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PcW: From London to the New World and Around the World

BY :  Judy Jenner | November 05, 2013
 

PricewaterhouseCoopers (now PwC) can look back on one hundred and sixty-four years of success. The venerable financial services company was founded in England in 1849, when the world had not yet heard of electronic banking, the NASDAQ or complex tax codes. Since then, the world has changed significantly, but PwC remains an influential company not only in England, but around the world.

Large and in charge

The current company is the result of the 1998 merger of Price Waterhouse and Coopers & Lybrand. Both companies have their roots in London. In 2010, the company shortened its name from PricewaterhouseCoopers to PwC. It wasn't the company's first merger, as in 1990, Price Waterhouse merged with Deloitte Haskins & Sells in several countries around the world. Today, PwC serves a total of 26 industries and is a market leader in the areas of assurance, tax, human resources, transactions, performance improvement and crisis management in complex global environments. The company's consulting division, PricewaterhouseCoopers Consulting, was sold to technology giant IBM in 2002

Known as the world's largest professional services organization, PwC attracts top college graduates from around the world. With more than 184,000 employees in 150 countries the company offers many exciting opportunities for accounting professionals. Headquartered in New York City, PwC is a significant powerhouse in its industry. For the fiscal year ending on June 30, 2013, PcW's gross revenue was $32.1 billion, up four percent from the previous year. $14.7 billion of that revenue was earned in assurance, while 9.1 billion came from the firm's advising activities and $8.1 billion from its tax business.

The birth of a business

In its early days, the company expanded to the United States, and with time helped move forward the profession of accounting, which in 1873 America was still in its infancy. From the beginning, the company was known for its high standard of professionalism. The 100 years of Price Waterhouse in America can be divided into three phases, each with its own challenges and successes. The first one, from the 1890s to the late 1920s, was characterized by the Americanization of the practice, while the second era, from the 1930s to the late 1960s, was an era of dominance for the company in a then tightly regulated marketplace for accounting services. In the 1930s, securities laws allowed the company's audit division to take center stage, and the so-called golden age of the 1950s established the company as a global powerhouse. The third era, from 1970 to the 1990s, was a period of radical change in the industry, and the Big Eight accounting firms became the Big Six Accounting firms, and finally the Big Four. During this time, overhead costs increased significantly, thus challenging the foundations that had been laid more than a century prior. Additional standards set by both the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and by Congress made business transactions increasingly more complex. As a result, Price Waterhouse, which had traditionally focused on auditing, expanded its services and started hiring non-CPAs and offering consulting services as well.

Contemporary structure of PwC

Currently, PwC is one of the so-called Big Four audit firms and a popular firm for accounting graduates. According to Bloomberg BusinessWeek, in 2006 the firm hired more entry-level employees than any other professional services firm. In terms of internships, in 2007, the company offered almost 2,800 positions, mainly to seniors (70 percent) and graduates (28 percent). All these internships were paid, and most interns (85 percent) were business majors, while a mere six percent were computer science majors. In 2006, 88 percent of interns received full-time job offers, making this route an attractive one for those who want to obtain a permanent position at PwC. However, getting an internship can be quite competitive and the application process includes an in-depth interview. PwC is committed to social responsibility: last year, PwC employees volunteered a total of more than 95,000 hours, and the company selected 150 interns to travel to Belize City, Belize, to work with teachers and students on Project Belize, which aims to help youth through education and financial literacy.

Sources:

  • Bloomberg Businessweek, PricewaterhouseCoopers
    http://www.businessweek.com/careers/bplc/2007/2.htm
  • Columbia University Libraries, Archival Collections, PricewaterhouseCoopers records, 1891-2000
    http://www.columbia.edu/cu/lweb/archival/collections/ldpd_6898059/
  • Funding Universe, PricewaterhouseCoopers history
    http://www.fundinguniverse.com/company-histories/pricewaterhousecoopers-history/
  • PwC, Facts and Figures
    http://www.pwc.com/gx/en/annual-review/facts-figures.jhtml
  • PwC, History and milestones
    http://www.pwc.com/us/en/about-us/pwc-corporate-history.jhtm
  • PwC, Internships
    http://www.pwc.com/us/en/careers/campus/internships/index.jhtml
  • The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW), Library and Information Service, Price Waterhouse
    http://www.icaew.com/en/library/subject-gateways/accounting-history/resources/whats-in-a-name/price-waterhouse