Fast Track: A-Z of Employers KPMG

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The Independent Culture
Age: 130

History: Its founder, Robert Fletcher, moved to London in 1867, after a successful career with Aberdeen City Council, and opened an accounting practice. He was soon joined by William Peat, who became a partner in 1877. Meanwhile, Thomas McLintock had started his own firm in Glasgow, and - along with Peat - was one of the founder members of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales. The firms eventually merged; by 1995, after a series of national and international mergers, the firm became known as KPMG.

Address: Headquarters are at Salisbury Square in London. There are 32 more offices in the UK, with a further 400 in Europe and 800 worldwide.

Ambience: Businesslike, professional and friendly, with an emphasis on teamwork. The offices are open-plan and hot-desking is catching on. Staff are expected to dress smartly - they can even call on the services of a specially hired image consultant.

Vital statistics: The firm's worldwide fee income is $9bn; in the UK, it was pounds 726m in 1997. The firm now has 565 partners and 9,000 staff in the UK; there are 6,000 partners and 93,000 members of staff worldwide.

Lifestyle: Trainees spend much of their time at the premises of clients, and are expected to be flexible. Overnight stays are common, and international travel not unusual. When trainees qualify, there are plenty of chances to work abroad; around 400 people are on secondment from the UK at the moment, with periods varying from 21 months to three years.

Easy to get into? There are certainly plenty of places: 800 this year, with around half based in London. There are several entry points, ranging from business assurance or tax and corporate finance to corporate recovery and consulting. You don't need a specific degree discipline, but a 2.1 and 20 UCAS points are required. Social skills and "personal effectiveness" are also sought after.

Glittering alumni: The firm's clients include Virgin, Boots, the BBC and Nat West. Past employees include Rupert Hambro, Sir Michael Flint and Clive Morton.

Pay: Starting salaries for trainees vary according to location; anything from pounds 13,000 to more than pounds 21,000. A London salary is around pounds 19,000, and benefits include pension, health insurance and flexible holiday allowances. Once chartered, a London-based employee can expect pounds 33,000.

Training: There is a three-year training period, with a third of each year spent studying for exams. The tax division has its own business school, and the consulting division has a training academy.

Facilities: Free lunches are available at most offices, and there's a range of social and sports clubs. And because hundreds of bright young things are recruited each year, there is a lively social life.

Who's the boss? The UK senior partner is Mike Rae; Colin Sharman is the international chairman.