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Preparing for the quantum leap

Aaron Kemp, a director with KPMG Advisory Technology Risk, discusses the risks and opportunities posed by quantum computing.

Q&A with Aaron Kemp

As sci-fi as it may seem today, the game-changing implications of quantum computing are pushing this fast-emerging technology into the spotlight. From eventually cracking today’s data encryption protocols to providing exponentially greater computing power, quantum is expected to drive innovation and breakthroughs in virtually every industry. The tectonic shift—when it comes—will likely be profound.

In this wide-ranging interview, Aaron Kemp, a director with KPMG Advisory Technology Risk, discusses the risks and opportunities posed by quantum computing—including the urgency around cybersecurity and what “quantum safe” looks like, implications for digital talent, and how quantum is expected to supercharge artificial intelligence (AI) and the metaverse.

BOARD LEADERSHIP CENTER (BLC): The mechanics behind quantum computing are pretty mind bending. How much do you need to understand in order to grasp its potential power and disruptive impact on computing, innovation, and cybersecurity?

AARON KEMP: It’s helpful to understand a few concepts and elements of quantum—starting with qubits, quantum entanglement, and quantum algorithms. It takes time to get your head around quantum and how different it is.

Unlike classical computing, which relies on combinations of 0s and 1s to perform a calculation or operation sequentially, quantum computing operates at a molecular level, using electrons and photons to calculate the possible combinations simultaneously. For certain types of computing, quantum will enable computations that are, literally, a million times faster than classical computing. It’s a mind bender for sure; even Einstein wrestled with it.

One concept I think everyone can readily understand is in the very near future, quantum computers will be able to break the encryption we use to secure data and communications today. Bad actors and states are scooping up and storing a lot of data for when quantum can be used to open those files. You can imagine why there’s a growing urgency and a regulatory focus on “quantum safe.”

Quantum basics
  • Quantum bits (qubits): Unlike classical bits that can only be in a state of 0 or 1, qubits can be in a superposition of multiple states, allowing quantum computers to perform numerous calculations simultaneously.
  • Quantum entanglement refers to the phenomenon where the state of one qubit is dependent on the state of another qubit, even when separated by a large distance. This allows quantum computers to solve complex problems much faster than classical computers.
  • Quantum algorithms are designed to exploit the unique properties of qubits to perform computations more efficiently than classical algorithms. For example, quantum computers can solve certain problems, such as factoring large numbers, exponentially faster than classical computers—hence the threat to RSA public-key encryption, which is predicated on factoring large numbers to be beyond the capability of a classical system. 
  • Quantum instability and current limitations: Although quantum computers have great potential, they also have limitations, such as the instability of qubits, susceptibility to decohesion, errors, and other issues affecting their quantum state and ability to perform calculations. Overcoming these limitations will be the key factor in quantum computers at scale becoming a reality.

BLC: What’s the status of efforts to come up with new encryption standards that would be “quantum safe”?

KEMP: The National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) competition to design and implement a new set of cryptographic algorithms to replace those believed to be susceptible to quantum computing is down to four candidates for standardization, and other algorithms are currently being studied. It’s a work in progress, but it’s a race to be ready and secure in a quantum world.

The Quantum Computing Cybersecurity Preparedness Act passed last December requires all government agencies to start migrating to “quantum safe.” That will influence organizations wanting to do business with the government, as they will be required to meet those standards.

New York State has proposed amendments to its cybersecurity rule out for public comment, which would require companies operating in the state to meet new cybersecurity standards—and other states are likely to follow suit. Governments around the world are also starting to develop national policies and legislation around quantum as well.

BLC: Is there an example or analogy that you use to describe where we are on quantum today and the “quantum age” that’s ahead?

KEMP: One analogy equates quantum to where we were with classical computing in the late ’50s and early ’60s. Quantum systems are still large, unwieldy, and exorbitantly expensive. While they are not in wide use yet, progress is accelerating and the impact will likely be game changing—not only for data security, but also for business models and innovation in the healthcare, energy, chemicals, automotive, finance, and other sectors. The changes are expected to be profound.

Quantum computers are not going to replace classical computers. I see a hybrid model of quantum and classical with each performing the functions they excel at. Your classical computer will work through the cloud with a quantum system.

Where quantum is getting attention and traction


Technology and computing companies—including all of the tech giants—are investing in quantum computing research and development and have created quantum-powered cloud platforms and tools for their customers.


Financial services and other financial institutions are interested in using quantum computing to solve complex organizational problems such as portfolio optimization and risk assessment.


Healthcare organizations are using quantum systems to research new drugs and analyze biological data. Their end goal is to leverage quantum computing to improve the diagnosis and treatment of diseases.


Energy and materials companies are using quantum to optimize energy production, design new materials, and simulate complex chemical reactions with the goal of finding new ways to power homes, cars, and cities.


Governments and defense sectors are investing in quantum for secure communications and stronger cryptographic processes.


A burgeoning quantum start-up market is providing quantum products and solutions—for example, Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) has seen several solutions go to market, and quantum random number generation, a fundamental part of cryptography, is being developed by companies.

BLC: What are the implications of quantum computing for a company’s digital talent strategy? Are traditional tech skills readily transferable?

KEMP: Quantum upskilling is going to be a significant part of a company’s digital talent strategy moving forward. Even at a base level, education and training will be required to help business leaders and policymakers understand the implications of quantum projects and the language of quantum. IT departments will be able to leverage their traditional skills but will likely need training in new applications and cybersecurity programs.

Quantum’s implications for digital talent
  • Skills gap: There will be a high demand for quantum computing skills and experts, which may result in a shortage of qualified professionals. Companies will need to invest in training and development programs to close the skills gap and attract top talent.
  • Job roles: New job roles, such as quantum software engineers and quantum data scientists, will emerge and existing roles will evolve to include quantum computing skills.
  • Technical proficiency: Employees will need to develop technical proficiency in quantum computing and understand how it can be applied to specific business problems.
  • Collaboration: Teams will need to collaborate closely with quantum computing experts, physicists, and computer scientists to fully leverage the technology.

BLC: How does quantum relate to AI and the metaverse? As a technologist, how do you think about these emerging technologies in a holistic way?

KEMP: Quantum computing, AI, and the metaverse are distinct applications with different implications, but they’re interconnected and will increasingly influence each other as they mature.

Quantum computing has the potential to enhance the performance of AI algorithms, especially those that require heavy computational power. For example, quantum algorithms can help improve the accuracy of certain machine learning models and speed up complex simulations. Conversely, AI has the potential to help design, optimize, and control quantum systems.

In the metaverse—a virtual world or multiple virtual worlds that exist as a shared space for users to interact and participate in—quantum computing will provide increased computational power for large-scale simulations, enhance security and privacy, and allow for new forms of virtual interactions.


Overhyped technology is always a concern when it comes to prioritizing investments and resources. How can a company stay apprised of game changers like quantum, AI, and the metaverse, while thinking holistically and putting the company on a strong technology footing for the future?

KEMP: Recent history is rife with examples of technologies that promised significant change but was much ado about nothing. On the other hand, home computers, smartphones, and other innovations surprised us and have driven profound cultural change, spawned multibillion-dollar industries, and become fundamental in our daily personal and professional lives.

AI and the metaverse are fundamentally going to change the way we interact with technology. ChatGPT has grabbed a lot of attention recently with its amazing capabilities and speed for answering questions, writing papers, or developing code.

While the metaverse has not yet had its watershed moment of adoption, there are numerous companies about to release augmented reality hardware and software. As the technology becomes more affordable and mainstream, we’ll see if it becomes widely adopted.

Here are four keys to putting the organization on a strong footing: Stay informed and incorporate technology disruption into strategic discussions; widen your tech talent beyond traditional computing skills; partner with universities, research institutes, and industry peers on common challenges; and consider the adequacy of the organization’s R&D level for tech and the future.

Ultimately, a holistic approach is about covering the risks and positioning the company for the opportunities—which there will be plenty of as these emerging technologies come into the mainstream, like we’re seeing now with AI.


The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of KPMG LLP.

Meet our team

Image of Aaron Kemp
Aaron Kemp
US Quantum Leader, KPMG LLP

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