CFO Studio Magazine Cover Story – KPMG’s CFO, David Turner


Change Agent



Read the article as part of the whole issue via flip book. The full magazine to come out next week!

Disruption — business disruption — became the new normal about five years ago. Enabled by technology, new competitors arose to challenge established businesses. The old guard had to keep up with technology’s exponential rate of change, or lose. The looming irrelevance of companies and whole industries (taxi services outfoxed by Uber and Lyft) made anticipating and understanding emerging trends a survival skill for every organization. At KPMG, David H.W. Turner, the Chief Financial Officer, calmly points out that “change is something that has to happen all the time. In fact, it’s a CFO’s or senior leader’s most important job to enact change.” The CFO’s role, Turner goes on to say, is not to hold the wheel steady and steer through calm waters, but to turn the steering wheel and approach forthcoming obstacles while thinking about how to do things ever more effectively.

Turner is watching the heightened interest in Intelligent Automation, which is a game-changer for businesses. Intelligent Automation encompasses Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the field of Robotic Process Automation (RPA), which uses specialized software to automate repeatable functions. He sees Intelligent Automation’s use accelerating “in a huge way. So, in my view, any business that does not adopt an approach of embracing robotics and Intelligent Automation capabilities, and trying to deploy them everywhere, is going to find themselves falling behind very, very quickly.”

KPMG, with practice areas in audit, tax, and advisory, and a team of support professionals in Human Resources, Marketing, Finance, and other areas, relies largely on knowledge workers, graduates of the best colleges and universities, who don’t do the repetitive jobs that would be natural targets for automation. But machines with Artificial Intelligence could provide the help they need to do their best work. At KPMG, that could mean surging ahead of the other Big Four accounting firms, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, and Ernst & Young.

“I think Intelligent Automation is going to be at the heart of the way all businesses change in the future,” says Turner.

Among other initiatives with digital helpers, KPMG is introducing bots in its tax practice area that would handle relatively time-consuming tasks, like filing for tax-return extensions. Scale is at the heart of most moves toward digitization, and at a firm as large as KPMG, “extension bots” could save thousands of hours a year for its team of tax professionals, allowing them to devote their skills to less-routine client work. Another large bite could be taken from time devoted to the work of preparing summaries for boards of directors, the firm realizes, with the result that “board visualization bots” are being deployed, to shave the roughly two hours per summary down to 15 or 20 minutes.

“Intelligent Automation is really all about enabling people to create more value for our clients and the marketplace at large,” says Turner. “By reducing the administrative burdens, our professionals can redirect their time and attention to higher-level activities that drive success for their clients.  At the same time, our people are more engaged and energized in what they are doing.  So, I view IA as a tool that enhances human capacity.”

Turner, 60, is the U.S. CFO and Office Managing Principal for the Montvale, NJ, office of KPMG, which is the home of over 2,000 business process group professionals. Besides overseeing finance and accounting, he has direct reports from the areas of real estate, procurement, events and meetings, and integrated operations. He has asked each of his teams to bring him a strategy for robotics and Intelligent Automation. “Every single one of our teams ran through with me their view of how they could pick up this technology, use it in their areas, and make a big difference in driving firm growth,” he says.

Tomorrow’s Training

For that future enhanced by Intelligent Automation, KPMG is constructing a state-of-the-art learning, development, and inno-vation center on 55 acres in Lake Nona, FL, a planned community inside Orlando’s city limits, where the company will bring waves of employees to upgrade their skills. Existing and cross-functional teams will practice collaborating and innovating. Partners and professionals will have classroom training as well as simulated in-field environments to develop the skills they need. And new and potential hires, including those who are still in college, will form their initial impressions of KPMG on this campus.

Conceived as a center not just for the transmission of information and skills, but also as a hub for infusing and reinforcing KPMG’s strong culture of always acting with integrity and its commitment to highest values of personal and professional behavior, this facility is set to open in early 2020.

Turner points out that many of KPMG’s partners spend their time out at client offices, interacting with those clients and helping them meet their goals. “So the ability for our people to be outstanding in how they interact with other humans, how they help problem-solve, how they help choreograph innovative thinking is critical. Those are things you learn by interacting with other people who do it really well. To me it would be crazy to think of a world where you could just do technical training remotely, because you’d end up creating a workforce that didn’t have those fundamental people skills that are called for in everything we do in our interactions with clients.”

The Man Himself

A child’s drawing from Take our Daughters and Sons to Work Day, thank-you notes from employees he mentored over the years, and pin flags from the 18th hole of the U.S. Open and PGA Championship mix with photos of family in Turner’s office décor. Clearly, he enjoys his work and the opportunities it opens up to be of help to those he comes in contact with (see sidebar).

Raised in Manchester, U.K., he graduated from St. Andrews University in Scotland and spent his early career in audit at Price Waterhouse in London. Turner says he tended to look two or three years ahead, but he didn’t really have a map to his present position. “I just believed that if you kept pushing yourself and kept building on your experience — pushing the boundaries of that experience — the career takes care of itself.” That seems to have been the case.

In 1991, at age 32, he was offered his first CFO position, over UK and Ireland operations at Reuters, the international news agency. Five years later, he was named CFO of its American operations. He took the job for the international experience. “I thought it would be a great opportunity for me and my family,” he says. The Turners — David, his wife, Rosie, and daughters, Helen and Jenny — planned to stay in America for two years. But year two went by, and years three and four.

After five years, the family’s plan of returning to the U.K. was turned on its head when, in 2001, Thomson Financial, a division of information provider The Thomson Corporation, made Turner an offer to become its CFO in New York. Eight years later, Thomson subsequently bought Reuters, putting Turner in “a great position to be playing a big role in that merger because of my history with both companies,” he says.

When he was tapped in 2012 to fill the CFO position at KPMG, it felt like “the crescendo to my own career because I joined KPMG to be part of something very special, as we try to take one of the world’s great brands and make it incredible. I think we’re doing that.”

What Turner heard in his early talks with KPMG interested him a great deal. The firm, with 100+ offices in the U.S., was in the process of building out its business in order to accelerate growth. At the same time, it was predicting that cloud technology and other rapidly moving innovations would substantially affect business models — its own and clients’. From a work standpoint, Turner saw an opportunity in a growth-focused business
to be involved with strategy decisions and with the challenges and excitement of doing acquisitions. From the standpoint of feeling comfortable and fitting in, Turner got the answers he wanted from KPMG’s former Vice Chairman Shaun Kelly and former U.S. and Global Chairman John Veihmeyer, who described the accounting firm’s culture and a higher purpose that motivates its workforce.

Higher Purpose

In the firm’s long run as a U.S. entity, leaders in what is now KPMG managed the Lend-Lease program to help defeat Nazi Germany. The firm also helped resolve conflicting financial claims so as to gain the release of 52 American hostages who were held in Iran for 444 days until January 20, 1981. Clearly, there’s impor-tant and inspiring work an individual can do in public accounting.

In 2014, KPMG launched an initiative to have employees articulate their own stories about how their work made a difference. The initiative substantially reinforced the firm’s culture. And now, employees in all roles at KPMG can say how their job is making a difference. Turner says these employees are part of creating the trust that the public must have in the financial markets in order for the markets to operate. “When you come in and create capabilities for clients, you’re not just coming in to do a job. You’re coming in to help the organization and clients of the firm itself make a difference in the world,” he says.


It felt like “the crescendo to my own career because I joined KPMG to be part of something very special”


“We’ve been pushing hard to become what we call the clear choice for our clients,” says Turner. “In order to be that clear choice we have to make our values known and live by them — we need to lead by example, seek the facts and provide insight, and above all, act with integrity.”

Intelligent Automation may also inspire stories of higher purpose. In a few years, we may begin to hear such narratives from KPMG personnel. If the firm can become a market leader itself in the implementation of Intelligent Automation and cognitive technologies, Turner contends, its people will be empowered to do greater, more meaningful work for clients.


Community Commitment

Playing an active role in the community is an important part of anyone’s growth. As CFO of KPMG, David Turner understands that his job involves prioritizing available resources to support the firm’s commitment to community. He directs the Montvale office’s efforts in support of KPMG Families for Literacy, a charity that the company developed to bring books and literacy to underserved communities. In addition, he sits on boards of not-for-profit organizations including the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, the Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation, and the United Way of New York City. “I think you learn from those activities and from the interaction with other board members in a way that is invaluable,” he says. The work with boards “is among the most fulfilling things” he does. “Some of the quiet, behind-the-scenes help that businesspeople can give in a community sense is really empowering,” he adds. “I don’t think any person in business should miss out on the benefits that come with real community engagement.”

Turner says he advises those he mentors to volunteer, get on committees, and do what they can for communities in need. “If they can throw themselves into it, then they’ll find their passion, and it’s a three-way benefit: It helps the community, it helps the charity, and it helps the individual as well to build their contacts, their networks, and their capabilities.”

His Greatest Challenge

Working with many “incredibly smart, energetic, ambitious people,” says David Turner, CFO of KPMG, means these people have thousands of great ideas. And they want them all to come to fruition. As Turner puts it, “The challenge to that is that you have to choose between them” and focus on “the art of the possible.”

“The biggest obstacle is, in a sense, disciplining our organization, disciplining ourselves to narrow down the [ideas] that are most impactful, and then to deploy our enormous capabilities to executing on those ideas, rather than diluting ourselves by doing too many things.”

If the CFO is not careful, Turner says, “you can be perceived as the person who says no all the time, when actually what you’re trying to be is the person who says yes all the time — but yes to the right ideas, not yes to everything.”

At KPMG, Turner says, he and a number of people on the leadership team have been involved in turning that challenge around: “Trying to narrow it down to 10 or 11 things that we’re going to really throw ourselves behind in a sort of supercharged way, so you don’t get alternative cottage-industry investments that dilute the effort.”

In this way Turner has helped innovation thrive. Although some partners and others won’t see their ideas turned into opportunities, “Your job as CFO is to help the organization make decisions that are based on good judgment and supported by data, not just instinct.”

CFO Studio announces the launch of the Apparel, Restaurants & Retail CFO Industry Dinner & Dialogue Series in Manhattan.


Manhattan, NY: February 19, 2019 –  Andrew Zezas, Publisher and Host of CFO Studio, announced the launch of the Apparel, Restaurants & Retail CFO Industry Dinner & Dialogue Series in Manhattan.  CFOs at Apparel, Restaurants & Retail companies will meet in a fine restaurant (location to be announced shortly), over a great meal while chatting about industry trends, common challenges, successes, career issues, and so on.  PwC has been named as a Business Development Partner for this Dinner & Dialogue Series.

CFO Industry Dinner & Dialogue events promote open discussion among peers, take place quarterly, and include 8 to 12 CFOs who attend from large, middle, and small market companies.  CFO Studio has launched the CFO Industry Dinner & Dialogue Series in the following industries:  Food & Beverage, Flavors & Fragrances, Healthcare & Hospitals, Life Sciences, Manufacturing, and others.

CFOs attend these events at no cost and may reserve a seat at

About CFO Studio

CFO Studio brings CFOs and select organizations together to foster dialogue, share insights and intelligence, participate in thought-leadership, promote their companies, forge relationships, enhance careers, by connecting with select CFO peers, select Business Development Partners, world-class thinkers, and others.

CFO Studio hosts large, small, industry and geographically targeted live CFO events, including the CFO Innovation Conference, the CFO Excellence Awards Gala, the CFO Studio Reception Series, the CFO Intell Dinner Series, the CFO Industry Dinner & Dialogue Series, and custom events, in New Jersey, Manhattan, Philadelphia, Chicago, Washington, DC, and in other U.S. markets.

CFO Studio’s business development partners and presenters include or have included Agfa, American Express, Atlantic Health System, Atrium Staffing, Avis Budget, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, BDO, Benjamin Moore & Co, BMW, Brooklyn Nets, Brother International, CapitalOne, CFGI, ConAgra, Crowe, Dassault FalconJet, D&B, Dechert, Deloitte, EisnerAmper, Encyclopedia Britannica, The Federal Reserve, Godiva, HondaJet, Horizon Blue Cross, HP Financial Services, HUB International, Jaguar Land Rover, JLL, Johnson & Johnson, JPMorgan Chase, KPMG, Lowenstein Sandler, Mass Mutual, Mercedes-Benz, Morton Salt, NBCUniversal, The New York Jets, Oracle, The Philadelphia Eagles, The Philadelphia Phillies, Pinnacle Foods, Prager Metis, Prudential, PSEG, PwC, Quest Diagnostics, ReedSmith, Robert Half, SAP, Showtime, Subaru, TD Bank, Tribeca Films, Quest Diagnostics, Ulta, Verizon, Vonage, Withum+, Wm Grant & Sons, York Risk, Yorktel, and other exciting organizations.

About PwC

PwC’s purpose is to build trust in society and solve important problems. PwC is a network of firms in 158 countries with more than 250,000 people who are committed to delivering quality in assurance, advisory and tax services. Find out more and tell PwC what matters to you by visiting 

Performance Boosts


As Seen in CFO Studio Magazine Q2 2017 Issue



Morale is high, people work hard and seem content, and every employee knows what’s going on behind the scenes at Kepner-Tregoe in Princeton, NJ. The multinational management consulting and training services firm implemented an incentive program as the market started to rebound after the global financial crisis of 2008 – 2009, and, at the same time, took the opportunity to offer employees greater transparency into its financial performance. As a result, “People are motivated in their roles, responsibilities, and decision-making; they’re educated about the business, and all that adds up to a sense of empowerment among the staff,” said Bill Baldwin, CFO and a Kepner-Tregoe Principal.

Mr. Baldwin spoke on “Driving Employee Performance and Engagement – Sharing Financial Intelligence and Insight” at an invitation-only dinner discussion attended by CFOs from New Jersey– area middle market companies. The event was held recently at Agricola Eatery in Princeton and is part of CFO Studio’s Executive Dinner Series.

Mr. Baldwin said the company instituted the incentive plan as a way of rewarding employees for their loyalty and sacrifice during a difficult time that, as at many organizations, included belt-tightening and cost-containment measures. And that naturally led to greater financial transparency. “It just seemed right to let people know if they’re on track to making their goals.”

A Pat on the Back

When the incentive program kicked off about seven years ago, every employee received a 10 percent bonus at the end of each quarter if the operating profit plan within their region was met. “This really registered with people,” said Mr. Baldwin. “It was motivation for them, and it changed their behavior in the business.”

While some incentive plans are based on revenue, “ours is centered around operating profit, and that has significantly altered the way employees view their decision-making when it comes to expenses,” said Mr. Baldwin. “They may reconsider the type of hotel they stay at, or choose a different beverage while dining or meeting with a client.” It’s up to the employee, he noted, “and that’s been empowering.”

These quarterly incentives are now team-based, he noted, since an annual incentive program has been adopted as well, to reward employees according to their individual performance record at the end of the year. “It’s all paid off because people take more ownership and accountability in the overall success of the business.”

Crystal-clear Reporting

With all employees striving to achieve personal and team-based incentives, “we thought it only fair to provide them with greater financial transparency” in an effort to eliminate what Mr. Baldwin called the “surprise factor.” He explained: “We don’t want to reach the end of a quarter or the year and have people surprised that the company or the region has not done as well as they might’ve thought.”

So for the past several years, Mr. Baldwin has been issuing a weekly report to all employees detailing the bookings for the current and next quarter, and comparing that number to the quarterly plan and forecast by region for the entire company.

The report also highlights anyone who has sold a new piece of business over a certain dollar amount in the past week. “When people see their name in lights, so to speak, they love it,” said Mr. Baldwin, who also calls or sends an email congratulating those high achievers. “That’s been very motivational, and great for morale.”

In addition to this weekly report, Mr. Baldwin and the CEO hold quarterly WebEx events (open to all employees) to provide an update on how the company is doing — both regionally and as a whole —what the future looks like, and how the incentives are shaping up. “We try to be as forward-looking as possible to give people an idea of what we expect the results to be for the year,” all in an effort to keep everyone informed from a strategic, operational, and financial standpoint.

“We are as open and honest as we can be with our messaging, and we’ve learned that it has to be repetitive and in terms to which people can connect.” To that end, employees are routinely educated on how to interpret the data contained in the reports, what the trends mean to them, and how the numbers are used by management. “We know we’ve been successful when folks start asking questions, and it becomes more of a two-way conversation. We’ve engaged them, and nobody has been kept in the dark,” said Mr. Baldwin.

Joseph Tammaro, Sector President at TD Bank, North America, and a CFO Studio Business Development Partner, pointed out that one of the biggest challenges in any organization is an “us vs. them” mentality. “It’s encouraging to hear the ultimate outcome of such transparency. A strong cultural foundation has been established, along with buy-in from the employee base who, as a result, will do what needs to be done to secure the viability of the company to move forward.”

Too Much of a Good Thing?

Overall, dinner attendees responded positively to Kepner-Tregoe’s methods, but a few questioned whether it was possible to be too transparent. Mr. Baldwin responded by acknowledging that there are, indeed, risks to transparency. “If a region is having a quarter where they don’t think they’ll make their results, but the next quarter is looking strong, we have to be careful that people don’t manage earnings from a soft quarter into a good quarter, or from one year into the next year.”

In addition, he said, there’s a fine line between being open and honest, and not creating anxiety or panic when business is not as good as usual. “We have to be very careful about our delivery because the last thing we want is people worrying about possible cost-containment actions or that their jobs may be cut.”

Mr. Baldwin believes the frequency of the messaging helps to quell any real fears. “We’ve been doing this for several years now, and people have matured in their thinking and do understand that there are cycles to any business and sometimes there are soft quarters.” And it doesn’t hurt, he added, that “in good quarters, every employee is recognized with a reward for a job well done.”

Copyright 2017