This week marks PricewaterhouseCoopers’ tenth birthday, and while it is – and
should be – a time for celebration, it also begs the question: Is PwC equipped
to cope with the challenges of the next decade?
In its short life the firm has already been through as many as three distinct
cycles. The first required the bashing together of two disparate cultures. The
second saw it achieve its ambition of being seen as the world’s number one
professional services firm. The third, and most recent, has seen the firm
realise that once you reach the top, the only way is down.
Ian Powell, who this week became only the third senior partner in the UK
firm’s history, acknowledges as much. ‘If you’re number one and you’re not
agile, you’re a target,’ he told Monday’s Financial Times. ‘Now it’s time for us
to really start to use our position as market leader.’
It was a frank but necessary assessment. PwC’s current growth rate is 6% a
year. Deloitte’s is thought to be twice that and could overtake the firm in the
UK as early as next year.
And, as a partner from the advisory side of the business, Powell will know
better than most that PwC faces a mountain to climb in a market where Deloitte
is the only Big Four firm to be taken seriously. And worse: all this in a
business climate that is as unfriendly as PwC has ever seen.
The next ten years will be a lot harder than the first.