Carole Streicher is the first woman to take the reins of KPMG’s business team in the US. Here’s how she got there

Unlike most kids, who want to be firefighters or doctors, Carole Streicher, at age 5, knew she wanted to be a certified public accountant. As fun as it may sound to a kid, Streicher in fourth grade also chose to be a CPA for school dress up day and thus began to explain his future career to his friends.

“I loved math,” Streicher said. “And for me, I had it in mind and it really worked.” Now Streicher heads KPMG’s deal advisory and strategy group, after taking the reins in the fall during a very hot period for corporate mergers and acquisitions. She is the first woman in the firm to head that group, a team of about 2,300, and the only woman of the Big Four accounting firms in that role in the U.S. The following are highlights from a virtual Q&A session and answers with Streicher on his journey to the top of the settlement world, as well as how the pandemic changed the way corporate mashups happen. And yes, she is a CPA. This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and brevity. What has been the biggest challenge for you in the role of settlement advisor during the last 12 months of the pandemic? Where I spend my time is helping clients conduct M&A transactions. When you look back at the start of the pandemic, the deal market really just shut down. It began to slowly increase towards the end of the summer. But then there was a period of uncertainty surrounding the November elections and results. Then in January, February, March, we’ve had record months when it comes to the amount of incoming work. We went from all-time lows from a deal market perspective at the beginning of the pandemic to now, completely the opposite.

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Billions in KPMG pandemic deals

It is definitely a challenge to manage the pandemic. The other thing I’d just say is that with the people side of the business, usually our people worked side by side. And I’m very proud to say that we were able to adapt, very quickly, to remote work and video conferencing. That is a new norm with our clients and for the industry, which has been able to turn around in this new era of virtual meetings. How many airline miles did you accumulate in 2019 compared to 2020? What could that say about the future of your profession? I clearly remember that in 2019 I achieved the highest level of status in the airline of my choice, flying more than 100,000 miles. Compared to last year, it was racking up something like a whopping 15,000 miles. So, it is a big difference in the type of trip. I think there are going to be elements of social distancing protocols that will continue to apply in the business world. We have shown that we can have Zoom ZM, + 1.54% of meetings with our clients and reach agreements in this virtual environment. And it will definitely affect the amount of travel we need to do in the future. However, there are things that are simply best done face-to-face, even if parts of the business can easily be moved to a more virtual environment. It will definitely change, but it won’t eliminate the need to be in person.

“” Go ahead and dream big, and if you don’t see that person, that role model, above you, that doesn’t mean you can’t do it. “” – Carole Streicher, American director of the strategy and advisory group at KPMG agreements

MarketWatch wrote about deals incorporating drones for due diligence last summer. Tell me more about that. When you are there in person, it is much easier to read the room. It is not so easy to be able to read Zoom’s call. There are times in negotiations when you need to be able to really understand people’s dynamics, what you are buying, and feel confident about the decision and the investment. Sometimes there are millions or billions of dollars at stake. But it’s also about leveraging technology and data insights effectively and efficiently. So as you think about the drone model and being able to conduct due diligence more effectively and efficiently, resulting in better data, there are some elements of that at play. But it is still in very early stages, so it is not something that is going to change everything, completely overnight. We have more than 100 data scientists on our team, within the advisory and strategy agreements. Data and analysis are essential to help teams dig deeper and gain better insights for customers. Ten years ago, it was difficult to even get the data. Now, it’s all about: OK, we have the data, but how do we process it faster to help a client gain better insights to be smarter in their investment thesis? What would you say to a young woman who was thinking about wanting to be the head of a group in a very male-dominated field, such as finance? I would say that anything is possible. Go ahead and dream big, and if you don’t see that person, that role model, above you, that doesn’t mean you can’t. Push the limits and pave the way forward. When I was moving up the ranks, there weren’t many partners in the big accounting firms, particularly in the settlement world. So, I was fortunate to have great mentors and sponsors, outside of the deal world, who were women and could help me see my way. And I really had great mentors and sponsors who were guys in the deal world saying, we want this to work for you. Also, when you think about going up that ladder, you can go up and down, or there are periods when you can go up slower. When I started having a family, I took six months off, something unheard of back then. Then I worked part time for two years. It wasn’t like I had to stop my career advancement, but it was okay to slow it down. And when I got back to fast climbing, sometimes I was able to beat the time I slowed down. Has there been a change in our workforce in how we think about work, including adding pandemic experiences to the top? There is absolutely no question that there have been significant changes in every American corporation, including in how we support our employees. And, you know, really supporting diversity, fairness, and inclusion. I am very proud of the place we have moved to in the last few years. And about 50% of my senior leadership team comes from underrepresented groups. We have important goals at KPMG to keep moving upward.