Leader – Ready, steady, launch

The biggest accountancy merger of modern times is due to take effect next Wednesday when PricewaterhouseCoopers goes live. By all accounts this so-called ‘soft launch’ promises to be quite an impressive affair.

In an overnight swoop, sign makers will put up the new logo on offices which will be festooned with banners proclaiming the new corporate image and ethos.

From their comments in our exclusive interviews this week, it is clear that the leaders of the new firm have looked carefully at other accounting mergers in the hope of learning lessons. The pitfalls range from the bloody to the absurd. Everyone has heard about the power struggles between partners, fewer have heard about the lower-level idiocies. For instance, it is said that when Deloittes merged with Coopers in 1990 the audit teams had a major difference over whether they should write their notes in pencil or ink. Coopers used pencil but Deloittes used ink. It took 18 months of argument to settle the point.

Outsiders are more likely to measure the success of the merger on two criteria. The first will be how many key people the new firm loses. Sheer numbers will count less than calibre, although a mass exodus will be damaging. Equally important will be how much of their existing business they can keep.

However tough the merger negotiations have been, the partners of PwC are about to discover that, with the world watching, the real work starts next Wednesday.

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