Interview with Bill Thomas

Bill Thomas

Chairman, KPMG

What’s the most interesting thing about you that we can’t Google? 

When I was in Vancouver I used to play in a band.

Interestingly enough, I played the keyboards when I was a kid growing up, but for the longest time I never had the opportunity to play. After my kids were born, I found out that a few of the friends we used to hang out together with who also had young kids were musicians. That sparked a desire amongst us to pick up our old instruments and form a small band.

We weren’t very good. We played in my garage and made the neighbors pretty upset! That experience morphed into me getting together with a few of my fellow partners to play at the KPMG Christmas party in 2007 and at a few other local events.

I also attempt to play the bass and drums but mostly now I just try to keep up with my son, who is a terrific guitar player.


How have your dreams and goals changed throughout your life? 

I grew up in a family where both my dad and my grandpa were doctors… so my goal as a kid was to be a doctor. I went into the accounting profession as a way into business from a science degree and in the early stages of my career I was focused on doing the best job I possibly could.

Over time, and especially after my kids were born, my aspirations have morphed into asking myself: How good of a dad am I? How good of a husband am I? Do I have a relationship with my family and kids? That’s way more important to me today than anything else.

From a professional perspective I believe that my responsibility or aspiration is to make a difference. Some days that difference is small; some days that difference is large, but when I stop being able to make a difference I’ll probably find something else to do.


If you could magically change three things in the world, what would you change? 

If I could change three things, the first thing I would change is the number of hours in a day. There certainly aren’t enough of them and I could use some more!

The second thing I would love to change is to be able to teleport from any place in the world. I spend my life on airplanes – traveling the world for work – and getting home to my family faster after a long trip would be a great invention.

If number 2 is not possible, then the third thing I would change would be the amount of time it takes to get in and out of an airport.

All this to say, the thing I find myself up against more than anything in the world is time.


Who’s been your biggest mentor/influence?

I owe my career to two influential people who are behind why I’m here having this conversation with you. First and foremost is my wife, who has been with me on this journey from day one.

The second person is my mentor, who was the managing partner of the KPMG Vancouver office. He was instrumental in bringing me back to the firm after I left for a brief stint in industry. He gave me the opportunities to excel and encouraged me to take on leadership roles I wasn’t ready for.

I was very fortunate to have an amazing mentor, and in turn, I believe very strongly in the value of mentorship and the importance we should all place on being a mentor.

Your legacy is not defined by your roles or your titles… Your legacy will be defined by the people in the organization who are there in some small way because of you. I have been really lucky to play a small part in helping a number of incredibly gifted and talented people succeed – both inside and outside our firm. I feel honored to have had the chance to do that.


What’s the most overrated product out on the market? 

I would say, melatonin. It’s supposed to make you go right back to sleep if you wake up in the middle of the night.

I travel all over the world and often for short durations. For example, if I am in Asia Pacific for a two-day trip with a 12-hour time difference, you’re trying to sleep in what is normally the middle of the day. It would be great to be able to take melatonin and just go back to sleep… People in my life, including my wife, swear by it. It just doesn’t work for me unfortunately.