A zebra can no more change its stripes than a leopard its spots. The largesse of KPMG UK in the past extended to free phones for all and a party graced by celebrity chef Jamie Oliver. Now the embattled accountancy firm has launched an economy drive named Project Zebra. KPMG aims to bring in zero-based budgeting (ZBB), the sort of nit-picking austerity it might usually recommend to clients but not adopt itself.

There are two small snags. First, ZBB does not work. Second, KPMG has always given short shrift to thrift. Fans of ZBB over the years included former US president Jimmy Carter and Brazilian private equity firm 3G. The latter used it in the slash ’n burn model that boosted margins at AB InBev and other groups. ZBB worked brilliantly there — until suddenly it didn’t. Witness the spillage of ketchup and red ink at Kraft Heinz. This partly reflected big, blunt cost cuts at the foods group.

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