KPMG’s first female leader Mary O’Connor quits after being overlooked for chief exec role

The first woman to lead KPMG in Britain, Mary O’Connor, has quit the Big Four firm after she was passed over for the role of permanent chief executive.

The firm confirmed O’Connor’s exit in a 28 April statement. She led the firm on an interim basis from February until earlier this month after former chair and chief executive Bill Michael resigned over widely criticised comments in a video meeting with staff.

When she was appointed as interim chief executive O’Connor became the first woman to run a Big Four firm in the UK.

However, she was not given the chance to compete for the role of permanent chief executive after the firm’s board opted instead for audit head Jon Holt as its preferred candidate.

That decision pushed the chance of reaching for the top job away from O’Connor since it effectively prevented an open partnership election race. She might have become the firm’s first permanent female chief executive if she won in a partnership election race.

READ KPMG’s Mary O’Connor set to leave firm after being passed over for top job

The firm’s partners ratified Holt’s appointment as chief executive in a partnership vote this month with Holt taking up the role with immediate effect.

O’Connor parting comments indicate she is on the lookout for a top leadership role.

“I am privileged to have been able to make a significant contribution to rebuilding the trust in our business and to help set it on the path to even greater future growth. However, I have decided that my corporate experience and approach are now best suited to a leadership role outside of the firm,”  O’Connor said.

Bina Mehta, KPMG UK’s chair, said: “Mary has made a significant contribution to KPMG, and we are hugely grateful for the commitment, focus and energy she’s brought to the firm. On behalf of the firm, we wish her well in her future endeavours.”

READ ‘New fires every week’: Can KPMG’s new boss Jon Holt put them out quickly enough?

O’Connor joined KPMG in 2018 as chief risk officer from insurance broker Willis Towers Watson where she was head of client, industry and business development, according to her LinkedIn profile.

Last October she was appointed as head of clients and markets for the UK firm. In that role, she led the firm’s non-audit business including tax and legal, deal advisory and consulting. She also sat on KPMG’s board, its executive board and its executive leadership team.

She is a qualified lawyer with stints at US law firm Shearman & Sterling and Magic Circle law firm Clifford Chance. She has also worked in the public sector in the US attorney’s office in Washington DC and the Financial Services Authority in the UK.

The Financial Times first reported O’Connor’s resignation.

To contact the author of this story with feedback or news, email James Booth

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