Ian Powell in conversation with Katie Derham

Ian Powell (IP), Katie Derham (KD)

KD

Welcome to PwC’s 2015 Annual Report. I’m Katie Derham and I’m with Ian Powell, PwC UK’s Chairman and Senior Partner to discuss PwC’s performance over the last year and Ian, lovely to see you but before we really get into the nitty gritty let’s just talk about this new format where you’re reporting in a very different way this year. Why?

IP

Well we thought that it was the right time to start to look digitally. We like to be at the leading edge of reporting and we’ve always reported our Annual Report, our Transparency Report, Sustainability Report in a more traditional format but this year we decided we should do something completely different.

KD

So here we are, completely digital but we really want to hear about the performance of PwC this year, so tell me what kind of year has it been for the company?

IP

It’s been a really strong year. We’re delighted with the growth rate that we’ve achieved. This year we’ll go through 3 billion sterling here in the UK which is a pretty exceptional performance. It’s been a strong year really I guess for the British economy and at the end of the day a firm like PwC is a reflection of the economy but it’s also a reflection of our clients, so our clients are doing well so PwC’s doing quite well. But really the growth is right the way across all parts of the business so we’ll report the business really in terms of our Assurance business, our Tax business, Consulting and Deals and we’ve seen great growth in all four sections of the business.

KD

Now let’s just dig a little deeper into the revenue situation for PwC over the last year. It looks like it’s been a very good year for you guys, you’ve alluded to that already. Where’s the growth coming from?

IP

Two or three real specific areas that we’ve seen fantastic growth in, cyber security, our clients are really concerned about cyber security so we’ve invested heavily in cyber security skills over the last three to four years. Digital and the whole way that business works in a digital space has been really key for us as well. Data analytics has been crucial. We’ve invested a lot in our technology consultancy skills as well.

KD

Do you feel there’s a sense of optimism in the economy at the moment?

IP

So I do feel optimistic. I think British business is incredibly innovative. I think it re-invents itself really well and I think that the environment for business in the UK’s really strong and I actually think the UK as a country is incredibly attractive from an inward investment perspective as well.

KD

Of course the service that you provide to your clients is paramount to the success of the company but it’s also about what kind of company PwC is and I know there’s a lot of talk internally about you being a responsible business. Do you want just tell me a little bit more about what you mean by that?

IP

Yeah, I mean a firm like PwC is completely based on integrity and that is really what the whole value of the organisation is and the way that we go about business I think is crucial. We run the whole strategy off values and behaviours with the strong emphasis on personal responsibility but also empowering our people to be able to do the things that they want to do and the things that they need to do as well. When we recruit, we’re number one graduate recruiter, we recruit something like 1,500 graduates a year and those graduates really want to understand the values of the organisation. We talk about this principal of responsible, profitable, growth because we’re really here about sustainability for the future and that sustainability manifests itself in many different ways. There is the sustainability as regards climate change and the debate that we have there, we’ve got a great group that we sort of work, advising clients there as well but also the way that we act as an organisation. Then there’s the corporate social responsibility side of the business as well and the way that we act with society generally, whether it be involvement with small charities or large charities or the way that we support our PwC Foundation as well. So there are many different ways that we interact. But this goes right to the heart of the culture of PwC and that goes right to the way that we deal with our people and the way that our people deal with their clients and every interaction that we have with anybody outside of PwC is absolutely crucial to our brand.

KD

And I know there’s been quite a lot of work done this year by the firm on diversity as well hasn’t there?

IP

As an organisation people look at us and they think we’re doing some fantastic things. We get recognised with different awards. Personally I think we’ve got a lot more to do. I think we’ve made good progress, I think we’re very focused on it, not just at Executive Board level but right the way through the organisation. But we’re still not bringing enough people from diverse backgrounds, either in gender diversity or ethnic diversity through into leadership positions and that is something that we’re really focused on as an Exec Board and it’s something that I’m personally really focused on and it’ll be a strong focus for the next 12 months and the rest of my Chairmanship.

KD

I mean how the firm is perceived externally is obviously something, a challenge that you have to meet every day, and there have been some issues this year, particularly around the tax question and I know that you’ve been very much involved in that. I mean how do you rise to that challenge? How do you try and reassure clients and the public at large that PwC doesn’t just talk the talk, it walks the walk too?

IP

I think there are two sides to it. How do we act as an organisation and as people will see in terms of our Annual Report and accounts, we’re very transparent and the firm pays and collects about a billion in tax. But then also we advised clients and so the advice that we’ve given has been very much the focus of tax morality debate. We believe that the tax system needs simplification, we want to be fully engaged with that and we want to be very open and transparent in the way that we believe that that should develop in the future.

KD

It’s clearly very important to you as a firm and also personally that PwC is seen as a good place to work, a good employer.

IP

Yeah, yeah, it’s crucial. I mean at the end of the day PwC has great clients and we’ve got great people and then we’ve got knowledge, you know we don’t have any other assets. So it’s really crucial that we recruit the best people, we develop the best people and we retain the best people and at the moment I think the way our brand stands means that we are attractive but we cannot take that for granted and we have got no room for complacency in recruiting the best people and investing in them. We’ve made strides I think over the last 12 months to improve social mobility in terms of people that get access to a firm like PwC. We’ve looked at UCAS points because we don’t believe that they give us the best indication of future potential but also we’ve looked at diversity inside the organisation and the recruitment from diverse backgrounds into the organisation because if PwC is going to be relevant in the next 10-15 years we need to reflect society. Society’s incredibly diverse, PwC needs to be more diverse.

KD

So as you now look forward to your final year as Chairman, the next 12 months, what sort of personal reflections have you got now?

IP

Yeah, I mean I’m delighted with the performance of the organisation over the last few years and especially this last 12 months. I think the acquisitions that we’ve made have positioned us in an incredibly strong position. In the next 12 months we need to make sure that we get all of our resources out there into the marketplace and stay completely focused on the market. I think it’s going to be a really exciting year. Obviously there’s the Europe debate that’s out there but I think we’ve got some stability in the economy, I think the economy’s performing well. I think we’ve got great people inside PwC, we’ve got ambitious plans to create even more jobs inside PwC and I just feel really, really optimistic.

KD

Very good to hear. Ian Powell thank you very much indeed.

IP

Thank you.