How #1 Ranked Accounting Firm, PwC, Is Responding to the COVID-19 Pandemic
PwC, the No. 1 ranked firm in the new Vault Accounting 50, has been an active corporate responder in the global fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to the PwC Charitable Foundation, Inc.’s help to support local communities through charitable grants, PwC US leadership continues to be vocal about prioritizing foremost the health and safety of its people.
As a result of PwC’s multi-year journey of helping to build a culture of flexibility and investing in the digital upskilling of its people, the firm was able to pivot quickly in response to COVID-19, enabling its entire workforce to collaborate and work remotely. This speed of response and early preparedness allowed PwC, almost seamlessly, to continue addressing client concerns and community needs, while also reinforcing its commitment to its people in various ways (such as offering enhanced benefits during this unprecedented time). Below are some of the specific ways that PwC has, to date, helped to support the worldwide fight against the novel coronavirus, underscoring the values that have helped make PwC the Vault’s Best Accounting Firm to Work For the last eight years.
1. Putting its people first
In March, PwC US Chairman and Senior Partner Tim Ryan wrote a widely shared article originally published in Accounting Today entitled, “We can help protect the economy if we protect our people.” In the article, Ryan detailed PwC’s guiding principles in the wake of the pandemic—and called for other leading organizations and business leaders to join PwC in putting people before profits in the fight against COVID-19. Here is an excerpt:
Put simply, I believe that the best way for the business community to help is to do what we can to keep our people at work—virtually or otherwise—so they can continue to participate in the economy and support its rebound. I understand the enormous weight on all of our shoulders. And, I know that many businesses are suddenly grappling with the remarkably difficult situation of trying to keep their business running and the lights on while also taking care of their employees.
My goals for PwC in the US are simple: To protect our people and continue to serve our clients. As we keep our business going and think ahead to a healthy, productive future on the other side of COVID-19, here are our guiding principles and initial actions:
Doing all that we can to keep people employed. We know our economy is consumer-led, and we don’t want to amplify an economic downturn by being blinded by the short-term. At PwC, we have adopted the principle that we will only consider laying off employees as a last resort. We are grateful that our people have adapted quickly to the ‘new normal’ of serving our clients remotely. Ultimately, we recognize that if we attempt to protect our profits this year by sacrificing our people, we may lose out both in the short and long run.
Remembering that it is understandable to miss our targets this year. The reality—whether we like it or not—is that pre-crisis targets have been overtaken by events that none of us could reasonably have anticipated. The goal is to now work with our Boards and educate fellow leaders and investors to pivot, recalibrate, and, wherever possible, adopt a longer-view attitude and perspective. At PwC, we have prioritized people over profits for 2020 and our leadership team and our Board agree that it is better to err on the side of keeping our people at work rather than trying to achieve short-term targets.
Support the humanitarian response by supporting communities. This pandemic is exacerbating existing societal problems from hunger to homelessness to access to quality healthcare and education. Now, more than ever, we must commit to helping those who are most vulnerable in our communities. Many companies have already stepped up through charitable giving and changing their assembly lines to make critical medical equipment for healthcare workers and hospitals. Through the PwC Charitable Foundation, Inc. we have made grants to support access to food and education to children and families in need. We will also be providing pro bono services and money to help provide critical protective equipment and care essentials for healthcare workers on the frontlines as well as releasing our Digital Fitness Application for free to deliver digital upskilling content.
2. Helping those most in need
In March, the PwC Charitable Foundation donated $2.85 million to support communities most impacted, gave a $500,000 grant to Feeding America to distribute emergency food boxes, and donated $500,000 to Direct Relief to deliver personal protective equipment, including N95 masks and ventilators, to healthcare workers in all 50 states. In February, the PwC Charitable Foundation provided a $350,000 grant to help purchase protective equipment for health workers in China’s Wuhan and Shanghai Provinces. Also, through its Reimagine Grants program, the PwC Charitable Foundation made $1.5 million available to PwC’s local leaders to help non-profit organizations strengthen and build technology skills in their communities, including underserved populations and those affected by COVID-19.
3. Supporting virtual learning opportunities for school-aged children and continuing to help its staff repay their student loans
With schools closing nationwide in the wake of the pandemic, millions of children are now learning virtually at home. To help school-aged children continue their education in these uncertain times, the PwC Charitable Foundation collaborated with Google, AT&T, and HP to make the new TIME for Kids digital library available for free for the remainder of the school year. This provides free access to new and previously published issues of TIME for Kids and Your $, a financial literacy magazine for children.
Similarly, the pandemic has affected businesses across many industries in unprecedented ways, heightening workforce-related uncertainties. As noted earlier, one aspect of PwC’s strategies to navigate COVID-19 is to protect its people. One way PwC is exemplifying this is through the continuation of its Student Loan Paydown benefit. This benefit offers $1,200 a year for up to six years to help PwC staff pay down their student loans. To date, PwC has paid off more than $37 million of student debt through this benefit. Speaking in late March about the importance of student loan assistance in the wake of the pandemic, PwC US and Mexico Talent Acquisition Leader Rod Adams said, “Societally, increasing student loan debt has reached a tipping point. It’s affecting when professionals are starting families, buying homes, and saving for retirement. This benefit is a game-changer because we are helping our people be better prepared for their financial futures, especially in uncertain economic times.”
4. Helping its clients navigate these uncertain times
PwC has also been focusing on helping its clients navigate these difficult times. PwC’s COVID-19 Accounting and Reporting Resource Center is a public-facing online resource dedicated to informing CFOs and financial executives about financial reporting considerations and other possible impacts of the pandemic. PwC’s COVID-19 Navigator is an online diagnostic assessment that helps companies gauge their potential business impacts and response readiness to pandemics.
PwC has also produced a series of podcast episodes addressing frequently asked questions in accounting and reporting areas affected by COVID-19. In addition, PwC’s COVID-19 CFO Pulse Survey reflects the views of 55 finance leaders from a cross-section of industries in the US and Mexico. The survey’s aim is to closely track finance leaders’ sentiments and priorities, as businesses respond to unprecedented disruptions to daily operations and finance activities brought on by the coronavirus.
A final note
These are some of the varied initiatives that PwC has implemented to help its people, clients, and communities fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. As these initiatives evolve, PwC plans to roll out more in the coming weeks. What they have, and will continue to have, in common can be summarized in the final paragraph of Tim Ryan’s Accounting Today article:
This is undoubtedly one of the most challenging situations we will ever face as leaders. What we are doing at PwC may not be what all business leaders are able to do, but I hope that during this troubled and uncertain time, my fellow business leaders will consider our guiding principles. If we can come together to put people first, we help millions of families, build trust in the business community, and ultimately make our economy stronger and more resilient. Simply, we will do better when we choose to navigate this together. And, having had the privilege of working with hundreds of CEOs across our country, I am very confident that, together, we will rise to the occasion.
This post is sponsored by PwC.