At the Top - but Mick Still Has a Fairway to Go; in Association with RBS Monday Interview Mick Thompson, the New Senior Partner at KPMG in Newcastle, Is a Serious Player in the North East Business World. but Away from Work His Sporting Efforts Do Not Always Attract Great Plaudits, Discovers Peter McCusker

Article excerpt

AS a former Northumberland county schoolboy rugby player and cricketer Mick Thompson thought his achievements on these sporting fields would be matched when he took up golf 20 years ago.

Still playing off a handicap of 24 (not very good for those to whom golf talk is alien!) his friends are quick to remind him of his golfing frailties.

"With my mates at my regular weekend four ball at Bamburgh Castle Golf Club I am often asked how I can be so good at some sports, but so bad at golf."

He takes solace in that oft-heard refrain of those whose fairway dreams are more faraway hopes. "It's more of a social thing. I enjoy the opportunity to take in the great views at Bamburgh and the company of my mates."

Thompson also finds time to tend to his garden ponds and exotic fish at weekends, in fact he even professes to having a desire to run an aquarium.

"This started off as a childhood passion which has transferred into adult life. It's my escape from working life," he says.

Golf and pondkeeping are passions which help ensure Thompson keeps his work and non-work life in balance, and there is a further parallel that links the two. "When people hear about my interest in pondkeeping they laugh at me," he chuckles.

Thomson, 46, has been with KPMG since graduating from Durham University in economics. He admits to kind of drifting into the accountancy profession.

"I didn't have a clue what I wanted to do. Obviously being a sporting superstar would have been the most appealing career move, but I settled for accountancy.

"I had an uncomfortable interview with one of the other big four. Other people I spoke to also had an uncomfortable interview with the same firm, but when I went to Peat Marwick Mitchell (who later became KPMG) it was nothing like the interview I expected. We talked about rugby union for most of the time. I felt totally at home.

"I still think that it is one of the core values of the firm to this day.

The people we employ are the key to the success of the firm.

"It is absolutely fundamental to make people feel appreciated.

We like to make our staff feel we want them and that helps build a two-way relations hip.

"There is no brainwashing at KPMG.

The people we employ are intelligent. They are people we want to nurture and allow to flourish. That is how I felt when I first joined and I believe that is how our staff feel today."

Thompson's appointment as the senior partner at KPMG last month saw him become the first North East born and bred head of the practice for over 30 years.

He succeeds Richard Bottomley, the Halifax-born former head, whose family hail form the North East.

Mr Bottomley was head of the Newcastle office since 1997 and is now the new President of the North East Chamber of Commerce.

Thompson said: "Richard brought the office on significantly and will be a hard act to follow.

"In the last five years alone it has grown by over 30%. We now have seven partners and 160 staff and can now offer, from Newcastle for the first time in our history, the full range of services North East businesses need.

"The office has grown to become a full service office with M&A, restructuring, forensic and public sector advisory teams complementing our long established audit and tax service lines.

"Much of KPMG's strength in the local market is down to the commitment and ambition of Richard. I wish him a fulfilling retirement.

"I take comfort in the fact that he has every intention of continuing to work in the North East after his retirement from KPMG and add further value to the local business community.

"And, in particular, as the new President Chamber of Commerce, Richard will bring a great deal to this influential organisation."

Thompson professes he had been favourite to take over from Richard once word slipped out a few years ago that his boss was planning to retire. …