KPMG LLP unveiled its $450 million technology-focused training center in Orlando, Fla.—its latest and perhaps biggest tool yet to help launch the Big Four accounting firm’s thousands of employees into the digital era.
The Lake Nona campus is intended to help attract and develop accountants, auditors, and advisers who have the 21st century skills KPMG says its clients need as they too grapple with technology change. And it’s a race against the clock for the big accounting firms to stay relevant, upgrading the skills of their staff and the products they provide.
“Through this investment in our people and in our culture, we’re investing in the future of our firm,” said KPMG Chairman and CEO Lynne Doughtie, who gave the project the green light five years ago.
The project also represents a significant economic development project for the city of Orlando, whose mayor, Buddy Dyer, helped cut the ceremonial ribbon KPMG executives and Orlando-area officials. The facility created 400 new jobs, including 80 KPMG staff, and is expected to draw 40,000 extra visitors to Orlando annually.
KPMG and its competitors have been training armies of accountants to employ the array of new tools and products the firms have developed, from desktop robotics process automation and data-analytics tools to machine learning.
These emerging technologies are already changing how auditors work, testing the limits of audit standards, eliminating or simplifying much of the drudge work of tax and accounting, and forcing regulators to rethink licensing requirements for certified public accountants.
Globally KPMG plans to concentrate on the digital skills of its workforce, cloud technology, and developing new products through a $5 billion investment.
KPMG will use the site to build on basic technology training almost all of the firm’s staff received over the past year—covering the basics of blockchain and artificial intelligence—with more advanced classes and hack-a-thons. Classes are designed to be interactive and to take advantage of the technology that both the building itself and the firm offers, said Corey Munoz, the firm’s chief learning officer.
In the meantime, a winter class of interns was breaking in the 55-acre site, which features 800 guest rooms, 90 classrooms, a 1,000-seat hall, and spaces for staff to meet with clients and test new tools and products.
In 2011, Deloitte unveiled a similar training facility in Westlake, Texas, complete with a working ranch. Ernst & Young LLP and PwC LLP are making similar investments in training and technology.
Renewed Focus on Culture
The center also offers a venue for KPMG to reinforce to employees the importance of corporate culture and to improve as a firm. The opening comes in the wake of an overhaul of its audit practice and firm governance and six months after the firm admitted that it had cheated on its regulatory inspection and agreed to a $50 million settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Doughtie said the facility is designed to remind 35,000 KPMG staffers of its values—like continuous learning and the power of collaboration, and the important role that accountants play in the capital markets.
‘What we do matters and how we do it is critically important,” she said. “Trust is critical and important and we’re emphasizing those aspects of our culture and our values here and at every single training.”
It will also gives audit staff the opportunity for hands-on training to learn new tools and technique, which will ultimately drive higher audit quality, Doughtie said.
“This will be a place where we can continue our focus on audit quality.”