Within two hours of the Government’s announcement of lockdown in March, we communicated with all of our people in the UK that they were expected to work from home with immediate effect. This set in train the biggest upheaval to the operations of PwC in modern times.
There are many dimensions to the COVID-19 pandemic and the humanitarian implications have been enormous. The impact on our firm, our clients, our people and our communities was immediate and while the lockdown occurred nine months into our financial year, its effects and the economic disruption that accompanied it are still being felt.
This year’s Annual Review tells the story of this extraordinary year. In updates between now and January 2021, we will talk about the steps we have taken, and some of the challenges faced.
We start by focusing on the direct impact of the pandemic and how we coped including; the remote delivery of work to our clients as they respond and recover; the support we provided to our communities and the wider economy throughout lockdown; our focus on our people’s mental and physical wellbeing; and our renewed efforts to build a culture that prioritises diversity and inclusion.
Our office was lit up to celebrate the NHS’ 72nd anniversary and to pay tribute to all key workers
Our long-term investment in collaborative technologies and a flexible working culture meant the transition to remote working could be made with confidence.
The bigger question was how would our 22,000 people continue to support our clients, while managing the physical, mental and environmental challenges of lockdown.
Our society requires a strong economy and thriving businesses to function. This is a constant.
Our purpose - to build trust in society and solve important problems - has never felt more relevant. We’ve brought it to life through our focus on our clients, our people and the communities in which we live and work.
“I’ve been profoundly impressed by the resilience our people and business have shown as we’ve adapted to new ways of working while retaining an unrelenting focus on our clients.”Kevin Ellis, Chairman and Senior Partner
In subsequent updates to our Annual Review, we will share more details about our full year’s operations and also how we will play our part in the UK’s recovery.
We’re proud to work with 27,000 clients with an industry and regional reach that impacts the daily lives of millions of people in and beyond the UK.
This year, we worked alongside them during the COVID-19 crisis to secure food supplies, to support the NHS frontline response, to save jobs following insolvencies, and to protect the livelihoods of many others through access to government schemes.
Our investment in technology meant our people could work remotely to deliver for our clients from day one
By drawing on our skills, technology, global network and alliance partners, we’ve also adapted and delivered existing work, from thousands of audits to tech-enabled transformation projects, under exceptional circumstances. Our involvement across industries has allowed us to share insight and responses from one sector into others, such as with our cyber security expertise.
Throughout FY20, we created and protected deal value, helped organisations turn risk into competitive advantage, supported many clients as they refreshed strategies and transformed operations, progressed our commitments to consistently high-quality audits, and contributed to the effective running of tax and reporting systems.
“While working remotely under exceptional circumstances, we’ve delivered large-scale, tech-enabled transformation projects, strategic workforce initiatives, and thousands of audits.”Marco Amitrano, Head of Clients and Markets
It’s clear there is more uncertainty ahead, but we’re proud to be working alongside some of the most exciting and impactful private, public and third sector organisations to solve complex problems and help the UK to build back better, greener, and fairer.
Our Real Assets offering brings together real estate and infrastructure expertise to help clients respond to the changes shaping our built environment, from energy to the places we live and work. We’ve invested in Execution Managed Solutions, giving clients access to new operating models, helping them comply with regulation and focus on their core operations. Our Outcomes Framework allows us to connect the work we’ve done with societal and organisational outcomes helping us to live our purpose.
We’ve worked alongside our clients as they repair, rethink and reconfigure what they do
As economies continue to reopen, clients are starting to re-engage with pre-COVID challenges and opportunities - Brexit, disruptive technology, the need for rapid decarbonisation, and regional inequalities - while new ones, such as supply chain vulnerabilities, shifts in employee expectations, and rising business debt, have taken hold. Organisations, practices, and, in some cases, whole sectors will have to be reshaped.
The following stories are an illustration of the many ways we’ve helped our clients deal with the disruption caused both by the pandemic and the ever changing landscape in which we operate.
The wellbeing, safety and development of our people has always been at the heart of everything we do. This has been more important than ever over the past year.
Equipping people with the skills they need to progress while serving our clients is a key priority, and we began the financial year by launching our biggest ever upskilling project. So far, over 5,000 of our people have participated, learning how new technologies can help us work with our clients to help solve important problems.
Our investment in technology over a number of years helped us all move smoothly to home working, and our values of care, working together and reimagining the possible have been brought to life as our people adapted to new ways of working and collaborating.
We’ve also used technology to serve our communities, by supporting social enterprises and school students, giving them access to tools like our Digital Fitness App and online employability tools.
As a large employer, we know we can play an important role in levelling up society and providing opportunities for different groups of people. Before COVID-19, we updated our recruitment and outreach processes to improve access for diverse groups of people. This included female-friendly work experience initiatives, partnering with organisations like UK Black Tech to help us reach and offer opportunities to young people from ethnic minority groups, and ringfencing roles on our student programmes for those from lower socio-economic backgrounds.
“12,000 of our people logged in to a live conversation with a doctor and psychiatrist answering questions on physical and mental health.”Laura Hinton, Chief people officer
Lockdown challenged us to find different, virtual ways of welcoming new joiners to our business. Just two weeks after lockdown was announced, we managed to welcome over 180 graduates to start their careers with us. Since the start of lockdown, we’ve hired over 750 people either at the beginning of their careers or as experienced recruits, helping us strengthen our workforce as we prepare for the future.
Protecting jobs has been a priority, and early on we took the decision to shoulder the financial burden of COVID-19 in order to safeguard jobs. The physical health and mental wellbeing of our people has continued to be a priority. We’ve given all our people access to live webcasts with doctors and mental health professionals, providing regular opportunities for reassurance and to have questions answered by experts.
We held a firmwide black lives matter livestream as part of our response to George Floyd’s death
COVID-19 has not been the only important issue facing our people, and the black lives matter events of early summer served as an important reminder of the inequality that still exists across society. We added to our existing diversity and inclusion plan by announcing a targeted action plan focused specifically on ethnicity, and we relaunched our Speak Up campaign as a way of continuing to drive improvements in all that we do.
Our purpose is at the heart of our strategy, shaping how we support our clients, our people and our communities.
We helped key workers to get what they needed at a pop-up supermarket
In many ways COVID-19 has been the ultimate test of what purpose means in practice - supporting our people and keeping them safe, helping our clients respond and build back, and using our reach to support our communities, such as by re-opening our offices as soon as we could.
We couldn’t lose sight of other important problems like climate change and social inequality, which are at risk of being exacerbated or put on the backburner as a result of the pandemic. By continuing to focus on these issues, we made headway, for example
We will share more about our activities across FY20 in October, with our full sustainability scorecard data being available in January 2021.
How we’re continuing to tackle the climate crisis and the importance of a green recovery
COVID-19 has demanded new ways of working for many, accelerating tech disruption and changes to jobs. Everybody needs to think differently about skills for a future that is even less predictable than we thought. Find out more about what we’ve done over the past year so that everyone has the opportunity to learn, work and participate in the digital world through our New World New Skills programme.
We ran free sessions for children aged 10-13 over 10 weeks as part of the TechWeCan Programme
Social distancing demanded a rethink of face-to-face volunteering activities, so we empowered our people to provide support virtually, such as coaching for social enterprises. And we welcomed Hospice UK and Crisis as our new Foundation charity partners - voted for by our people. Later this year we’ll share more details on how we’ve supported our local communities throughout 2020.
Find out more about our purpose framework and how it drives the work we do for clients and how we run ourselves as a business. Later this year, our results on how we’ve delivered against our own sustainability targets will be available.
We believe we build trust by acting ethically, with integrity and fairness, to do the right thing. That’s why we aim to give our stakeholders transparency across a diverse range of issues.
There are more details on the activities of our Audit practice here, while our Transparency Report will be available in October which will include further information about our firmwide governance structures, alongside an update on our Programme to Enhance Audit Quality, and information to support our statement on the effectiveness of the firm’s internal quality control system. Information relating to remuneration and fair pay will also be published in January as part of our commitment to transparency.
We are a large partnership governed and managed by three main bodies each with a different role and responsibility.
Further information on the Management Board, the Supervisory Board and the Public Interest Body, can be found in the links below.
Annual Review enquiries
Corporate Affairs, PwC United Kingdom