Campaigners welcome KPMG social mobility data

Three quarters of staff at professional services giant KPMG were educated at state schools, with as many as 18 per cent of the new-starters hired this year having been eligible for free school meals, the firm has revealed.

Chris Hearld, KPMG's Leeds office senior partner

The new data was specially commissioned and published by KPMG as it becomes the first large-scale business in the UK to voluntarily outline the socio-economic make-up of its workforce, a move which has been welcomed by social mobility campaigners.

The firm’s northern chairman Chris Hearld said that he hoped the data would help dispel some of the myths about elitism within the professional services sector and added that he hoped other firms would follow suit with similar analysis.

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The research showed that the vast majority of the workforce, 74 per cent, received a state school education, with 60 per cent of these employees having attended a non-selective state school and 14 per cent attending a selective state school. Twenty three per cent were educated privately. Additional detail on parental education shows that 48 per cent have a parent with a university degree, while 43 per cent do not. Of around 1,000 graduates and 250 school leavers to join the firm in 2016, 11 per cent and 18 per cent respectively had been eligible for free school meals.

Mr Hearld said: “When we talk about diversity, people immediately think of gender or race, but social background is equally as important. Professional services firms have often been cited as bastions of the so called social elite and it’s important we consign this stereotype to the past. We recruit from a wide range of schools and universities and while we do require a level of academic ability, we need personal qualities such as adaptability and curiosity, to help our clients analyse and respond to complex challenges.

While the traditional milk round will always have a part to play, we have rethought the way we recruit, introducing new entry routes into the firm for those who want to join us earlier and learn at work rather than university.”

KPMG worked closely with experts at the Bridge Group to deliver the report.

David Johnston, chief executive of the Social Mobility Foundation, said: “For young people we support in the Yorkshire region it is vital to know whether they have a realistic chance of entering top firms like KPMG given they attend state schools and have parents who did not go to university. In monitoring this, KPMG sends out a strong signal that it wants to welcome talented young people from less privileged backgrounds to the firm.”