Street level sign on the KPMG building in Downtown Los Angeles...The street level sign of the KPMG buliding in downtown Los Angeles is shown April 10, 2013. In a blow to one of the world's largest accounting firms, KPMG said it resigned as auditor of two U.S. corporations amid an FBI investigation into insider trading allegations involving leaked information and a former senior partner.  REUTERS/Sam Mircovich  (UNITED STATES - Tags: BUSINESS)
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KPMG has picked a Canadian veteran of the accountancy firm to be its global chairman.

William Thomas, who currently chairs the group’s Americas business and has been with KPMG for almost three decades, will assume the role in October. The 49-year-old will replace John Veihmeyer, who is retiring, for a four-year term.

The global chairman at KPMG acts as a figurehead and ambassador for the group, which operates as a collection of legally separate companies working under the same brand. The senior partner in each country manages the day-to-day running of each division.

Simon Collins, KPMG’s UK chairman, had announced his intention to run for the global role in December last year but decided to withdraw a couple of weeks ago.

Mr Thomas, a Canadian national, has worked at KPMG for 28 years — his entire career. The chemistry graduate has chaired its Americas division for the past three years and was chief executive of the group’s business in Canada between 2009 and 2016.

“I’m convinced the next few years will be among the most dynamic our profession has ever seen,” he said.

William Thomas in a poster to support gay rights as part of his campaign to promote diversity in the workplace

Mr Thomas has won an award in Canada for his work promoting greater diversity in the workplace, including posing in a poster, urging KPMG staff to come out as allies of gay people.

The election comes as KPMG’s Canadian unit has been criticised by lawmakers in recent months over its advice concerning an offshore tax vehicle set up on the Isle of Man in 1999.

The structure allowed clients to “gift” money to an offshore corporation in which they did not own shares, meaning they would not be taxed on any interest or income it generated.

Diane Lebouthillier, Canada’s minister of national revenue, said earlier this month that “in relation to the KPMG file, the [Canada Revenue Agency] continues to take action on a number of fronts, including actively seeking further information through the courts”.

KPMG said the scheme had generated approximately C$1.6m (US$1.2m) in revenue for the group, based on an average fee of about C$100,000 for each time it was used. A parliamentary report disclosed that it was used 16 times for 27 individual clients, in all instances but one before the end of 2003. It was never used during Mr Thomas’s tenure as chief executive of the Canadian unit.

The group argued that the structure complied fully with applicable tax law when it was developed, according to the report on tax evasion by Canada’s parliamentary standing committee on finance published last October.

KPMG denies any wrongdoing.

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