Separated by 617 miles, Aberdeen and Plymouth are the most northerly and southerly PwC offices. The former is part of our Scottish region, along with PwC Edinburgh and Glasgow. The latter forms part of West & Wales with PwC Bristol, Cardiff and Swansea.
Recently relocated from Albyn Place to The Capitol, a former cinema, music hall and rock concert venue, Aberdeen’s staff of 125 are engaged mostly on clients involved in oil and gas. For our 50 people at Plymouth’s Princess Court the client base is less specific. It’s a little known fact, however, that in terms of the number of businesses, Plymouth is today one of the UK’s largest manufacturing centres.
Office Senior Partners Kevin Reynard and Heather Ancient discuss life at the farthest reaches of PwC UK and how they ensure geographical remoteness doesn’t become an issue.
Initially moved to the south-west to run a village delicatessen with her husband. After five years she swapped baba ganoush for balance sheets, did her accountancy exams and joined the firm. On being made a partner in 2014 she was appointed Plymouth OSP. Heather is more of a sailor than a cyclist but will be linking up with Kevin for the Exeter-to-Plymouth leg of Ride the Nation, the epic PwC fundraising cycle ride, later this summer.
Also took on the OSP reigns three years ago. A native Aberdonian, he saw Dire Straits perform at The Capitol in 1980, little imagining that he would one day head up a multi-million pound business in the building. He spent 24 years away from the Granite City, getting an education and eventually leading on energy firm audits for PwC in the UK and globally, returning home nine years ago having widened his affections from Dire Straits to Pink Floyd, Springsteen and anything bearable his kids play.
Heather, Kevin – tell us a bit more about your offices’ markets and people
HA: “Our Plymouth office covers Devon, Cornwall and south Somerset, with clients ranging from small family run firms to listed companies like Babcock and a number of public sector organisations such as the Met Office. We offer a diverse range of services - all of the team can talk broadly about a number of business issues and they get a lot of experience at a very early stage. Plymouth has one of the highest concentrations of manufacturing employment of any city south of the Midlands. Marine engineering is strong and the food and drink sector has a growing reputation. And you’d be amazed how many clothing brands started here, from Frugi to Seasalt and Jack Wills.”
KR: “Aberdeen still predominantly means oil & gas – the big multinational and independent oil companies as well as a full range of oilfield support services and institutions such as the Oil & Gas authority, O&G UK (trade body) and the new Oil & Gas Technology Centre. Like Plymouth we cover a large geographical area that is mainly rural so we also work with clients at the quality end of food and whisky. We do a fair amount of Public Sector work and are also in the initial stages of building our business in Inverness and Dundee. Many of our clients have head offices and operations abroad so we have teams working in locations from Lagos to Stavanger, Kuala Lumpur, Moscow and Bermuda and also work closely with colleagues from across the firm’s global energy network.”
How, if at all, does your location necessitate a different approach to work than that of more central PwC offices?
HA: “You have to be especially hungry in the marketplace or you simply won’t grow. Steph Hyde, Head of Regions, has done a great job raising the profile of work and initiatives outside London. When I first joined I would definitely have said it was a London-focussed business. That has changed and so has the way we communicate with each other and clients. With video technology and the like there is no need to go to meetings in London so often.”
KR: “It’s all about the relationships and networks. With modern technology it’s just as easy for me to speak to my colleagues in London as it is for them to speak to each other. The NE of Scotland is currently seeing quite a bit of investment in its transport infrastructure, but at the moment it’s generally two flights to get anywhere from here. It’s about how you handle relative isolation mentally so it doesn’t become more of a pain than it needs to be.”
What’s the essence of the OSP role?
HA: “In a small regional office you have to wear so many hats. You need to keep in contact with all the key clients and make sure they are getting the best of PwC. There’s a role within the city and within the region. It’s about making sure people really know PwC is here, what we do and how we are adding value to businesses and the local community.”
KR: “There is no precise definition to the role, but chiefly you are responsible for the PwC brand and profile in the local market, with clients, local institutions, councils, community efforts, universities and even schools to an extent. You are the point of contact in terms of new work, relationships and recruitment. Internally, you are also the go-to person for everything that could possibly crop up in terms of client issues as well as office infrastructure, right down to the most banal of issues!”
What’s given you the most satisfaction in your three years in office?
HA: “Funnily enough there’s a link to Aberdeen. At one of my first OSP meetings in London we shared news from the marketplace and the Aberdeen office had just produced a thought leadership publication called Northern Lights. One of the problems I’ve felt in my region is that business is often very internal looking. We have challenges around recruitment and getting the right people, so one of my senior managers and I put together an equivalent publication called 20/20, looking at the strategic potential of Devon and Cornwall - what needed to be done to develop and grow business in the region. We are very proud of 20/20 and it had a big impact in the marketplace in terms of relationships and picking up themes that resonated with others, thinking outside the region, nationally and internationally.”
KR: “I’ve had a lot of satisfaction establishing Aberdeen as a genuine Centre of Excellence for oil and gas in the PwC global network. We had evolved in this direction previously, but didn’t characterise or badge it to the same extent. It’s really helped us with reputation, opportunities for people and our status externally and internally. I’m from Aberdeen and the reason I took this job was the fact that I had, and continue to build, strong networks and relationships in the local business community. I’m personally invested in the city.
“Moving into the new office has also been a highlight. It’s fantastic base – central, efficient and state of the art base. It’s great that PwC has invested in the regeneration of my home town. On a blue sky day, like today, with the granite in the buildings and the sun on the sea, everything sparkles.”
For more about our regional offices and Ride the Nation, see: www.pwc.co.uk/who-we-are/ride-the-nation-our-charity-cycling-challenge.html