The Queen has heard about the impact of the Black Lives Matter movement on the work of KPMG to promote diversity and inclusion during a virtual visit – despite gremlins in the system.
The line to Windsor Castle was lost briefly during the Queen’s video call with the accountancy firm’s employees and partners, which marked its 150th anniversary and featured a choir performing a Christmas carol for the monarch.
At the end of the virtual visit, the head of state told the group: “Very nice to hear about KPMG’s 150th, it sounds as though it’s all going very well, in spite of all the difficulties.
“It is difficult when people are used to being so close to each other and, and it’s been – you know – everybody’s been divided up so much.”
During a conversation with John McCalla-Leacy, the firm’s first black board member, the connection at Windsor Castle went down for a few moments.
The Queen’s image vanished from the wall of faces and when she returned she said with a smile: “You just disappeared, all of you.”
Mr McCalla-Leacy was told by the Queen he was talking about the pandemic when she lost the connection, and he explained the impact on the firm of Covid-19 and the killing of the unarmed black man George Floyd in the US, which led to protests across the world.
The KPMG partner, who spearheaded the firm’s work to improve inclusion and diversity and support black heritage colleagues, told the monarch: “This year was really an incredibly difficult year for us within the firm, within KPMG because not only did we have to adapt to the many challenges that the pandemic brought.
It is difficult when people are used to being so close to each other and, and it’s been – you know – everybody’s been divided up so much
“We also witnessed, like everybody around the world, that just deeply, deeply distressing scenes and the event unfold which ignited the Black Lives Matter campaign right across the world but also here in the UK.”
He said KPMG was already a member of a number of equality initiatives and the firm had committed itself to an externally published Black Lives Action Plan.
Mr McCalla-Leacy, a former international white-water canoe slalom competitor who was supported by the Prince’s Trust early in his sporting career, ended by asking the Queen to pass on his thanks to her son who founded the Trust.
“Receiving the support that I did, and when I did, changed my life and I will never forget this,” said the partner, who works with some of the firm’s biggest global clients, advising them on mergers and acquisitions.
The Queen replied: “I’ll indeed pass it on to my son, who is very proud of the idea of the Prince’s Trust, which I think has helped a lot of people.”
David McIntosh, who joined KPMG as an apprentice in 2017, told the Queen his father was a Falklands veteran who served with the Scots Guard and also guarded Buckingham Palace in the 1980s.
He said: “So meeting with you today, brings me very full circle, I’m so very proud of him and I’m sure he’s so proud of me today.”
Speaking about the benefits of video calls, the head of state replied: “Well thank goodness for technology, so one can still do this.”
KPMG was founded in 1870, when the firm’s namesake, Sir William Barclay Peat, joined the business.
At the end of the call, KPMG’s choir wearing Christmas jumpers, hats and reindeer antler headbands performed We Wish You A Merry Christmas for the Queen.