The journey on London’s Docklands Light Railway from Bank station to our head office in Canary Wharf takes no longer than 20 minutes yet passes through some of the most extreme contrasts in British society. The monorail arrives in the Wharf, an area which generates billions in economic output terms but is part of a London borough in which 42 per cent of youngsters live below the breadline.
The financial collapse has affected society as a whole and recovery has been slow and painful. Thankfully, this year has seen the UK economy finally dust itself down and return to growth. However, it is vital that we all learn the lessons of the past. It is all too easy to close the door on painful memories — particularly in the City — but I don’t believe society will be as quick to forget past sins.
Trust between business and society needs to be repaired and rebuilt to ensure the green shoots grow into long-term, sustainable economic and social recovery. Regulation has its part to play, but we have to get back to a situation where integrity in the professions is presumed – no amount of regulation or scrutiny can replace that.
So what can we do to contribute? KPMG has an incredible convening power. We employ nearly 12,000 staff who advise thousands of businesses and organisations of every shape and size in the country and we are part of a network which spans the globe. We have a responsibility to improve our own profession: developing our audit approach so it bridges the expectation gap between regulatory requirements and what society expects is one example. Upholding our tax principles which avoid egregious tax planning is another.
We also have a role to play in engaging in the issues that matter most to society as a whole. We interact with public policy in many fields but I am particularly proud of the work we have undertaken with Shelter this year both to raise the issue of the housing crisis in the UK, which affects all but the very rich, and also offer possible solutions by providing the insights of our housing and local government experts.
Ultimately, respect and trust are earned through action. Under my stewardship, I want to ensure that KPMG uses its convening power for the good of business and society as a whole. It is my view that business receives its licence to operate from society and therefore we must ensure we do business not just for our shareholders but for those who have given us permission to operate.
Simon Collins is the Chairman and Senior Partner of KPMG in the UK, leading 12,000 staff and partners who work with companies, public sector and non-profit organisations to help solve their challenges, manage risk and make the most of new opportunities; by providing specialist knowledge on audit, tax and advisory services such as management consulting, forensic and mergers & acquisitions.