Profile: Vic Luck -
Ex-partners of both Coopers & Lybrand and Price Waterhouse now share the reins of power within the merged behemoth. The final managerial reshuffle has placed Arsenal fanatic and ex-Coopers’ Luck in charge of one of the new firm’s most lucrative theatres. As managing partner of Europe, Middle East and Africa, Luck is in charge of some 10,000 employees.
Why did you move into consultancy as a career?
I’d been in the motor trade for about 10 years and the industry was showing signs of decline. I’d been thinking about moving into consultancy for some time. I could have moved into a number of firms, but I came into contact with Coopers & Lybrand as a satisfied client, so they couldn’t have been all that bad. I was keen to gain a “practical” MBA, as an alternative to spending that time on a business course.
Have you always had your eye on the sort of job you now have?
I’ve never really focused on a position of leadership in UK or European consulting. In 1977, I was given the opportunity to start a consulting practice in the north of England and Scotland, combining client work and management. It was only then that I saw the possibilities. I suppose a firm career plan, a leadership role, was put in place when I was made a partner in 1983.
What would be your advice to potential PwC leaders?
You’ll need an entrepreneurial spirit. A “go-get” mentality. The ability to win business and really get into the clients’ shoes and provide solutions without being bound by methodologies. We do have formulae but they are there as guidance and not to be slavishly observed. Priority is given to those at PwC who innovate and challenge. My advice to those who aspire to senior partnership positions is that they must keep an open mind.
Not only with regard to solving client problems and dealing with colleagues but to their own personal development. Once you become a partner, the learning continues. It shouldn’t be a goal, but a step. Keep adapting.
Is there a danger that the true entrepreneur will find it difficult to marry their own business instincts with the PwC official line?
Part of the selection process is to identify those candidates that “fit”.
We welcome those with challenging ideas but “loners” wouldn’t stand much of a chance. Dogmatism will get us nowhere with a client. Having ideas, listening to ideas and sharing ideas is great. We take about 50 percent of our consultants from industry. The greatest difficulty they have is that they come from an environment where they have all the power to make decisions and change. As a consultant, you do not have the same level of “power”. You must change and persuade people with the strength of your ideas. It’s a tricky adjustment to make and can be quite a culture shock. Attempts have been made to move someone from a line management position in industry to a similar position in consultancy and the results have been very mixed. You must have a firm track record in consulting work.
You manage 10,000 people, map strategy, and harness financials. Do you regret that you aren’t able to spend more time with clients “getting your hands dirty”?
Not really. I still spend about 20 percent of my time on client work.
I’m still connected with trying to win new business and liaising with existing clients. To be honest, I get the best of all worlds. The day-to-day logistics of running this theatre are handled elsewhere. The business, to an extent, runs itself. My time is divided into three main areas, client contact, strategy and communication. It’s far more fulfilling working across those areas than spending all my time in one. Strategically, I’m looking at how teams work together, how the market is changing and making sure we adapt to that. A major part of my job is to maintain communication internally and externally. The amount of internal communication exploded during and after the merger and, naturally, I also dealt with ensuing press interest. I’m able to strike a very satisfying balance between these three elements.
You mentioned the merger, much has been written about the organisational practicalities of the experience. How have you personally dealt with your staff’s personal and emotional concerns?
There were concerns but we have stressed throughout that it’s a case of “business as usual” though on somewhat of a larger scale. There were surprisingly few cultural clashes when the companies combined. Both firms were independently successful and the merger was simply a joining of forces.
Despite our initial communication to staff allaying fears, it has only been over the past few months that they have, themselves, seen that their jobs have not radically changed. They can see that we are still pursuing an aggressive recruitment policy and consultant development programme.
We still need good people, you can never have too many of them. This is a growth market and our staff are part of that. This was a merger not a rationalisation.
Much has been made of the merger being “a good thing” for clients.
What, for you personally, has been so good about it? And what have been the drawbacks?
Well, I’ve never been responsible for such a large practice before.
It’s the sheer scale of the event which I’ve found so satisfying. I’ve been able to help plan the speed and structure of the merger – not something that happens every day. As for drawbacks, well although my workload has increased, I’m tempted to say that things are actually easier now, because of the way in which the new company has been organised. The whole game has been transformed. The merger was not just a financial move for us but a recognition that we needed rethink the way in which we serve our clients and deliver our product to market. We were part of a sea change where scale and global capabilities were highly important to our clients and so by re-structuring our organisation, things are easier than when we were two separate firms battling each other for the same business.
You may be part of this giant organisation, but aren’t you just as prone to the effects of recession as you were before?
Our recent analysis on this shows there is some stalling of consultancy buying in the UK. This is primarily driven by uncertainty as to where the economy is going. There is certainly an air of caution about the way in which business is being conducted. Interestingly, as yet, there are no similar signs in Europe. However, at the same time the nature of business we are getting is changing. The already high demand for transformation and re-engineering work is accelerating. These are the services that are called upon during recession. This sector is going to be of ever-growing importance to us. But although we are going to experience some effects of recession, we are still planning for between 15 and 20 percent growth next year.
The consultancy profession is currently under the microscope. Consultants are having to work ridiculous hours and lead an almost nomadic life. Is this problem being addressed?
It’s a real issue. PwC has embarked upon a lifestyle programme. We’re formulating a “new deal” for consultants, to be announced in December.
We want to carve out individual approaches to career development, offering our staff time out and more flexible working conditions. We are already ensuring that consultants do not spend too much time abroad, by assigning them jobs closer to home. We employ lifestyle advisers who offer counselling on stress management. We take this very seriously and are looking to invest more in the area.
Consultants have been termed “the undertakers of business”. What are you doing to improve the profession’s image?
I don’t think we, as an industry, always handle our PR as well as we should. The problem is that we handle so much confidential client information and can’t talk about it. The frustration is felt on both sides. If we could impart that information, it would make a difference. We need to promote ourselves as innovators of business. We can impart knowledge to a firm that allows it to operate without consultants. We’re not just project managers but the developers of management. We should promote ourselves as the ones who can improve a firm’s knowledge and expertise.
If you were able to raise knowledge and expertise as the manager of Arsenal, what would be your first task?
After leaping in the air, I’d listen to the players and ground staff and try to understand their concerns. As it stands, the club is in excellent health and so there probably wouldn’t be too much for me to do. If I was appointed, I’d probably ensure that it was in a supervisory role and that current manager Arsene Wenger stayed in place to continue the superb job he’s doing.
READ ALL ABOUT IT: PRICEWATERHOUSECOOPERS IN THE NEWS
12 October 1998 PwC publishes report detailing high confidence among Asian CEOs.
8 October 1998 Publishes report showing that e-business presents major pitfalls for implementors.
28 September 1998 Alliance with Commerce One to help companies with electronic procurement.
21 September 1998 Acquires Applied Decision Analysis, specialists in strategic investment decisions.
14 September 1998 PwC named one of the 100 best companies for working mothers.
11 September 1998 Global strategic alliance announced with Infinity.
9 September 1998 Wins SAP award for excellence in Russia.
26 August 1998 Becomes member of Open Applications Group.
LUCK TALKS OF LIFESTYLE ADVISORS.
Have you had such a workout?
Write Luck in Subject Box.