Video of KPMG boss telling well-paid staff they are ‘lucky’

The moment KPMG’s boss dismissed the notion of unconscious bias as ‘complete and utter c**p’ in front of horrified staff can be exclusively revealed by MailOnline. 

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

He was speaking to 1,500 highly-paid consultants who have been working from home since the start of the pandemic but now face cuts to their bonuses.

Hospitality and events businesses across the country are being devastated by coronavirus restrictions, and 10million workers are still on the furlough scheme.

Mr Michael later apologised but the backlash has forced him to temporarily step down as UK chair pending an internal investigation. 

The 52-year-old Australian, whose own salary was trimmed by 14 per cent to £1.7million, had urged staff to take ownership of their own lives and quit whingeing.

But after the virtual meeting employees took to an anonymous company message board to complain that Mr Michael needed to ‘check his privilege’.

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.’ 

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 victim card'

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 victim card'

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 victim card’

The 52-year-old Australian (pictured with his wife Chloe), whose own salary was trimmed by 14 per cent to £1.7million, had urged staff to take ownership of their own lives and quit whingeing

The 52-year-old Australian (pictured with his wife Chloe), whose own salary was trimmed by 14 per cent to £1.7million, had urged staff to take ownership of their own lives and quit whingeing

The 52-year-old Australian (pictured with his wife Chloe), whose own salary was trimmed by 14 per cent to £1.7million, had urged staff to take ownership of their own lives and quit whingeing

‘I think unconscious bias is complete c**p’: KPMG chair’s comments to staff 

 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.’ 

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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…’

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.’ 

Outraged staff later complained about Mr Michael’s comments. 

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

Another person 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.’

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.’ 

The message board for colleagues to register grievances reportedly stopped working soon after.

A recording of the Zoom call shows Bill Michael tell around 1,500 consultants at the top City firm 'you can't play the role of victim unless you're sick'

A recording of the Zoom call shows Bill Michael tell around 1,500 consultants at the top City firm 'you can't play the role of victim unless you're sick'

A recording of the Zoom call shows Bill Michael tell around 1,500 consultants at the top City firm ‘you can’t play the role of victim unless you’re sick’

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

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

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

Who is Bill Michael? 

Bill Michael has been at KPMG for 30 years.

The 52-year-old Australian took the helm four years ago after working as the firm’s Global Head of Banking and Capital Markets.

His City expertise featured in the high-profile Treasury Select Committee into Banking Standards following the global financial crash.

He also represented KPMG as an advisory council member of the FICC Market Standards Board.  

He qualified as a chartered accountant in Australia before moving to the UK to work with clients such as JP Morgan, HSBC, Deutsche Bank, Credit Suisse, and Barclays. 

He has a young family and is a Manchester United fan. 

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Mr Michael apologised for his remarks at the end of the meeting and later said in a statement: ‘I am sorry for the words I used, which did not reflect what I believe in, and I have apologised to my colleagues. 

‘Looking after the wellbeing of our people and creating a culture where everyone can thrive is of critical importance to me and is at the heart of everything we do as a firm.’

Mr Michael, who took the reins at KPMG in 2017, also sent an all-staff email expressing ‘regret’ for his language. 

He alluded to his own hospital battle with Covid last March and said he understood the toll the pandemic was taking.

But the anger forced him to ‘step aside’ while an investigation was launched. 

A KPMG spokesman last night 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 probe will not just focus on the comments relating to unconscious bias but the entire meeting.  

His tenure has been plagued by criticism, including of KPMG’s role as auditor of the liquidated government contractor Carillion and of a ‘toxic culture’ in the office. 

KPMG is one of the Big Four accounting firms which includes Deloitte, Ernst & Young and PricewaterhouseCoopers. 

The firm reported a 2 per cent fall in revenue in the year to September 30 to £2.3billion.  

However, KPMG did not furlough any of its staff during the pandemic, and is even overhauling its offices at the cost of £44million and bolstering remote working technology.

It followed a similar trend among rivals. Deloitte announced a 17 per cent cut in average partner pay to £731,000 last September.

PwC said in December that its partner pay fell 10 per cent to £685,000. EY’s average partner pay slipped just 1.8pc to £667,000.

KPMG also added it has put in place ‘a range of support measures’ to help employees adjust to remote working, including new mental health resources, ‘flex’ hours and a company podcast to help colleagues stat connected.

It has also implemented a ‘Staying Connected Buddying scheme’ and established a confidential support line offering 24/7 assistance as well as specialist support for any potential victims of domestic violence.

KPMG staff perks during lockdown include ‘working from home podcast’ and ‘flex’ working 

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 firm says it has put a ‘range of support measures’ in place to help employees:

– A ‘working from home podcast’ to help colleagues stay connected with each other

– A Staying Connected Buddying scheme

– ‘Flex’ hours to log on at the times that suit them and their caring commitments

– New mental health and wellbeing resources 

– A special leave code, enabling people to take unlimited time off to care for family and friends during the pandemic

– Access to our BeWell service – a confidential support line offering 24/7 assistance as well as specialist support for any potential victims of domestic violence 

– The Unmind app, providing confidential tools and training that support mental health and wellbeing 

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