Steve Russell

Head of Operational Restructuring and Cross Deals Strategy, PwC United Kingdom

In my role as a Partner in PwC’s Business Recovery Services (BRS) team, I have the privilege of not only being able to help businesses survive, but thrive.

Many people assume that our team only deals with troubled companies facing insolvency. This remains an incredibly important part of our work – often providing a mechanism to allow underlying business and associated jobs to be saved. However, we also work with companies and their stakeholders to plot a path through stress and distressed times to secure their future viability. Increasingly, we use our skills from these situations to help strong and viable businesses to understand the potential threats they face and take actions to secure their future.

We help them address these developments proactively by future-proofing their strategy and strengthening their finances, capital management and operational capabilities. It’s a hugely interesting and rewarding role, enabling us to protect livelihoods and contribute to economic stability and growth.

I joined PwC initially in audit, and shortly thereafter, I took up a secondment in our BRS team and found the opportunity I was looking for to make a real difference. A personal highlight was working with a business that, while viable, was made insolvent by cross-guarantees given to its troubled holding company. After three months trading the company in insolvency, we were eventually able to sell the company and guarantee its survival without the loss of a single job. The good news that jobs had been saved came just before Christmas and was a source of huge celebration in a small community that had feared the worse.

The work of our BRS team has evolved and expanded considerably since then, with the opportunities to support businesses, employment and communities growing by the day. When I joined the team, we did two things (IBRs and insolvency) for four clients (the four big UK clearing banks). Now, we offer many more areas of support to thousands of different clients. The shift reflects the evolution in capabilities and approach of our 500-strong BRS team on the one hand and the change in environment created by, for example, the diversification of sources of capital, regulation (e.g. The Enterprise Act and The Pensions Act) and a move towards a ‘rescue culture’.

We apply the experience learned during stressed situations to help regenerate all kinds of businesses. In a typical assignment, we work with companies to look at the threats they face and the opportunities being opened up by markets facing massive disruption. What if a digital competitor moved in and undercut their prices, for example?

We can then help them simplify their operating structures, focus resources on their strengths and buy time to retrain employees and modernise their technological capabilities. We can also help them optimise talent, develop strategies for divestment and acquisition, manage tax more efficiently and ensure pension arrangements are sustainable.

In short, we help businesses to survive and thrive to drive their growth and secure their future.