Michiel Soeting – MBA Graduate Expands Georgia Southern’s Influence and Impact
Years before heading a global auditing practice for consulting powerhouse KPMG, Michiel Soeting (’84) was a teen in the Netherlands, fascinated by American culture, particularly basketball. However, pursuing an MBA in the United States seemed out of reach until he was awarded a Georgia Rotary Club scholarship.
“It was a great opportunity. If you’re from a relatively small country to be able to study in the United States and to get to know a different culture broadens your horizons,” Soeting said. “If I step back, those were very formative years. If you’re young and you’re in a different environment, clearly it has quite an impact on you going forward.”
His 30-Year Career at KPMG
Soeting started working for KPMG in 1987. Since then he has handled audit, tax and advisory services for some of the largest energy and natural resources companies in the world. They include Royal Dutch Shell, BP, Chevron, ExxonMobil, PetroChina and BHP Billiton. As the former global head of KPMG’S energy and natural resource practice, he led 18,000 people in 100 different countries. Now, after three decades in business, the University alumnus said he still appreciates what he learned at Georgia Southern.
“It set me up for an international career,” he noted. “Talking about my time at Georgia Southern always has been a nice icebreaker when meeting people while on business in the U.S. For example, they don’t expect a Dutchman to talk about college football.”
While attending Georgia Southern, the Rotary Scholar played pickup basketball games in Hanner Fieldhouse, tailgated at football games and even participated in deer hunting. He lived with a family in Register, Georgia, and through them became a fan of Southern cooking.
“Wow! Let’s start with fried chicken,” he said excitedly. “I love any casserole. I love grits. If I travel with my family in the U.S., they know I must have grits for breakfast.”
Soeting is still close to the son of the couple he stayed with in Register. Last summer, he attended the wedding of his friend’s daughter, and he visited the Statesboro Campus on a deserted Sunday afternoon.
“I could see that the school has grown with so many new and better facilities,” he said. “I have traveled a lot all over the world but I think it’s good for students to realize the wonderful environment they are in at Georgia Southern.”
A Flourishing International Career
Soeting currently lives in the United Kingdom where he is the global lead partner for the Australian-based BHP Billiton audit. The company is a leader in the petroleum, metals and mining sectors.
“I have a regular commute into Melbourne and Houston,” he said. “I feel privileged to work in different cities and discover them. You can ask me about good restaurants in Houston anytime.”
Sometime, the audit profession is considered a less-than-thrilling line of work, but Soeting said it is a fast-learning track for accounting and finance majors to understand the inner workings of a variety of businesses.
“It’s good for students to understand beyond the numbers,” the business graduate said. “You need to understand why companies are making a profit and why they are making a loss… For example, if we need to audit the valuation of an asset or the valuation of stocks, we need to inspect, we need to be on the ground. And if those stocks or if that plant is in the middle of the jungle of Thailand, you have to get there. I have had my share of helicopter rides, private jets and company jets just to get to the middle of nowhere. You’re in the real world and that is what makes the profession very appealing.”
In his 30 years at KPMG, the University alumnus has visited many fascinating places and learned valuable lessons but he has never forgotten his Georgia Southern experience or the lasting friendships he made in Statesboro.
“I still have people I may not see quite often but if I would contact them, we would immediately get in touch and it would be like we met each other for the last time only yesterday,” he said.
Soeting, who credits his Georgia Southern education for helping pave the way for his hugely successful international career, is married to his wife, Anne Mieke, and they have two children, Sophie and Claire.
– Sandra Bennett