Andre Zarb

A half-century ago, an accountant by the name of Joseph Tabone set in motion what would eventually become one of Malta’s most renowned audit, tax and advisory companies. By 1997, Joseph Tabone & Co had been accepted as a member of KPMG’s global network of independent firms and rebranded to KPMG. Skip ahead a couple of decades, and KPMG in Malta is now headed by Andre Zarb, the firm’s Senior Partner.

“I took on the role in October 2020 at a very exciting time for the firm,” says Andre, who stepped into the position after building a career leading KPMG’s tax function and advising prominent businesses, international clients and the public sector on tax and EU-related fiscal matters.

As Senior Partner, Andre is now keen to build on KPMG’s strong fundamentals: its team of talented experts, solid leadership group and the clients and stakeholders who place their trust in the firm. “Last year, we celebrated our 50th anniversary after also inaugurating our refurbished offices. We invested €5 million in creating 5,400sqm of office space to house our ever-growing team. It’s astonishing to think that we’ve evolved from 50 employees in 1979 to over 500 a few decades later.”

KPMG has certainly been on the up and up, growing at an impressive rate. The increase in personnel is tied to a range of new services that have been added to the firm’s portfolio over the last few years, including a People and Change practice, Digital Solutions, and the KPMG Learning Academy as well as growth in core tax and audit offerings.

“I strongly believe in combining KPMG’s business expertise with leading technology to meet the challenges and opportunities of our digital age,” the Senior Partner explains. “We have become more agile in innovating, growing and supporting our clients in doing the same. Innovation is vital, but perhaps even more so is keeping a steady focus: to survive and thrive, we must never lose sight of our values.”

Photo by Bernard Polidano

In fact, for Andre, culture is what drives the organisation. “Trust and quality are our top priority, and they must remain at the core of everything we do,” he continues, steadfast in his view that KPMG’s sound reputation and success are thanks to its team of professionals – who, despite now working remotely, have remained as connected as ever.

“We invest in our people because it is their dedication that gives us the ability to operate and specialise across sectors, including banking and finance, private enterprise, family businesses, insurance, iGaming, investment management and funds, shipping, yachting and aviation.”

Andre – ever mindful of the very present challenges facing businesses – also places people and culture at the heart of KPMG’s ability to adapt to the challenges of 2020. “COVID-19 changed corporate strategies and priorities overnight, and it has reinforced the need to look after the well-being of our people, clients and wider society,” he asserts.

“Beyond that, the pandemic has highlighted the importance of driving enterprise evolution by using technology as an enabler. Embracing new technologies is no longer about doing things better, faster or cheaper; it is now crucial to survival and growth in a new business reality – one that isn’t about going back to what once was. We’re moving forward in an era of transformation and are inevitably going to face many tough decisions.”

And the key to coming out on top? Adaptable and robust leadership, according to Andre. “Leaders have had to respond at a record-level pace. They are the crucial conduit that directs an organisation’s strategy and its people towards reducing the impact of COVID-19 and flattening the curve.”

Strong leadership has always been central to Andre’s business life philosophy. He explains that a leader holds the responsibility of establishing a clear vision that can be transmitted across the entire business and bought into by the team.

Photo by Bernard Polidano

“The pandemic has solidified the importance of visionary leadership, which requires clear goals, a strategic plan and the ability to empower each member of the team,” remarks Andre, explaining that KPMG has had to quickly adapt to face the challenges of our once-in-a-generation crisis – certainly the biggest since the 2009 global financial crash.

“The professional community has been given the opportunity to rethink how traditional businesses operate and diversify to increase resilience,” he continues. “At KPMG, we’ve empowered our people with an unmatched deployment of technology, enabling them to come together and work more efficiently and effectively.”

Looking ahead, KPMG’s Senior Partner is mindful that our current health concern is overshadowing another, equally important issue: the climate crisis. “COVID-19 has accelerated our digital transformation and unveiled emerging technology initiatives – and I’m sure the professional services sector will consequently continue to evolve at a rapid pace. At the same time, though, we can’t ignore our environmental predicament, and the responsibility companies face in this regard.

“Together, we can trigger positive change. As a global firm, KPMG is set on becoming a net-zero carbon organisation by 2030, aiming for a 50 per cent reduction in the organisation’s direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions. We want to lead by example and be at the forefront of environmental initiatives. I believe that each one of us – both professionally and personally – must and can shoulder the burden to champion real, tangible change.”

This interview is part of a serialisation of 50 interviews carried out with Malta’s top CEOs, featured in the bumper edition of MaltaCEOs 2021 publication, which was recently released. Despite the many challenges of 2020, this is the largest edition to date.

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