Big Four accounting firm KPMG LLP nominated Derek Thomas as national partner-in-charge of the firm’s university talent acquisition.
Thomas joined the firm in 2000 as a senior associate before working for KPMG’s federal audit practice three years later. Eager to expose himself to a different field and using his experience as a lead recruiter for Howard University, Thomas started giving presentations on campuses and participating in meet-and-greets to bring new talents to the firm.
“I am very enthusiastic and excited about the opportunity,” said Thomas. “I’ve really appreciated being involved in campus recruiting over the years of my career and I feel pretty humbled and privileged to be able to take on such a role.”
The goal of KPMG’s university talent acquisition program is to identify, attract and bring new talent for the firm’s advisory audit and tax units. Under the leadership of James Powell, who is Thomas’ predecessor, UTA managed to increase the number of full-time campus hires by 51%, along with the number of applications for KPMG Embark Scholars Program, which provides opportunities for students from underrepresented backgrounds. Thomas praised Powell’s contribution to the company and shared his intention to pursue the firm’s Accelerate 2025 program, which aims at increasing diversity and inclusion within KPMG.
“I think that trying to bring in diverse talent and creating a place of inclusiveness is of utmost importance,” said Thomas. “That’s why I’ve been so heavily involved in the African ancestry business resource group and our audit DEI council, because we’re looking for ways to enhance our ability to not only bring diverse individuals to our profession, but also to retain them and help them advance throughout our organization.”
When it comes to the firm, Thomas said that KPMG was looking for hard-working individuals who know how to be part of a team, but mostly who know how to think outside the box. To confront the variety of challenges that come with the profession and come up with the most creative solutions, Thomas believes that having a diversity of thoughts and background is essential to provide high-quality services to clients.
“I think that the greatest selling point for us as a firm is our people, and I think that when we get them to interact with the students, they recognize the family environment that we have,” said Thomas. “When people get to interact with our professionals, they see what a great culture we have at KPMG, and that it’s a place where folks can thrive.”
Thomas said he was particularly excited at the idea of opening doors for young professionals and giving them an opportunity to start their career at the firm. In July, KPMG announced it would provide $7 million in scholarships to four historically Black colleges, thus expanding their funding to seven universities as part of its KPMG Master of Accounting with Data and Analytics program. The firm hires over 3,300 interns per year, and KPMG was selected as the best internship program in 2018.
“We’re recognizing that in order to expand that pipeline for students coming into accounting, we need to start reaching them at an earlier stage in their educational careers,” said Thomas. “We need to actually start reaching out to folks in high school to make sure they understand what accounting is about, so that we can continue to try to drive a diverse and talented pipeline that’ll be available for the future.”
A member of the American Institute of CPAs, Thomas is a licensed CPA in Virginia and the District of Columbia, as well as a Certified Government Financial Manager and Certified Information Systems Auditor.