64 employees in Anchorage
12 of which are UAA alumni
Nestled between Google (1) and Proctor & Gamble (3) on the world’s most attractive employer list in the business category, is KPMG LLP. Maybe not as much of a household name as the former two companies, but as one of the leaders in its industry, KPMG is definitely worth the notice. They provide audit, tax and advisory services in 152 countries. Yet even with this global reach, they have a local Anchorage office that is dedicated to their Alaska community and draws a good portion of their workforce directly from UAA.
Recently we sat down with eight of our grads in their Anchorage tax and audit division to see for ourselves what the hype was about. Why does KPMG rank right up there with Google? And why has UAA caught their eye?
To start with, the range of experience in the room was from 25 years and partner at KPMG to a few fresh faces who had just graduated in 2011. They are an outwardly diverse group of professionals with quite a bit in common. Most had a bachelor’s degree in business administration with an emphasis in accounting (there was one UAA M.B.A. grad in the room as well); most had been heavily involved in the Accounting Club and Accounting Week and other activities designed for students to connect with job opportunities; and most had come to KPMG through just that route: campus recruiting. In fact, for the tax partner with 25 years under her belt, Teresa Newins (’87)—KPMG was her first job out of college.
“I had interviewed on campus and received offers from all six of the Big 8 public accounting firms with offices in Anchorage at the time,” Teresa remembers. “I accepted KPMG’s offer and now all the other firms have either left town or closed shop altogether!”
There is laughter in the room as she tells her story. There is laughter in the room as everyone shares. The mood is relaxed and everyone is energized talking about both their UAA experience and their current KPMG careers.
“I grew up in Alaska, and I knew that I wanted to stay here,” says Beth Stuart (’94) who has been with KPMG for 18 years and is an audit partner. “I could have gone to school out of state, but I would be in the exact same place (back in Alaska) as I am now—except that I would have had student loans…[more laughter]…Going to UAA didn’t hold me back at all, and it was more cost effective.”
The value of UAA was a hot topic, including the supportive professors and the recruitment process. And now, each of the people in the room, in fact, is part of the recruitment team at KPMG’s Anchorage office.
“UAA has great teachers in the accounting program who really promote going to work in public accounting as one of the avenues where you really get unlimited opportunities once you sign on,” says audit manager Walter Williams (M.B.A. ’07).
“I think that’s really important,” agrees senior audit manager Daniel Mitchell (’97). “And what we mention in our recruiting process is that accounting is a fairly robust industry, and it allows you quite a bit of opportunity to move around, not just within a firm but outside as well. We feel, at KPMG, that we play a significant role in training individuals and helping to build their careers.
Walter continues, “I think we provide a meaningful service to UAA, too, by bringing in graduates, giving them this wonderful learning opportunity, and from day one they’re getting exposure to top business leaders throughout the city and state. They’re building and maintaining relationships that benefit UAA, benefit KPMG and the community at large.”
Christine Allen (’11), even as a newer audit associate, agrees: learning about different industries is the best part about working for KPMG. “Whether you are working with a not for profit or an oil and gas company, we get the opportunity to learn about various industries that we wouldn’t have experienced had we had gone straight to a career with a private company.”
Beth explains that part of an accountant’s job is to understand business, and one of the reasons KPMG likes to hire people who are local and/or have just spent four years in a degree program the local university, is that they have that built-in knowledge of how Alaska businesses work.
“They know the difference between Chugach and Chugiak,” she says. “They know what an Alaska Native corporation is; they get to know other businesses around town, and that is a huge advantage to have.”
Beth is a case for her own point. Not only was she from Alaska, but she spent a summer internship with the Permanent Fund, whose auditors were from KPMG. Now the Permanent Fund is one of her accounts.
Community is a considerable theme at this office. Many in the room are sitting on boards for different organizations and all of them find themselves back on campus helping with recruiting efforts or in classrooms teaching accounting courses. Another notable is the company-backed UAA scholarship that Walter and other UAA alumni established two years ago. The initial fundraising drive garnered close to $10,000 and two merit-based awards of $1,000 each have been awarded by the university thus far.
“We’re actively monitoring it now, making sure there are enough funds for consistent awards,” says Walter, “And not only were the UAA alumni in the KPMG office contributing to it, but others here were as well, with the KPMG Foundation then matching all employee gifts to eligible universities.”
“One of the things about KPMG that is so nice is that we have this local office and all the wonderful things it provides, but we also have this huge international firm that backs us up,” says Teresa. “We have great relationships that we’ve formed inside the firm; so we get the best of both worlds.”
Community “I Am UAA” profiles feature businesses and organizations that demonstrate a commitment to growing the Alaska workforce locally by hiring UAA alumni. If you’d like to see a particular business or organization featured, please contact Joanne Haines in UAA’s Office of Advancement.