A major revamp at PwC is all about trust.


By Michael J. de la Merced

At a time when corporate leaders are increasingly expected to act as moral arbiters, the professional services giant PwC has spotted a business opportunity: teaching executives how to be more trustworthy.

On Tuesday, it will unveil a plan to focus the firm, which offers an array of accounting and consulting services, around the concept of trust. (The firm also announced a goal of investing $12 billion in recruiting, training and technology, with plans to add 100,000 new workers.)

It’s an offering aimed directly at corporate America’s need to account for more than just profits and shareholders.

Executives are now regularly under pressure to speak out on issues such as racial justice and the environment. And businesses are in the unusual position of being the most trusted institutions in society, more than governments, nonprofits and the media, according to the latest edition of a long-running survey by the public relations firm Edelman.

Those heightened expectations have created a new opportunity for PwC, said Tim Ryan, the firm’s U.S. chairman and senior partner. “The skill sets you need today to be a C-suite executive are fundamentally different from even five years ago,” he said in an interview. “No different than how technology defined the last 10 years, trust will define the next 10 years.”

As part of PwC’s revamp, the firm will combine its accounting and tax services into a new division called, unsurprisingly, trust solutions.

PwC’s U.S. arm will also spend $300 million on new initiatives centered on the trust theme. The main one is the PwC Trust Leadership Institute, which will teach clients how to handle issues such as transparency, ethics, data security, corporate governance, and politics and policy — without prescribing specific solutions.

Addressing broken trust is something that the Big Four accounting firms, including PwC, have experience with, given their legal run-ins over issues like international tax shelters and the improper mixing of auditing and consulting services.

To increase PwC’s commitment to investing in a more diverse work force and improving economic mobility, both topics that its leadership institute covers as essential to building trust, the company has committed $125 million to give 25,000 Black and Latino college students career coaching and mentoring. PwC aims to hire 10,000 of them over the next five years.

The seeds of the initiative were planted two years ago, Mr. Ryan said, when PwC began a strategic review, consulting with clients on new directions for the firm. By that point, Mr. Ryan had already been thinking about diversity and inclusion and reporting PwC’s progress on those issues.

Then the pandemic and social justice protests after the killing of George Floyd inspired the firm’s leadership to pursue what will become its new identity.

Mr. Ryan said corporate executives often learned softer skills on the job and needed help thinking through decisions in a way that maximized trust. That many executives are falling short is understandable, he added — but the onus is on them to make up for lost time.

“I don’t in any way view it as an indictment of current leadership,” Mr. Ryan said. “The world is changing.”

Site Index

Site Information Navigation

Source: Read Full Article