KPMG Work Experience Alumni

An Interview With David Mcintosh Of KPMG, A Work Experience Alumni.

David was brought up in Prestwick and comes from a lower socio-economic background (SEB). Growing up he faced many problems stemming from his family’s financial situation, relying on free school meals throughout his time at school.

At the age of 11, he first discovered an interest in accountancy, when he used his entrepreneurial spirit to start a small confectionary business, baking fudge, macaroons and other sweets and selling them to his friends and peers at school.

One day, when counting his takings for the day, his uncle, who worked in a bank and was his only representation of a professional, remarked “you’re good at counting money, you could be an accountant,” – from this he saw accountancy as a future career path and something which would have the potential to help relieve the financial pressures both on himself and his parents.

David subsequently moved onto high school, studying subjects like business and math, and even doing Open University during his last year of school with the aim of finding a job in an accountancy firm, however with his time in school coming to an end he’d tried all local accountancy firms and hadn’t been able to secure a role.

He discussed his predicament with a friend and explained his situation with regards to being on free school meals and coming from a low SEB, something he’d previously not felt comfortable sharing with his peers. From this conversation, it transpired that his friend had been on an Access Accountancy programme just a year before and it was put to him that he should consider applying for one too – something he was successful in doing.

At the age of 16 he applied and was selected for the KPMG Discovery Programme, visiting the KPMG offices in Canary Wharf. He quickly realised that his perception of accountancy that had built up over the years, as a profession only accessible for the middle class and well off – was wrong, and that a career in accountancy could be for anyone. He grew his network, meeting future colleagues and partners in different parts of the business and even had the chance to shadow a senior manager in the Emerging Giants team which focussed on fast tech growth start-ups.

Soon after undertaking the discovery programme, he applied for the KPMG 360 programme. He narrowly missed out on his first application but was successful the following year.

Aside from the other benefits of the scheme, the main attraction to applying was to be able to better himself, afford some of the things he’d aspired to be able to purchase and support his mum financially.

During his first week at KPMG, he reached out to someone working in Inclusion Diversity and Equity (IDE) and said that he was interested in working in social economic mobility. He was soon working with the Social Mobility Foundation (SMF) to provide mentoring support for people at university on the Aspiring Professionals Programme, many of whom subsequently received offers onto the KPMG graduate schemes.

Though finding this work rewarding, after two years he wanted to think bigger. This desire was partly triggered by a conversation with a more senior colleague who expressed that they didn’t even know what socioeconomic background meant, despite KPMG as a firm often leading in this space, through initiatives such as signing up to the Living Wage foundation and being one of the first firms to publish socio economic workforce representation data.

He wondered whether there was a disconnect between these often London-led initiatives and the understanding of senior colleagues in regional offices like Glasgow and thought about how he could start a wider conversation about social mobility within the firm.

This led him to establishing Scotland’s KPMG Social Mobility Network in 2019. Working with the Social Mobility Foundation, 75 volunteers across Scotland were paired with 75 people from low socio economic backgrounds to provide mentoring support.

In 2020, David was hit by tragedy when his mum sadly passed away. This triggered a period of self-reflection and led him to think more about what he wanted to do in future. Part of his reason for pursuing a career in accountancy in the first place was about wanting to provide for his mum but now he decided he wanted to go further on doing good for others. This led him to look towards becoming a public sector management consultant within KPMG, trying to improve the landscape within some of the systems and organisations that his family relied on growing up including the NHS and the benefits system. At the same time as this, he also realised he wanted to champion social mobility even further both internally within the firm and externally.

This led to him creating his own Podcast entitled “Development by David” which was birthed from the idea that he had only limited role models growing up and so had instead sought out digital role models by reading books and listening to podcasts. His experience of this was that they were often very highly geared and not inclusive for people who weren’t already well read with good levels of commercial understanding, so his podcast has been designed to be inclusive for all people, regardless of background. Since its launch he has spoken to guests ranging from Joe Foster, the founder of Reebok to Andy King of Fyre Festival fame. The podcast is now played in 45 countries worldwide.

He also did a firm-wide event called “This is Me” presenting to colleagues and talking frankly about his experience growing up from a lower socio-economic background. Through this and other conversations he realised that one of the biggest barriers in social mobility is concealment – in the way that you can often see gender, race and other minorities you can’t see whether someone is from a lower socio-economic background. These conversations then led him to appearing at part of an all-firm event to celebrate the firms 150th birthday and speaking to her majesty the queen and sharing his story with her.

Throughout all of this, KPMG had been considering launching a UK-wide social mobility network but previously weren’t aware of everything that was being pioneered by David in Scotland, until he shared his story at the firm-wide event with the Queen. From this, he was approached by the IDE team who provided encouragement and support in launching a UK-wide Social Mobility Network within the firm with David as co-chair.

This network was launched in July 2021 and has grown to have 30 committee members working across five different workstreams with over 600 members. The workstreams include an events programme which is developing a financial literacy bootcamp and an internal mentoring programme bringing junior members of staff into conversations with more senior colleagues, increasing the power of role modelling and awareness of other departments within the firm.

As the network continues to grow, David is now thinking about how to devolve the structure down to the regions so they can create their own regional partnerships and relationships akin to what he pioneered in Scotland.

In the future, David has a long-term goal of writing a book looking at how businesses and individuals can better tackle social mobility problems. He has also just featured on Business Insider’s 35 under 35 list.