I&D: 60 second interview - Richard Iferenta, Partner and Vice-Chair, KPMG UK
60 second interview — Richard Iferenta, Partner and Vice-Chair, KPMGUK
As part of our plans to drive forward a more inclusive vision of doing business in London, we’ve launched a series of short interviews to find out what some of our members are doing to improve inclusion and diversity (I&D) within their own organisations. Today we hear from Richard Iferenta, Partner and Vice-Chair at KPMGUK.
Q: Why is having an inclusive and diverse working environment so important?
Ultimately, it’s vital businesses reflect the diversity of their customer base and wider society. At KPMG, we continually invest in our people, bringing in talent from a wide range of backgrounds and ensuring an inclusive culture. We recognise that doing so strengthens the range of ideas and perspectives, which we know is linked to better commercial outcomes.
Beyond commercial benefits, though, it’s also simply the right thing to do. We want our firm to be a place where everyone can progress and thrive. We don’t want gender identity, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability or socio-economic background to be a barrier to anyone’s career.
Q: What has your career journey highlighted for you in terms of the value of embracing diversity?
A focus on diversity and inclusion is critical to unleashing talent, which may otherwise be left behind or overlooked. I found it really difficult to get my first job and arguably only secured one because my employer was running an Equal Opportunities programme. Also, like many others from disadvantaged backgrounds, I found it challenging to navigate the corporate ladder. The reality is that I could easily have dropped out of the system. Indeed, I know many others who are perhaps more capable than me and have simply not been able to fulfil their potential. So, in addition to the human tragedy, society has lost out on many talented people who could potentially have supported the greater success of our communities.
It is clear from my experience that there is a war for talent to help build more profitable and innovative businesses. We have gone through a pandemic where loads of jobs have been lost and the evidence suggests that ethnic minorities have been disproportionately affected. As we look to ‘build back better’ there is a real opportunity for businesses to devise strategies which not only ensure that they recruit from diverse talent pools but that also put in place processes and programs to ensure that all barriers to ethnically diverse people flourishing are torn down.
My current team is diverse with people from so many different cultural backgrounds. Each member has very different but complementary skillsets leading not just to a successful team but also to a fun-filled environment. This experience is in line with the McKinsey report which highlighted that businesses with more ethnically or culturally diverse executive teams tend to be, on average, 33% more productive. There is a real opportunity to harness this by embracing diversity and inclusion.
Q: What was the spur for your business in becoming more proactive on I&D?
KPMG has had a longstanding commitment to improving inclusion, diversity and social equality. We have been publishing targets on the representation of our firm since 2014, when we were the first of the Big Four to go beyond gender, setting targets on ethnicity, sexual orientation, and disability. We’ve also been a leader of pay gap reporting, first reporting our gender pay gap voluntarily in 2015 and our ethnicity pay gap voluntarily in 2017. This year we published our sexual orientation, disability and Black heritage pay gaps for the first time too.
Reporting is only one part of the puzzle, of course, but being transparent holds ourselves to account. Detailing these gaps outlines what’s working while also identifying where we need to take action. We continue look at every part of our firm through the lens of inclusion, diversity and social equality, from our recruitment processes and how we progress our people, right though to how our leaders are measured and rewarded. KPMG – and indeed all businesses – must play their part if we are to achieve a more equal and prosperous future for all in society.
Q: When it comes to improving diversity at a senior level, what does your company do to support people from under-represented groups in their journey to the top?
It all starts with leadership. KPMG achieved gender parity of its board in 2019. Today, 50% of our board are women, and 30% are from ethnic minority backgrounds. We know that leaders set an example and that leadership – including boards – must reflect the diversity of their customer base and wider society.
We have long been working to improve diversity and inclusion at KPMG, especially at a senior level. The five-year KPMG-sponsored Hampton Alexander Review for example – which concluded this year – aimed to improve the representation of women at board level and in senior leadership positions. In 2015, women accounted for only a fifth of board positions within the FTSE350 and there were a staggering 15 all-male board and 116 ‘one and done’ boards. Five years later, more than a third of FTSE350 board position are held by women and thankfully there are no more all-male boards. While progress has been made, there is much still to do to improve the corporate world’s approach inclusion, diversity and social equality. It’s clear though, that collective and sustained action on an issue can turn the dial.
At KPMG, our firm-wide Inclusion, Diversity and Social Equality strategy comprises of leadership and culture, recruitment, retention & engagement, and progression. Putting this into action on the ground, we work with recruiters and insist on inclusive and diverse shortlists for senior roles and encourage applications from people from all background and experiences. We collaborate with external organisations like Business in the Community, the Social Mobility Foundation and the Business Disability Forum , and we have signed up to industry charters including the Women in Finance Charter, the Tech Talent Charter, The Charter for Black Talent in Finance and the Professions and Business in the Community’s Race at Work. We also have several programmes and initiatives to drive inclusion and diversity, including our Intelligent Working and Empowering Parents initiatives, or our Black Heritage Talent Insight, GROW or IT’s Her Future programmes.
Q: What is a key piece of advice for companies just starting their inclusion and diversity journeys?
For businesses embarking on this journey, the key is to have leadership buy in and take ownership of the strategy. They must be clear on why diversity and inclusion is important commercially, as well as being the right thing to do. A strategy should be developed which has bold and ambitious targets across the board, and these must include:
Recruitment of diverse talent at all levels, including senior talent
Targets to ensure that there is diverse talent at the top of the business
Programs designed to ensure that there is a good quality pipeline of diverse leaders coming through who are being given the right experience to support their growth
This strategy should be communicated to all staff and stakeholders, with leadership being held accountable to meet such targets.
London First is on a mission to keep London at the forefront of global business, working with and for the whole UK. If you’re interested in becoming a member or want to find out more about our sponsorship activities, get in touch with us today.