- Bjorn Erik Pedersen/CC 3.0
- Internal memos seen by Business Insider show PwC plans to close six regional offices from April 2018.
- The move is officially part of an operational strategy to make fewer, larger offices more efficient.
- The move is “not to reduce headcount,” and the firm said it was “committed to providing a role” for all employees affected by the changes.
LONDON – PwC will close six regional UK offices from April 2018.
Two internal memos circulated on Thursday and seen by Business Insider show the professional services firm is planning to close its offices in Sheffield, Plymouth, Liverpool, Norwich, Swansea and Dungannon, in Northern Ireland, from April 2018.
A spokesperson for PwC said the changes would affect fewer than 400 people across all six offices. He said they are “not about Brexit,” but “the way in which PwC is expanding its presence outside London, and new ways of working.”
A source familiar with the situation said the firm had been “cutting back on expenses” and that staff were told on Friday that redundancy packages will be offered.
In a “fast moving, dynamic environment,” clients are to be told, client issues “like Brexit, market opportunity and technology” demand “a range of expertise that’s not always available in every regional office,” according to a memo sent to staff by Ian Morrison, the PwC partner in charge of the Yorkshire and North East region, seen by Business Insider.
The change is “not to reduce headcount”
Another internal memo circulated to Sheffield staff said PwC was planning to “consolidate our presence into fewer, larger regional offices.” This will allow the firm to “work together differently and more effectively, and have all our lines of service combine to offer the wider set of expertise that our clients need,” it said.
The change is part of a drive to expand the firm’s presence outside London, a second memo said, “and we’ve committed to new or additional office space that will boost our regional headcount by a further 1,250 people [over the next year].”
“This decision is being driven by where we can grow our business, not to reduce headcount,” it said. PwC said it was “committed to providing a role for everyone” affected in the move.
PwC told staff it is “investing heavily” in creating “tech-enabled, flexible offices,” to enable “more choice and flexibility on how and where we work.”
PwC’s Leeds office will become the new base office for Sheffield from April 2018, and the Assurance team from the Hull office will also move to the Leeds site. Tax Accounting Services from the Hull office are expected to remain where they are for “up to the next two years,” the memo said.
The announced closure comes after the Sheffield site moved offices in 2014, and the team made efforts to emphasize PwC is the only “Big Four” firm investing in South Yorkshire.
Many Sheffield employees, the person said, had relocated to the city and bought homes in the area, “to create something special, and they’ve closed it down with five months’ notice.”
The firm is encouraging Sheffield staff to consider “what working arrangements would work for you.” Going forward, these are “likely to be a combination of working from client sites, working from Leeds and working from home some of the time,” the memo said.
It also said options could include “financial support for relocating or commuting.”
According to one of the memos, client work is expected to “remain largely unchanged.”
Investments “in technology like Google, and clients’ changing expectations, mean that we don’t need to be next door to them,” it said.
“Please emphasise [to clients] that we are not withdrawing from our markets and clients, and that consolidating resources will not impact our client services,” the memo said.
Staff have been briefed to tell clients the move is part of a “wider policy of investing in larger offices in strategic locations outside London to give clients greater access to a broader range of our services.”
Kevin Ellis, chairman and senior partner at PwC, is expected to discuss the plans with the wider firm on Friday.
“Given our employees are equipped with a laptop and smartphone, and often work from client offices and other remote locations, we are consolidating our regional presence into a smaller number of larger offices around the UK,” said Paul Terrington, PwC head of regions, in an emailed statement.
“PwC has invested in a number of major regional centres outside London, including a new technology industry hub in Reading, and significant expansion in cities such as Belfast, Birmingham, Bristol, Edinburgh, Manchester and Leeds,” he said.