the controversy, she said she could not comment.

But she added: ‘There are many things he has to go through with the firm so I don’t think it is going to be appropriate for him to say anything. ‘  

Mr Michael was touted as the ‘red-blooded’ candidate to replace his more refined predecessor Simon Collins, a former banker who opened a private members’ club in Mayfair and loves fast cars.

‘I think unconscious bias is complete c**p’: KPMG chair’s comments to staff, who called him ‘privileged’ and ‘reckless’

 What Bill Michael said:

‘And now is there time to say ‘well do you care enough?’. 

‘Right, I don’t think this point of, what do you call it? Unconscious bias. I think unconscious bias is complete c**p. 

‘Complete and utter c**p for years. There is no such thing as unconscious bias. I don’t buy it. Because after every single unconscious bias training that’s ever been done nothing’s ever improved. 

‘So unless you care, you actually won’t change. And I think there’s a lot more care, more generally, to change. And we are in a very lucky sector…

He added: ‘Take as much influence of your own diary, of your own life. of whatever. 

‘Because I have spoken to a lot of partners and people at all sorts of levels where it almost feels that this is being done to them. 

‘Well, you can’t play the role of victim unless you’re sick. I hope you’re not sick and you’re not ill and if you’re not take control of your life. Don’t sit there and moan about it quite frankly.’

What staff said anonymously later:

One wrote: ‘There’s no such thing as unconscious bias?! Are you joking? Please do your research before just making such statements. Check your privilege.’

Another staff member said: ‘People are struggling with serious mental health issues and having our leadership tell us to shut up and pull ourselves up by our boot straps is heartbreaking.’ 

One said: ‘Did Bill Michael say unconscious bias is just c**p? Herein lies the issue. Whilst the training may not be effective, to say it doesn’t exist is just reckless.’ 

In contrast Bill, whose Greek and Cypriot immigrant parents brought him up in working-class Melbourne, drives a VW Golf and enjoys watching Hitchcock movies and listening to The Beatles.

State-educated Mr Michael went to Melbourne University before moving to London in 1992, joining KMPG as a trainee accountant. He has been at the business ever since.

Profiling him before becoming Chairman, The Sunday Times’ Oliver Shah said he was a ‘chunky, fast-talking Australian’ who did not initially appear to many as ‘the obvious person to steer KPMG through potentially treacherous political waters’.

But that colleagues called him a ‘tough, commercial operator’ and ‘a very intellectually able guy’ who ‘lives in the real world’.

When asked about staff calling him ‘the Donald Trump candidate’ for the chairman’s job, ‘That’s not a joke that would resonate with me’, he replied, without laughing.

But people in the industry who believe the ‘big four’ accountancy firms, including KPMG, need shaking up, some welcomed his appointment ‘as a vote for a return to a more red-blooded style’.

He has a largely fixed routine, which before lockdown, saw him travelling a lot, especially to the US and Hong Kong.

Now he appears to split his time between home and the office because of lockdown.

Rising at 5.45am, he is at Canary Wharf before 7.30am to log on, and swim before the pandemic.

He told The Sunday Times that he would go to evening events most nights of the week but always be home on a Friday for 5pm to see his daughter play netball. He would also try to avoid working weekends to spend time with his wife and children. 

Video of the virtual town hall on Monday shows Mr Michael say: ‘And now is there time to say ‘well do you care enough?’. 

‘Right, I don’t think this point of, what do you call it? Unconscious bias. I think unconscious bias is complete c**p. Complete and utter c**p for years. 

‘There is no such thing as unconscious bias. I don’t buy it. Because after every single unconscious bias training that’s ever been done, nothing’s ever improved. 

‘So unless you care, you actually won’t change. 

‘And I think there’s a lot more care, more generally, to change. And we are in a very lucky sector…’

It is not known what Mrs Michael thinks of her husband’s comments, she is supporting him at home

But judging by her social media posts extolling the positive effects of lockdown, calling it a ‘reset for humanity’, she may agree with her husband

The majority of KPMG’s 16,000 UK staff have been working from home during lockdown rather than from their Canary Wharf office in the City of London.

The Big Four accountancy firm announced an 11 per cent salary slash to the firm’s 582 partners to safeguard jobs and providing more wriggle room to make new hires of graduates.

Partners still pocketed an average of £572,000, down from £640,000 the previous year. 

Monday’s virtual meeting centred on discussion about possible cuts to employees bonuses and pensions.

Mr Michael, casually dressed in a blue polo shirt, is seen telling those on the call to stop playing the victim card.

He says: ‘Take as much influence of your own diary, of your own life of whatever. 

‘Because I have spoken to a lot of partners and people at all sorts of levels where it almost feels that this is being done to them. 

‘Well, you can’t play the role of victim unless you’re sick. I hope you’re not sick and you’re not ill and if you’re not take control of your life. 

‘Don’t sit there and moan about it, quite frankly.’ 

During the virtual meeting staff took to an anonymous messaging app to vent about Mr Michael’s comments.

One wrote: ‘There’s no such thing as unconscious bias?! Are you joking? Please do your research before just making such statements. Check your privilege.’ 

Unconscious bias is the theory that people hold stereotypes of others which lead to discrimination in the workplace, but it has also proved controversial with ministers dumping it for civil servants in England when the Government’s Equalities Office found there was ‘no evidence’ that the training improved workplace equality.

Probe: KPMG chairman Bill Michael is said to have told staff worried about potential pay, pension and bonus cuts to ‘stop moaning’ and stop ‘playing the role of victim’

The majority of KPMG’s 16,000 people are working from home rather than the Canary Wharf office (pictured) during lockdown

A KPMG spokesman said: ‘Following the meeting on February 8, the firm initiated an independent investigation into the alleged comments in accordance with its usual procedures.

‘Mr Michael has decided to step aside from his duties as chair while the investigation is under way.

‘We take this matter very seriously and will not comment further while the investigation is ongoing.’ 

The move comes after the Financial Times revealed details of what Mr Michael said to the 1,500 members of the finance team during the conference call. 

Another person said: ‘Did Bill Michael say unconscious bias is just crap? Herein lies the issue. Whilst the training may not be effective, to say it doesn’t exist is just reckless.’

Mr Michael also angered some staff when he told them he had been meeting clients for coffee.

One attendee said: ‘He literally said, ‘I know I’m breaking the law’ to meet up with people during the pandemic.’  

Another staff member said: ‘People are struggling with serious mental health issues and having our leadership tell us to shut up and pull ourselves up by our boot straps is heartbreaking.’

Mr Michael, who was admitted to hospital last spring after catching coronavirus, was speaking to staff who had raised concerns about potential salary, pension and bonus cuts. 

Some workers interpreted his message as motivational but many complained that it was insensitive.

‘If someone tells you to stop moaning in the middle of a recession and when people are dying… It’s incredibly insensitive,’ one worker told the Financial Times.  

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