Șerban Toader, KPMG: Our commitment to being inclusive isn't a tactic. It's a belief, a celebration of difference, and a moral imperative

Șerban Toader, Senior Partner with KPMG, talks about what actions the company has been taking in diversity management.

Why and since when has your company believed in and invested in diversity management?

At the global level, diversity is part of KPMG’s history, going back more than 90 years. That’s when Ethel Watts became the first woman to qualify as a chartered accountant by examination with the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW). One of KPMG's founding leaders, Sir William Peat (the P in KPMG), played a crucial role in enabling women to enter into the profession.

Our commitment to being inclusive isn't a tactic. It's a belief, a celebration of difference, and a moral imperative. It's how we work and who we are. To work at KPMG is to see the world differently, through many different perspectives and with a truly cooperative spirit. We empower our people to be themselves and respect others – it’s at the core of our values and what we believe in. This inclusiveness is something we have lived and breathed throughout our history. In short, we are the sum of our people and their stories. 

As in any other KPMG practice, in Romania the diversity and inclusion principles applied at the global level are translated into our day to day professional life.

I can give many examples of diversity in our practice in Romania. Firstly, we have a very high proportion of female employees, including at the top levels of the firm. From this October, we will have a female Senior Partner for the first time. We also have people with a wide range of nationalities, cultures and religions as permanent staff and welcome many more on secondments.

What aspects of diversity management have the highest priority in your company?

We cannot talk about one or other aspect of diversity and inclusion as having a higher priority. Differences are meant to be celebrated. They're what allow people to thrive in an inclusive and diverse working environment. In fact, individual creativity and ingenuity is key to our overall success. By fostering a welcoming environment for all people, we can leverage that diversity to deliver exceptional client service, enhance our capabilities and improve outcomes for our people, the network and our clients.

Which D&I activities have been implemented in your organization so far?

Starting from two of our values: „We work together” and “We respect the individual“, we create strong and successful working relationships and we respect people for who they are and for their knowledge, skills and experience as individuals and team members.

Everybody in our firm, regardless of gender, age, nationality, religion, or sexual orientation has equal opportunities to be promoted and to develop professionally as well as personally. This is in our DNA. New hires are informed about these issues at the beginning of their activity in our company. A special „induction training course“ includes sections on our values, as well as on our D&I approach.

Any of our employees has the opportunity to express his/her opinions or wishes related to a specific matter he/she is interested in. Our annual „Global People Survey“ is carried out in each KPMG practice (including Romania). This is one of many tools we employ to give each of our employees a say. Many suggestions which are made in the survey are implemented and lead to an improvement in our working environment and of our internal processes, helping our people to feel they count.

Many companies aren't prioritizing inclusion and diversity initiatives right now. Why should they reconsider?

Diversity and inclusion helps companies to benefit from a variety of ideas, cultures, approaches, etc. which leads to innovation, creativity and business development. Certainly diversity should be taken into account for the sustainable growth of a company.

In your opinion, what tangible benefits does diversity bring to your company?

Every person at KPMG has their own special talents, and each contributes to our collective success in their own unique way. Our diverse people represent the heart of our business, they are the key to our success, they make us stand out in a highly competitive marketplace and enable us to provide the best service to our clients. Our “final product” represents the results of the innovation and creativity our people demonstrate.

Can you name three diversity challenges that companies have to pay attention to?

I would say it is difficult to identify diversity challenges in our company, because D&I is the way we innovate and do business and our employees consider this as a normal professional approach.

What do you do to convince your colleagues to see the value in diversity management, or even more to truly get them on board?

As I have already stated, the value of diversity management can be easily seen in the innovative results of our projects, in the way our employees cooperate and solve clients’ problems, as well as in our day to day work and our results. Our employees fully understand the benefits of diversity and need no encouragement to apply its principles to their day to day activities.

Șerban Toader became Senior Partner at KPMG in Romania and Moldova in 2007, having joined the firm in 1996. He coordinates the firm’s overall activities in delivering comprehensive Audit, Tax and Advisory services. He is responsible for developing KPMG in Romania’s business strategy, in conjunction with Partners and top management, and also contributes to policy making at regional level through his membership of the Board of KPMG Central and Eastern Europe.

Serban is a Member of the Academic Advisory Council of the Academy of Economic Studies, as well as President of the Board of United Way Romania. He has several prestigious academic qualifications, including an Executive MBA from Ecole Nationale des Ponts et Chaussees, Paris as well as diplomas from University of Edinburgh School of Management, London Business School and Harvard Business School.

Interview by Dana Oancea