We talk to David McIntosh about his extraordinary career so far. This includes his passion and public speaking around social mobility. Also his work at KPMG and becoming Scotland’s first Apprentice Management Consultant. David also runs his multi-successful podcast, The Development by David. Our series where we highlighting young talent in Accountancy. In partnership with Accountancy Age.
Hi David, who are you and what do you do?
I am an Apprentice at KPMG UK based in the Glasgow office. Six years ago, I joined KPMG’s 360 apprenticeship programme. The scheme is very rotational in form so I moved around audit, tax and advisory for the first three years. Currently, I work in our management consultancy practice with a specific lens to working with public sector client. So, I have been a Specialist for the latter three years of the programme. This began in 2017, so I am very near the end of this apprenticeship. In tandem, I am also studying towards the CIMA qualification. I was exposed to KPMG through the social mobility foundation in 2015.
I also am the Founder and Chair of KPMG’s social mobility network which I founded in 2021. Previously I was, and still am, an avid advocate and public speaker around social mobility. An event in 2020, where I spoke to Her Majesty The Queen, was the catalyst for a social mobility network at KPMG. I’m extremely proud that this network now has 900 members and the initiatives we run has landed me in this 35 under 35. And also Scottish Business Insider’s 35 under 35. I was also awarded Best New Apprentice at the Management Consultancy Association Awards in 2021.
I have just returned from the Burberry British Diversity Awards where the social mobility network that I founded came 2nd in the Outstanding Employee Network of the Year category. The evening was spent partying with celebrities and being recognised amongst the 25,000 that attended. I also run The Development by David podcast. It’s placed as high as No.4 in the charts and has a combined 2 million+ views on all platforms. I get to interview amazing, wise and wonderful people about their lives.
I am the Founder and Chair of KPMG’s social mobility network which I founded in 2021. I am an avid advocate and public speaker around social mobility. This network now has 900 members.
The mission statement is to use origin stories as a sale development tool. That inspiration comes from not having any role models growing up in different careers. Not having any visibility or representation and the careers market whether that was accountancy, or any field.
What has your career journey been like to date?
When I was young and coming from a lower social economic background. I was told as an 11 year old (when I used to play entrepreneur around the council estate): “David you’re quite good at counting money, you could be an accountant, they make a lot of money”. That one really pivotal moment did two things. The first factor was representation and visibility, and the second factor was belief. I was told I could do something. I was good at counting money, therefore I could be an Accountant. It was a real sliding door moment. That one moment is such a fond memory for me and such a catalyst for the rest of my career. It’s why the social mobility network and podcast is so important.
I found myself entering the accountancy industry through a very unconventional, untraditional route. My personal values are what drew me to public sector management consultancy. I wanted to help the public sector landscape and improve the operations of such, because, coming from a working class background. My parents relied heavily upon the public service and public sector landscape.
What do you enjoy about your area of the Accounting industry?
I’ve spent a lot of great time in audit. Firstly, the reason I wanted to do it, was because I wanted to give my mum the luxuries the neighbours had. But unfortunately she passed away in 2020 just when I was choosing my specialism in accountancy. So my new North Star wasn’t to be an accountant and make lots of money, it was to do good for others. I wanted to merge my skill of accountancy and my apprenticeship programme with this new purpose. So that’s why I became Scotland’s first Apprentice Management Consultant. In audit, I was reassuring individuals that their investments and their assets were reasonably represented in the financial statements. Because of this new purpose in life, I was less aligned to that. That’s why I moved to Management Consultancy, especially within the public sector to help improve the public services landscape my family relied upon.
I have been recognised for my work on the Scottish governments’ response to Covid-19, where we helped a strategic partner set up the Test and Protect response to Covid. I worked specifically on devising a pilot aimed at asymptomatic schools testing, allowing schools to reopen at the beginning of 2021.
So what I enjoy most about my area of accounting is that I have merged what was my previous skill set with this new passion and found a home for that and I enjoy that I get to tangibly see the outcomes of the work that I do. Obviously, the response to Covid is something that whatever decisions we made as a project team we would see the realities of, so I think being able to see the outcome is something I enjoy the most. I couldn’t or didn’t really see the same in audit but maybe that was just my personal experience.
What trends are you seeing in the Accountancy sector today?
Working from home and the hybrid model allows us to attract talent from areas of the country that we might not have previously had access to. It’s great to see how diverse from a geographical point of view our teams have become in the last couple of years.
Over the last few years I have seen such a great increase of representation of talent from a lower social economic background. I think that’s a trend that I have seen recently to. The social mobility network and podcast is so important.
I have been recognised for my work on the Scottish governments’ response to Covid-19. We helped a strategic partner set up the Test and Protect response to Covid. I worked on devising a pilot aimed at asymptomatic schools testing, allowing schools to reopen in early 2021.
Wellbeing and mental health within the industry has been considered with more focus recently. Working long hours and the necessity to be in the office all the time has been alleviated. More flexible working patterns has been really nice to see. Probably the dogmatic view of the accountancy sector is late hours, wearing a suit. Whereas you can see today I am wearing a t-shirt and jeans and all day I will be working from home.
They are the kind of key trends that I have seen. Clearly the rise of automation, AI and machine learning is a big trend being discussed at the moment. I think we will move to a future where we will be working alongside technologies such as Chat GPT.
Who or what inspires you?
My gratitude. As a young child I would close my eyes in my single bed and dream of the career that I have. I genuinely did, seeing the impacts of financial fragility every single day. Understanding what it’s like to not be able to afford fresh school clothes and all these trials and tribulations. The dream goal would be sitting in an office like this, having disposable income to enjoy myself.
So I guess gratitude to understand that not everyone gets this opportunity. I am very very lucky to be here. I feel it’s genuinely my duty to take what I have learnt from navigating that social mobility labyrinth. To share that with all the people that might want to access this industry. I need to be that representation in my industry, so that motivates me hugely.
I am inspired by Future David. To break that chain of social mobility or break that circuit. In terms of social economic background. I know that is a motivation too.
KPMG are often described as the ‘cuddly one of the Big 4’ in the external marketplace. Our people is our primary focus. It really represents KPMG and how they prioritise people. Like I said, I’m an Apprentice, 24 years old, based in Glasgow – a million miles away from senior leadership. I am recognised for these achievements by some influential people.
What advice would you give others looking to pursue a career in Accountancy?
Try other things as well, flirt with your curiosities. Try as many things in your late teens/early 20s. Then an informal decision of how you want the rest of your life to look. It’s been studied that your 20s is the most autobiographical consequential decade of your life. Find a local accountant, reach out, use LinkedIn. Find a way to get that feedback about what the accountancy sector is like. Nowadays, you can just slide onto LinkedIn and message somebody so I think that would be a strong piece of advice.
“Find something that feels like play, but to others feels like work”.
What is the best advice you’ve ever been given?
A really nice full circle moment was when I was around 13 or 14 a gentlemen called Sir Tom Hunter visited my school. Sir Tom was Scotland’s first billionaire and similarly comes from a working class town near where I grew up. He went from working in a mining town and being a local grocer, to then becoming Scotland’s richest man and then became a global philanthropist and gave it all back.
He shared a quote at the time: ‘it’s better to beg for forgiveness than it is to ask for permission’. I invited him onto my podcast and he said yes and came back around.
‘Find something that feels like play, but to others feels like work’. My hobby is contributing to social mobility and working in the public sector management consultancy space and doing my podcast.