A Counting School - Hardcore Chartered Accountancy

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Dark days at PwC advisory: word of layoffs leaked, chaos ensues

PriceWaterhouseCoopers Advisory has made some significant cuts to their US workforce, as mentioned off-hand by Francine and discussed in detail here

Skip down to comment 4 in the post for an interesting dissection of firm revenue math and the possible impact it'll have on partner income. It's a topic everyone seems to be curious about knowing more about, gets very little information about, and is often to afraid ask questions about - so go check out "TT"'s breakdown and the follow up if you want to know more. Or skim all the way down to comment 114, which points out that while the cut of roughly 300 people is small compared to the size of the entire US firm, the internal PwC webcast apparently stated that this represents a cut of 6% of the affected group - one value provided by a commenter is 260 of about 4300 people.

I spent way too much type going through all the other comments, and things did in fact get kind of dark. Consider this post - it's anonymous, but let's play along and assume there's no false identities at play, particularly with what follows.

"Francine - Current Pwc Director here in another line of service. I can only tell you that my Advisory friends are “freaking out” by what has been published by you. You have definitely made your mark with this posting. The level of unrest that you have caused should make you proud. One of my friends told me last night that he heard that one of the Advisory Directors is so stressed out that he was talking about taking his life if he loses his job. If that happens, the sky is the limit for you and your little blog!"

Nothing to make light of, sadly - this is dark stuff. At least that's what it sounds like when the commenter goes on to add:

"Had you let this RIF run its normal course, it would have been done confidentially and all affected parties would be notified on the same day and only those impacted would have the stress. But you like to cause unrest and panic…as it is obviously what drives you. You were like a little kid announcing this on your blog Tuesday morning….”look at what I know….I’m am so important!”"

I appreciate the sentiment expressed, but I think it's a little naive to think that the plan as described above really would work as claimed. Any major layoff causes unrest and panic, in the firm affected, and in competing firms, even among people who feel their positions are secure. "If it can happen there, it can happen here," can cross peoples' minds.

Is it really beneficial to bury this news and leave people blissfully unaware?

No, it's not.

Starting off with university students, you need to take your intelligent young professionals, open their eyes, and make them realize that they're starting off on careers at highly respected firms which will give them lots of opportunities. But they also need to know and understand the risks that are tightly linked to the rewards which they are pursuing. Your better university professors may point this out to you, but these warnings can sound empty and hollow without facts to back them up.

Clever young Commerce students may think they're dodging bullets by avoiding the General Motors of the world. But even the Big Four can be perilous places - sure you can prepare yourself by saving up your salary, keeping your resume up to date and making yourself an indispensable member of your team. But you're never truly secure, unless you live in a country like France which has renowned job security rules. Out in Canada and the US the realities of "at will" employment are something you should never overlook, and sharing news like this is an uncomfortable but also equally indispensable way to educate people.

Given all this turmoil, entrepreneurial types may roll their eyes, but is it any wonder that the Government of Canada is considered a top employer of choice by risk-averse students around here?

The other bonus to reading about these posts is to be reminded about your rights - including avoiding being pressured into signing the severance agreement until you've had a chance to review it with an independent adviser!

And if you're just starting out as a student, you see eye-opening comments such as this:

"I got a whiff that I dodged the cut. And honestly, I feel cheated. I want my severance and an excuse to leave this place on good terms."

Contrast that with someone who didn't dodge the cut:

"Confirmed. I was axed today and appreciated the advanced notice from the blog so I could bring in an extra bag this morning to take things home.

Folks, the blog is like listening to the weather forecast the night before……."

Finally, just scroll down to comment 103 which offers advice for people trying to get their final paycheque - and which also provides this handy link to the USA's state regulations on final paycheques.

At least if people were writing their UFE exam they got that out of the way before these announcements came out, but that's probably the only bitter ray of sunshine available. Well that, and the fact that many of the people who are laid off manage to find more interesting jobs. Wel, if they've already achieved their professional designation in accounting or audit - be it the CA, CPA, CIA or CISA. I feel worst for people who have to start looking for work with only a year or so of experience under their belts.

Good luck - if there's any consolation, recruiters have suddenly ramped up their efforts - my voicemail was getting hit daily this week as I'm often away from my desk for extended stretches auditing this, analyzing that - so there seems to be a ready supply of jobs for clever experienced people out there and available.

And what exactly does this arrow symbolize? The recent frequency of posting? I really should take detailed notes about all the clever topics that come to mind for me to write about, as it'll probably be far too easy to forget lots of intelligent tips and tricks as time goes on. I would share them now, but the typical excuses associated with busy season are still present. Which is why it took me an entire week to note that I got hit 332 times last month, a fall from September's count of 376. I try to be prompt in reporting that total, so at least I won't lose track of it - anyway, that's your statistic for October nestled in with a much more substantial post.


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# November 8, 2009 8:13 AM

uberVU - social comments said:

This post was mentioned on Twitter by t_accounting: Accounting #accounting: Dark days at PwC advisory: word of layoffs leaked, chaos ensues... http://bit.ly/4y11En

# November 9, 2009 1:30 AM

A Counting School - Hardcore Chartered Accountancy said:

This week the 2009 UFE results come out and I'll try and follow along - as long as you are in touch

# December 1, 2009 7:40 PM