Annual report 2018: Line of service highlights

Assurance

The role and value of audit has had intense scrutiny in recent months. The debate has touched on several different areas, including choice in the listed company audit market, conflicts of interest and auditor independence and audit quality and relevance.  Whilst some of these issues are interrelated, prioritising them is important in considering solutions. This is an important debate and we are engaging with stakeholders to help create an audit market fit for the future.

Our audit practice continued to win major audits which this year include; Johnson Matthey, Domino’s Pizza Group and Victrex, as well as retaining a number of our existing audits including Metro Bank, Meggitt and Whizz Air Holdings.

Our regulator, the FRC, assessed 84% of our audits of FTSE 350 companies as good or requiring only limited improvement. Whilst we are disappointed this is slightly down on last year's very strong results and recognise there is more we need to do, the FRC's assessments of our audit quality over the past five years show a consistently high level of audit quality.

We have also seen the results of some regulatory investigations into our work and have made enhancements to our processes and controls and training programme to address the findings of these investigations.

The disruptive force of technology is something that is impacting both our clients and our own Assurance practice in many ways.  We’ve been exploring the use of new technologies such as artificial intelligence to improve the quality of our audit work, investing in our technology Assurance propositions: Cyber, Data & Analytics and Technology Risk, and have developed training programmes for our people to ensure we can deliver technology enabled Assurance for our clients.    

Our other Assurance services, including Risk Modelling Services, Capital Markets Accounting and Advisory Structuring and Risk Assurance, help our clients manage their operational, technology, regulatory and financial risks. We have seen double digit growth in our other Assurance services this year as clients navigate a variety of risks in increasingly complex operating environments.

We’ve been exploring the use of new technologies such as artificial intelligence to improve the quality of our audit work.

Our unique combination of strategy, technology and management consulting expertise allows us to help our clients with complex problems.

Consulting

Our Consulting business works closely with organisations as they transform and grow – focusing on strategy-led, digitally-enabled, results-driven transformation programmes – multi-disciplinary engagements that demand a deep understanding of how organisations operate and an ability to use technology intelligently.

Our unique combination of strategy, technology and management consulting expertise allows us to help our clients with complex transformation programmes, including those driven by deal related activity.  Our capabilities in both research and sustainability and climate change also allow us to differentiate ourselves in what we do in a highly competitive market. As illustrative examples, our transformation work at Rolls Royce Holdings Plc, Direct Line Group, Softbank and the UK Department for International Development was recognised by the Management Consultancies Association (MCA) in their annual Awards in 2018.

Our strategy group, known as Strategy&, continues to develop actionable strategies for clients that achieve results through effective change management and use of technology. Working globally, we bring deep industry expertise and foresight, as demonstrated in winning the MCA's Best Thought Leadership category for our work on the future of the UK Financial Services Industry.

Our technology consulting capability has been a key priority for growth and investment. Accelerated progress in the market this year is reflected through iconic projects wins in SAP, Salesforce, Oracle, Microsoft and broader cloud transformation, increasing our market share and now rivalling all of our major competitors.

Investment in our people remains core to our success.  We continue to grow the diversity of our skills by combining the talent we have in our business with alliance partners, contractors and the global PwC network.  The growth and development of our broader ecosystem of talent is a priority focus, through which we will continue to invest in enhancing reward, delivering promotions and improving experience, not least through ongoing investment in enabling digital tools and technology.  

Deals

Our Deals business had a very strong year, with outstanding results across the business.  The performance is particularly striking as both the transactions and crisis businesses performed well throughout the year, which is unusual.

Significant levels of capital, available to our investment and corporate clients, and the need for many of our clients to work harder than ever to create value, meant in general we experienced increased investment activity globally. However, at the same time we saw deep distress in industries such as retail, facilities management and infrastructure, which led to an increased demand for our restructuring and crisis related services.

We were called to support on, and continue to provide support or lead, on a number of very high profile situations. This includes Carillon, where our people worked tirelessly once the liquidation process started to maintain the provision of critical public services the group was responsible for and to protect the employment of many of the workers providing the services. A situation that is central to our purpose.

In response to continually evolving market and client needs, we are continuing to adapt and enhance our service offerings and the way we deliver to clients. Our heavy and continued investment in technology and the resulting skill evolution of our people, means we are better placed than ever before to turn business data into meaningful insight which can be used to create lasting value. We strive to use this insight, our business understanding, skills and relationships to create distinctive points of view and investable ideas for our diverse client base.

We were called to support on, and continue to provide support or lead, on a number of very high profile situations

Creating new ways of working with clients and each other has been a real focus for us this year.

Tax

As market leader in the UK we work with clients ranging from multinational organisations and public sector bodies to entrepreneurs and family businesses. Our Tax practice includes specialists across a broad range of skills from business and personal taxation through to pensions, HR, employee mobility, reward and related legal services across all industries.  

Our focus on client issues, such as ‘the future of work’, highlights how the different specialists in Tax, and across the firm, work together to help our clients solve some of the most intricate problems they face.

Creating new ways of working with clients and each other has been a real focus for us this year.  The Suite - our new engagement and knowledge platform - went live this year and we now have over 12,000 clients signed up to access a range of expertise, digital collaboration tools and the latest data-visualisation technology on the platform.

As part of our ‘Paying for Tomorrow’ campaign we brought together a cross section of businesses to discuss future policy on skills and productivity to then deliver their verdicts to representatives from the Department of Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy.

In supporting our people this year we’ve also had an increased focus on fair work access and mental health & wellbeing, encouraging open and honest conversations to ensure they are a normal part of our culture.

Following on from the integration of our Legal practice across the Tax teams, we have seen real benefits in working together as multi-disciplined teams delivering an enhanced service to clients.  We’ve also further developed our managed services offering, building on the agreement with GE which is leading to significant interest from other organisations.

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Corporate Affairs, PwC United Kingdom
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