KPMG appoints new audit head as senior changes continue

KPMG UK has appointed Catherine Burnet as its new head of audit, replacing Jon Holt, who was elevated to chief executive last month.

Burnet’s promotion is the latest in a round of musical chairs that followed the resignation of former UK boss Bill Michael in February after receiving backlash over an outburst he made in an internal meeting, in which he told staff to “stop moaning” about life under lockdown and described unconscious bias as “complete crap”.

KPMG’s board recommended that Holt be appointed as the firm’s chief executive, a decision that was ratified in a vote by the firm’s partners.

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The firm’s interim chief executive Mary O’Connor resigned from the firm after Holt’s appointment.

She had been tipped for a run at the chief executive role in partnership elections which did not take place after the board decided to instead endorse one candidate for the role.

Burnet will take up her new role immediately, KPMG said in a 7 March statement. She was previously regional chair for Scotland, Edinburgh office senior partner, and a lead partner for a number of the companies the firm audits.

Her career spans more than 25 years with KPMG, working in Edinburgh, London and Chicago.

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She is a past president of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland and is also a member of the financial services advisory board to the Scottish government and of the council at CBI Scotland.

“The audit profession is undergoing significant change through operational separation with further transformation on the horizon with the proposals outlined in the government’s white paper. I know Catherine will bring her leadership, energy and focus to lead our audit practice through these changes,” Holt said.

“We have much to do given the amount of change in the industry but I’m confident that by working with the great people in our business, we will continue to lead the transformation and rebuild trust in the profession,” Burnet said.

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