Big Four: PricewaterhouseCoopers

PricewaterhouseCoopers this year finally toppled Ernst & Young from its long-held pole position to become the Big Four firm of the Year at the Accountancy Age Awards for Excellence.

In the wake of this year’s myriad US accounting scandals, it has been PwC’s voice that has sounded the loudest.

Many of its most senior partners, such as Rodger Hughes and Roger Davis, have used the opportunity to explain the dry topics of audit and governance to a public mostly uneducated and often overexpectant of what accountancy can rightly achieve.

PwC stood back from the scramble to take over Andersen UK and swiftly – and with much foresight – took in the embattled firm’s practices in key locations such as Hong Kong and China.

And it is the firm’s insolvency team that has been busying itself with selling off Enron Europe as a going concern. It is one of the most complex administration cases that has arisen in the last decade.

Our judges were direct in their praise. ‘It’s simply a leading firm,’ said one.Despite the ongoing turmoil, after a few false starts and with a backdrop of economic instability, PwC finally sold off its consulting arm to IBM. The firm is now due to publish its full accounts by country when it becomes a limited liability partnerships probably next year.

On an international scale, the firm has done much to prepare its clients, regulators, preparers and users of accounts for the onset of international accounting standards due to take full effect in the UK from 2005.

It is also a lead player in championing the debate in support of the ‘principles over rules’ approach to accounting and auditing standards.

PwC’s awards entries have consistently been of high calibre but this year the judges thought it was a clear winner. Our panel said the firm successfully met the criteria. Judges wanted to see how an entire firm across all service areas had helped to give clients significant competitive advantage. PwC has clearly done that.

The judges were extremely impressed by not only the firm’s presentation of its work but also the content, particularly the case studies put forward.

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