KPMG International History
1185 MC Amstelveen
Telephone: (20) 656-6700
Fax: (20) 656-6777
Incorporated: 1897 as Marwick, Mitchell & Company
Sales: $12.2 billion (1999)
NAIC: 541211 Offices of Certified Public Accountants; 541219 Other Accounting Services; 541618 Other Management Consulting Services
For decades, KPMG has been serving companies with international interests. We know it takes more than sheer numbers of people and offices to build a meaningful global capability that's responsive to the marketplace. It takes a sound strategy, implemented by highly skilled teams of professionals--individuals who are industry-smart, internationally savvy, and technically exceptional. It also takes ideas--grown in the right culture, nurtured with the proper investment, and matched with the necessary technology. And as markets and companies continue to globalize, KPMG will continue to serve them--anywhere. Key Dates:
- James Marwick and Roger Mitchell found Marwick, Mitchell & Company in New York City.
- Company creates alliance with British accounting firm W.B. Peat & Co. and forms Peat, Marwick, Mitchell & Company.
- Company changes name to Peat Marwick International.
- Peat Marwick International merges with Klynveld, Main, Goerdeler to form Klynveld Peat Marwick Goerdeler, based in the Netherlands; the U.S. arm is named Peat, Marwick, Main & Company.
- U.S. branch is renamed KPMG Peat Marwick.
- KPMG Peat Marwick shortens its name to KPMG LLP, a branch of KPMG International.
KPMG International is the third-largest accounting firm in the world. Headquartered in the Netherlands, KPMG provides accounting, consulting, tax and legal, financial advisory, and assurance services from more than 820 locations. KPMG's member firms are located in more than 159 countries across the globe. In the late 1990s, the company focused on unifying its historically loose federation of member firms to build a cohesive global image and offer a consistent array of products and services.
A Demanding and Rewarding First Century: 1890s-1970s
KPMG got its start in 1897, just a few years after the first American accounting firm had been set up. The company was formed by James Marwick and Roger Mitchell, who had both immigrated to the new world from Scotland. They set up their new partnership, called Marwick, Mitchell & Company, in New York City. Eight years after its founding, Marwick, Mitchell & Company launched a banking practice, focusing its efforts on one industry for the first time. This effort proved so successful that the firm later went on to offer tailored services to companies in the insurance industry, the thrift field, and to mutual fund brokers.
In 1911 Marwick, Mitchell & Company merged with a British accounting firm headed by Sir William B. Peat. The new transatlantic company was called Peat, Marwick, Mitchell & Company. Through the merger, Marwick, Mitchell & Company strengthened its operations in Europe, while Peat gained greater access to the rapidly growing North American market. This configuration of the company remained in effect for the next three-quarters of a century.
During this time, Peat Marwick grew steadily, becoming one of the 'Big Eight' major public accounting firms in the United States. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Peat Marwick's business and revenues began to grow dramatically, as did those of their competitors. This boom in demand for accounting services came as a result of increasingly complex tax laws, securities laws, and industry regulations. Between 1973 and 1976, for example, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) added 16 new disclosure requirements for publicly held companies. With the ever-increasing mandated need for accounting services, Peat Marwick's revenues grew steadily as demand outstripped supply.
In addition to the welter of new federal regulations, accounting industry standards became more exacting. The Accounting Principles Board and the Financial Accounting Standards Board issued a wide variety of directives to members of the industry in response to complaints that the accounting industry was not fulfilling its watchdog role in corporate America stringently enough. Like the rest of its peers in the industry, Peat Marwick was defendant in several lawsuits charging it with failing to prevent or expose financial malfeasance.
In the early 1970s, the legal entanglements continued. In May 1972, for example, the Raytheon Company sued the accounting firm over its audits of the Visual Electronics Corporation from 1968 to 1970, charging that its work failed to show how bad the company's financial straits were.
Nevertheless, by this time Peat Marwick had become the largest public accounting firm in the nation. The company had grown by providing services to corporations and also by winning government contracts. In 1972, for instance, it won a Department of Transportation contract to analyze the department's planning techniques.
In response to a general consensus that the financial industry was moving toward greater accountability, Peat Marwick took steps in 1975 to shore up the controls on its accounting practice. 'We have a little bit of an image problem, and we'd better start doing something about it,' Peat Marwick's senior partner told the Wall Street Journal. The firm was concerned that its recent bad publicity was causing local government units, highly sensitive to public opinion, to seek other firms for their auditing business.
Hoping to clear its name, Peat Marwick engaged another Big Eight accounting firm, Arthur Young & Company, to audit its quality control procedures and make the results available to its clients and staff. In taking this step, Peat Marwick became the first public accounting firm to inaugurate a peer review process. The audit was scheduled to begin in June, in place of an earlier planned process that would have been conducted by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. Peat Marwick abandoned its plan for this review because it wished to make the results of the audit public.
In November 1975, Peat Marwick released the study of its operations by Arthur Young & Company in an effort to bolster its reputation for reliability. The report, which cost the company more than half a million dollars, was favorable in its account of the company's activities. In April 1976, the company revised its audit manual to include more use of internal auditors.
Just two months after this report, Peat Marwick won a major new governmental client when it was selected to audit New York City, a job that brought with it an annual fee of nearly $1 million. In addition to its other big clients, the firm was engaged by the General Electric Company for an audit so broad in scope that it required 429 employees in 38 different offices.
In 1978 Peat Marwick formed Peat Marwick International to oversee the firm's activities outside the United States. With this change, the company set up a multinational umbrella partnership of different firms in locations around the world. By doing this, Peat Marwick hoped to prepare itself for further globalization of the world economy and financial markets by combining a single firm image with well-respected and established local accounting organizations.
In 1979 Peat Marwick reported record revenues from its worldwide operations, which yielded $673.8 million in revenues over a 12-month period, an increase of 15 percent from the previous year. As Peat Marwick entered the 1980s with this strong financial performance behind it, the company began to face a maturing market for its services and growing competition from the other Big Eight firms. In addition, under pressure from the federal government, the accounting industry was forced to abandon its self-enforced prohibition on advertising. This resulted in a far more hotly contested market for accounting services.
Increasing Competition and New Ownership in the 1980s
Entering a new decade, Peat Marwick and the accounting business both appeared to be in solid positions. Though Peat Marwick was somewhat narrow in its focus, primarily handling auditing and accounting services in the early 1980s, the company's revenues for the year ended June 1981 reached $979 million, a 20 percent increase compared to fiscal 1980 results. Business seemed to be increasing as well; workload figures rose by more than eight percent over 1980. About 80 percent of the firm's revenues were generated from auditing and accounting, about 14 percent was attributed to tax advice, and the remainder came from management consultancy services. Peat Marwick earned more than half of its sales in North America. Among the firm's significant new clients were Vickers Ltd. of Britain, which included Rolls-Royce Motors, and the State of California, for which Peat Marwick was hired to develop and install a major accounting system.
Despite significant growth, competition in the accounting industry was heating up, and in 1981 Peat Marwick moved to counter rising competition by automating the audit process. As a first step in this process, Peat Marwick developed a program called SeaCas, an abbreviation for Systems Evaluation Approach-Computerized Audit Support. Three years later, the company switched to the Apple Macintosh for all its future computer applications. Also in 1984, Peat Marwick purchased another accounting firm, W.O. Daley & Company, based in Orlando, Florida. With this move, the company added eight new partners to its worldwide tally of 1,284.
Major diversification and expansion finally arrived at Peat Marwick in 1986, when the company agreed to merge with Klynveld Main Goerdeler (KMG), a Dutch accounting firm. KMG had been formed in the early 1980s through the merger of German company Deutsche Treuhand-Gesellschaft, Dutch firm Klynveld Kraayenhoff & Co., U.S. company Main Hurdman & Cranstoun, and several other European and Canadian accounting firms. The resultant international accounting federation, KMG, was based in the Netherlands, and the U.S. arm had become known as KMG Main Hurdman.
KMG was the ninth-largest accounting firm in the United States in 1986, while Peat Marwick was number two. The merger of KMG and Peat Marwick created the largest accounting firm in the world in terms of size and revenue. In its new configuration, Peat Marwick enhanced its ability to attract as audit clients large U.S. companies with multinational operations. After approval by Peat Marwick's 2,733 partners and KMG's 2,827 partners, the joined companies were to be known as Klynveld Peat Marwick Goerdeler, or KPMG, and were to be headquartered in Amsterdam. In September 1986, Peat Marwick announced that it had opened negotiations to buy a public relations company and a consulting business, both with ties to the high-tech industry. In the wake of its proposed merger with KMG, this move was seen as a bid by the company to enhance its profile in the consulting field.
On January 1, 1987, the merger between Peat Marwick and KMG was officially completed, capping the largest merger in the history of the accounting business. The new firm instantly inherited worldwide revenues of $2.7 billion, with $1.7 billion contributed by Peat Marwick. In the United States, the operations of both KMG, with 79 U.S. offices, and Peat Marwick, with 91, were combined into one organization, which was to be known as Peat Marwick. Peat Marwick was the more dominant of the two companies in the United States, with annual revenues of about $1.1 billion, compared to KMG's $249 million. In Europe, however, KMG was stronger than Peat Marwick. KMG had more than 13,000 European employees and just under 200 locations, while Peat Marwick had only 34 offices and about 2,000 employees. With combined power, KPMG hoped to hold a leadership position across the world.
The combining of two large firms with varying operating cultures and management styles proved difficult, and integration of the merger occurred slowly. Member firms in Australia and New Zealand, for example, opted not to join the new company. KMG Hungerfords, the Australian branch of KMG, began investigating merger deals with competing accounting firms after voting against the merger. Establishing agreements with other partners, including firms in West Germany, Switzerland, Spain, and France, lingered past the final merger date as questions regarding partnership details arose.
As the 1980s came to an end, the accounting business once again found itself in a period of transition. During the previous decade, booming business conditions had produced brisk growth for accounting firms, and KPMG had expanded rapidly along with the rest of the industry. By the end of the decade, the firm's client base had started to shrink as a result of changes in the financial world, such as the collapse of the savings and loan industry. Peat Marwick, which changed its name to KPMG Peat Marwick in 1989, found itself the object of a sweeping inquiry into its audits of savings institutions by the Office of Thrift Supervision as a result of the firm's involvement with the San Francisco Savings and Loan Association. In addition, the wave of bankruptcies that followed the frenzy for mergers and leveraged buyouts in the 1980s resulted in a reduction in need for accounting services and also generated a large number of lawsuits for public accounting firms as a result of their participation in these activities.
These factors combined to flatten KPMG's revenues in 1988 and 1989. In late 1990 the partnership elected a new chairman, Jon C. Madonna, and KPMG Peat Marwick began to implement changes to improve its profitability. In February 1991, the company announced that 265 partners, or one in seven, would be laid off from the firm in a streamlining effort. KPMG Peat Marwick predicted that severance costs would amount to $52 million. Despite this drain on U.S. earnings, the company's worldwide returns remained strong, as it posted annual revenues of $6 billion.
Consolidation and International Growth in the 1990s
In March 1992, KPMG began to reorganize its operations under the aegis of a Future Directions Committee. Relying on input from the company's Client Service Measurement Process, a survey of customer satisfaction inaugurated in 1989, the firm chose six lines of business: financial services; government; health care and life sciences; information and communications; manufacturing, retailing, and distribution; and special markets and designated services. In addition, KPMG Peat Marwick divided the country into ten separate geographical practice areas. The company then organized accountants, tax specialists, and consultants into industry-specific teams. Within this framework, KPMG Peat Marwick sought to develop specialists with certain areas of expertise who would entice new clients and bring high-paying tax and consulting jobs.
In September 1993, as growth in the company's targeted industries remained sluggish, KPMG Peat Marwick launched an advertising campaign for the first time. Focusing on the company's international stature, the ads urged companies to 'go global--but not without a map.' KPMG Peat Marwick enjoyed increased revenues following its launch, recording revenue for 1996 of $2.53 billion, a rise of ten percent over 1995 revenues of $2.29 billion. Fiscal 1996 was the third year of revenue growth for KPMG Peat Marwick, a welcome relief after five years of little growth.
KPMG Peat Marwick also gained a new CEO and chairman in 1996 with the hiring of Stephen G. Butler, while Jon Madonna continued as chairman of KPMG International. Butler indicated the company would strengthen its consultancy services, a market with significant growth potential, and offer new services. Expanding existing services into new markets was another strategy for company growth. 'Our plan is to increase revenue more than 10% a year,' Butler stated confidently in the Wall Street Journal. 'We have every expectation we'll be able to do that,' he asserted.
KPMG's strategy proved successful, with the firm growing 11.1 percent in 1997 compared to 1996. In 1998, revenues grew 15.6 percent over 1997 to reach $10.4 billion. The firm launched an effort to unify its operations to form a more centralized operation and also attempted to boost brand recognition. To that end KPMG Peat Marwick initiated a $60 million global branding campaign. The campaign, which included television, radio, and print ads, adopted the tag line, 'It's time for clarity.' KPMG marketing officer Tim Pearson explained the tag line in a company statement, noting, 'The emphasis on clarity-not simply knowledge management or insight--in our brand advertising campaign strongly differentiates KPMG in the increasingly crowded business advisory arena and articulates KPMG's business strategy.' To further enhance the brand, KPMG Peat Marwick shortened its name to KPMG LLP at the end of 1998.
In the late 1990s the firm took additional action to strengthen and unify its core businesses of audit, tax, and consulting services. In August 1998 the U.S. arm announced plans to sell its compensation consulting practice to human resources consulting firm William M. Mercer, Inc. The decision marked KPMG's move away from non-core operations. In March 1999 KPMG restructured its operations to create global operating regions. The newly formed KPMG 'Americas' group included 19 member firms in Mexico, Latin America, the Caribbean, Australia, and New Zealand. These partners combined operations with the U.S. firm of KPMG LLP. The 'EMA' group covered Europe, the Middle East, and Africa and included member firms in such countries as France, the Netherlands, Germany, and the United Kingdom. The firm planned to form an Asia-Pacific group at a later date. In September 1999 Stephen Butler became the chairman of KPMG International, succeeding Colin Sharman, who had been the firm's chairman since 1997. Butler's new position was in addition to his continuing roles as chairman and CEO of KPMG LLP.
Despite KPMG's continued growth, the firm suffered a few setbacks in its expansion efforts. In late 1997 KPMG's Canadian arm announced plans to merge with accounting firm Ernst & Young. The deal, which fell through in early 1998, would have created the largest accounting and consulting firm in the world. The firms hoped their combined strength would help make inroads in the emerging markets of Latin America and China and enhance global opportunities. In 1999 KPMG Canada faced another failed merger attempt. On March 25 the firm declared its plans to separate from KPMG International and merge with Arthur Andersen, but the deal was called off just over a week later, on April 5. The soured deal left KPMG divided into opposing groups. Also that year KPMG's consulting practice in Belgium was acquired by rival PricewaterhouseCoopers.
The setbacks did little to slow the firm down, however, and KPMG made some acquisitions itself. In May 1999 the firm expanded its consulting business by acquiring Softline Consulting & Integrators, Inc., a firm based in San Jose, California. KPMG also added new partners, many of whom had defected from PricewaterhouseCoopers, in Taiwan, Israel, Indonesia, and the Philippines. In the United States, KPMG separated its consulting business from its accounting operations and planned to sell stock in the entity, if approved by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. In August 1999 Cisco Systems Inc. agreed to purchase a 20 percent stake in the consulting business for about $1 billion. KPMG intended to use the funds to further invest in its expanding Internet services. The partnership provided Cisco with access to KPMG's international corporate clients, while KPMG gained access to Cisco's equipment and expertise in computer networking. David Crawford, chairman of KPMG Australia, commented on the deal in The Age, noting, 'This is a very significant development. ... It puts us at the forefront of e-commerce development and the exploitation of the Internet.' In January 2000 KPMG Consulting, LLC was incorporated. The new business included KPMG's consulting operations in the United States and Mexico. KPMG expected to add additional firms, including those in Asia, Canada, and Latin America, during the course of the year.
As KPMG entered a new century, the company appeared headed for continued growth and success. The firm had expanded significantly in the late 1990s while also integrating operations into a more centrally run entity. KPMG reported record revenues of $12.2 billion for the year ended September 30, 1999, up 17 percent over fiscal 1998 revenues. All business areas enjoyed substantial growth during 1999: the consulting services division grew 32 percent to reach $3.5 billion, financial advisory services grew 39 percent, tax services increased 16.5 percent, and assurance services rose nine percent. The firm's geographic regions experienced growth as well, with the Americas group surging 19 percent, Asia Pacific growing 20 percent, and the EMA region expanding 15 percent. Chairman Stephen Butler looked forward to the continued globalization of KPMG and indicated that the firm would take advantage of opportunities for growth, particularly regarding the Internet. 'I'm enthused about KPMG's future prospects,' Butler stated in a prepared statement. He remarked: 'We'll continue moving KPMG toward a vision that emphasizes a cohesive and capable firm that effectively serves multinational clients anywhere they operate.'
Principal Subsidiaries: KPMG LLP (U.S.); KPMG Consulting, LLC (U.S.; 80.1 percent).
Principal Competitors: Andersen Worldwide; Ernst & Young International; PricewaterhouseCoopers.
- 'Accounting Business is Thriving,' Globe and Mail, January 4, 1982, p. B5.
- Andrews, Frederick, 'Fraud Trial of Peat Marwick Attracts Anxious Attention of Other Accountants,' Wall Street Journal, October 29, 1974.
- ------, 'Peat Marwick Is the First Big CPA Firm to Submit to `Quality Review' by Peers,' Wall Street Journal, June 17, 1974.
- ------, 'Two Auditors Are Convicted of Stock Fraud,' Wall Street Journal, November 15, 1974.
- Barker, Garry, 'Cisco Buys into KPMG US,' The Age, August 10, 1999, p. 1.
- Berton, Lee, 'Peat-KMG Merger Proposal Strained As Units in Some Countries Drop Off,' Wall Street Journal, January 6, 1987.
- ------, 'Peat-KMG Merger Will Form a Goliath,' Wall Street Journal, September 12, 1986.
- ------, 'Peat Marwick and KMG Main Agree to Merge,' Wall Street Journal, September 4, 1986.
- Bevan, Judi, 'The `Tough Nut' at Accountancy's Core,' Sunday Telegraph London, July 23, 1995, p. 12.
- Cowan, Alison Leigh, 'Regulators Investigate Peat on Its Auditing of S. & L.'s,' New York Times, May 23, 1991.
- Gibb-Clark, Margot, 'KPMG Suffers Internal Blows from Aborted Union,' Globe and Mail, April 15, 1999, p. B13.
- Heinzl, John, 'Ernst & Young, KPMG to Create Global Giant,' Globe and Mail, October 21, 1997, p. B6.
- MacDonald, Elizabeth, 'KPMG International Chooses Butler as Its Chairman, Succeeding Sharman,' Wall Street Journal, July 1, 1999, p. B13.
- Mann, Simon, 'Peat and KMG Call Off Plans for Merger,' Sydney Morning Herald, December 19, 1986, p. 13.
- Minard, Lawrence, and Brian McGlynn, 'The U.S.' Newest Glamour Job,' Forbes, September 1, 1977.
- Stodghill, Ron, 'Who Says Accountants Can't Jump?,' Business Week, October 26, 1992.
- Tannenbaum, Jeffrey A., 'Butler, Elected Peat Marwick CEO, Plans to Increase Revenue 10% a Year,' Wall Street Journal, October 4, 1996, p. A3.
- Weiss, Stuart, 'Peat Marwick Merges Its Way to the Top,' Business Week, September 15, 1986.
Source: International Directory of Company Histories, Vol. 33. St. James Press, 2000.