Diversity in Deals: Transforming transactions

Nisha Sharma, KPMG

By Nisha Sharma, Head of TMT M&A North and National Head of Healthtech M&A, KPMG UK

The balancing act

As KPMG’s first female Corporate Finance partner in the North, I often reflect on my personal journey to partnership and what this means for me, our team and the firm, as well as our Northern deals community as a next generation leader.

Much has changed in the last 18 years. Back then, I was an anomaly: a female from an ethnic background and a state education to add. Years later, I complicated matters further with two (wonderful) children.  I have what is commonly described as having a ‘diverse’ background. The world of M&A Advisory is highly demanding at the best of times…throw in school runs, sporting fixtures, chicken-pox and a countless number of soft play parties…and it appears an impossible juggling act. For me, balancing a demanding career with children has only been possible with significant support, in a nurturing yet challenging environment at KPMG where I was encouraged to ‘stretch-safely’. With an unwavering desire to drive the diversity agenda from the top, my colleagues and senior leaders across the firm have reassuringly supported my growth over the years, and continue to act as invaluable counsel.

Encouraging change

And now, I in turn am advocating for the next generation. Our Northern Corporate Finance team is one of the most diverse across our region, with three of our five senior leaders in Manchester being working mums and around one third of our team coming from a diverse background. This allows us to reflect the changing face of our clients, build common ground and create communities that reflect those we live and work in. Through bringing different perspectives with authenticity and insights to the deal-making process, we can seek to establish the high levels of trust that our profession demands. This all leads to a better place to work for all of us – with our colleagues ‘doing work that matters’, greater levels of engagement and richer opportunities to learn and develop.

Across the technology sector, where I specialise, diversity is a scarcity. And this represents an opportunity for me, with my diverse outlook,  to build deep relationships and win work in a very natural and authentic way. By creating forums, such as KPMG’s Women in Tech Book club, I am helping support the next generation of local female founders to connect, share and collaborate in a safe environment. The strength of the technology sector in our region is truly inspirational, and it is refreshing to see an increasingly number of diverse leaders at the table.  To drive long-term sustainability across our business, KPMG recognises the importance of engaging with our potential clients in a very different way.

But I am also keenly aware that there is still more work to be done – especially at more senior levels across the deals ecosystem. Indeed, KPMG’s Deals business boasts a strong cohort of female leaders and role models here in the North, across the UK and globally. Locally and nationally, we continue to promote focused initiatives to attract, retain and grow diverse talent across our business, for school leavers through to experienced candidates. As a Deals partner himself, Chris Stott, our Manchester Office Senior Partner, is hugely supportive and leads on a number of our local collaborations and sponsorships, including with UA92.  

Rainmakers and trailblazers

We are starting to see the mould break and the traditional stereotypes of a Corporate Financier challenged. I think this is even more true in the North where we have a strong rich and diverse community, with entrepreneurs from all walks of life. This week, as the top dealmakers across the North gathered for the annual Rainmakers conference in Manchester, the diversity of our community was on full display – in the audience, the speakers’ roster and in the presentations. Hopefully we all seen signs of progress, but equally acknowledge the need to continue to encourage our industry to step up further with their own efforts, leadership and authenticity to drive real and sustainable change in the local dealmaking community.

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