Jeff Wagner

"Being promoted to capital partner at McDermott was a great achievement for me that I’m very proud of. I also take a lot of pride in having been the chair of McDermott’s Associate Compensation Committee for a number of successful years."

Describe your path to your current position.

I came over from McDermott to KPMG as a direct-entry partner. I loved being at McDermott, but I felt this was an opportunity for me to reinvent myself a little bit, and to try to start developing my own clients a bit more than I did at McDermott, where I was more of a service partner for the corporate practice and private client practice.

What do you find most satisfying about your work at KPMG?

As at McDermott, I find it very satisfying to work with sophisticated clients on exciting transactions. And I very much enjoy developing the younger people. That’s been something that I’ve continued to do here. I am a people person and enjoy getting to know the people I work with and seeing them develop into strong practitioners. It is also a business imperative; that is, if you do not spend time developing your younger folks so that you have a great bench, it is near impossible to grow your business.

What parts of your job do you find most challenging?

Given recent US tax reform, there are thousands and thousands of pages of regulations to deal with in addition to doing your day job. It was also a challenge to learn about all the offerings at KPMG—audit, advisory and tax—and balance that with client development. KPMG is a very different institution than McDermott, and although I’m focused on tax, we try to bring value to our clients from all of the services that KPMG has to offer.

Were there any key takeaways or skills from your years at McDermott that have been most helpful in your current role?

Dan Zucker was my mentor for all my years at McDermott. Having someone like Dan—and all the other phenomenal lawyers I worked with over the years—take me under their wing and take the time to train me and help me develop is an experience that has been invaluable, and something that I will always be thankful for. It’s why I am able to do what I do today.

What career moments are you most proud of?

Being promoted to capital partner at McDermott was a great achievement for me that I’m very proud of. I also take a lot of pride in having been the chair of McDermott’s Associate Compensation Committee for a number of successful years.

I also had an individual client who was very happy with the work I did for them, and as a token of appreciation, they endowed a scholarship in my name at my high school—which is where their children went, too.

What is your favorite memory of your time at McDermott?

There was a time period in 2001 where we had an influx of newborns in the Chicago tax department. We had eight or nine of us, if not more, that had a child within three to four months of each other. One day we all came in with the spouses and the kids, and we took a big group picture in a conference room.

What are your interests outside of work?

My most significant interest is my kids. I have a daughter who is a senior in high school, and then twins—a boy and a girl—in third grade. It’s a lot of fun and it keeps me young. I also enjoy playing golf, although that’s rare given my hectic schedule, and I love college football and my Chicago White Sox.