A-Z Of Employers: PricewaterhouseCoopers

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The Independent Online

What does it do?

One of the world's so called Big Four firms of accountants, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) has a business footprint covering most of the globe, with a presence in 148 countries and some 140,000 employees. As the dog's breakfast of a name suggests, the current business is the result of mergers, chiefly in 1998, between Price Waterhouse and Coopers & Lybrand. The constituent companies' origins stretch back to the mid-19th-century, with branches on both sides of the Atlantic. As with all its competitors, PWC now styles itself as a "professional services" firm, highlighting the widening of its original role, from auditing company accounts to offering broader business advice. It does that for firms in numerous sectors: from cars and chemicals to government and the media. On the UK website, there's a tacit acknowledgement that big accountants have a little PR repair work to do: one stated aim is to "rebuild public trust in corporate reporting".

Vital Statistics:

Last year UK revenue grew by 12 per cent, to £1.78bn, helped, no doubt, by profits from auditing the accounts of 41 per cent of companies in the FTSE 100.

The office:

The hub of the British operation centres on its five London offices, but the other 35 reach into every corner of the land, with 742 partners spread equally widely.

Is this you?

About 900 graduates are hired every year, half of them in London and the rest spread around the country. You'll need a 2:1, but any degree discipline will do.

The recruitment process:

Online applications, at www.pwc.com/uk/careers, are all sifted by a human being, not a piece of software, leading to two stages of interviews, the second including various psychometric tests, on numeracy and spatial awareness. The three-year training centres on professional qualification as a chartered accountant, which anyone will tell you entails intensive study and exams that aren't pushovers. More broadly, you'll develop a solid foundation of financial management, working for clients in a variety of locations, possibly overseas. There'll also be the opportunity to develop an industry-specific speciality.

Top Dollar?

This year's intake of graduates started on between £24,000 and £34,000, depending on exact role and location. More eye-catching is the flexible benefits package, which includes a more generous deal on company cars than existing employees receive. Something to keep quiet at the water cooler, perhaps!

Beam me up Scotty?

Graduates are likely to be in managerial positions within five years of joining, in any one of a number of locations, from a client office to overseas.

Who's the boss?

Chelsea FC season-ticket holder Kieran Poynter is senior partner in the UK. He joined Price Waterhouse as a graduate trainee in 1971.

Little known fact:

PWC runs a scheme enabling car-driving staff to offset the carbon burnt in their engines by funding tree-planting. This year, nearly a quarter of company-car owners are paying around £4 a month, and more than 5,000 saplings have been planted already.

Next week: Procter and Gamble, consumer goods