- In financial year 2018, PwC Belgium achieved a revenue of 310.2 million euros (+ 8%).
- PwC is growing thanks to the companies’ increased need of counsel due to more complex regulations, large-scale transactions and transformation projects, thorough tax audits, and the development of new services.
- More than seven in ten PwC employees are millennials.
- Chairman Axel Smits calls for a more positive attitude towards entrepreneurs and a more global government view of entrepreneurship.
PwC Belgium, one of the country’s biggest audit, tax and consulting firms, achieved more than 300 million euros in revenue in the last financial year. That’s an increase of almost 8% compared to the year before. This is because companies increasingly require sophisticated services, against a backdrop of more complex regulations, larger transactions and transformation projects. Also, PwC has consciously invested far more in the Belgian economy.
From 1 July 2017 through 30 June 2018, PwC Belgium recorded a net revenue of 310.2 million euros. That's over 22 million euros (7.6 %) up from the year before, when the company's revenue totalled 288.1 million euros. PwC achieved this feat during the past fiscal year with 1,730 employees.
“All our lines of service showed solid growth. This is to do with, among other things, the more stringent and complex rules that Belgium and Europe impose on companies. We’re supporting more clients for bigger transactions and advise them more often about their changing corporate models,” says Axel Smits, Chairman of PwC in Belgium.
The increase can also be explained by PwC’s investing far more in Belgian companies and in networking than it did before. In addition, PwC Belgium is increasingly assisting foreign multinationals.
“We're at our best when companies or individuals face complex challenges, mostly featuring an international component. There's a great deal of complexity, and society calls for ever more transparency. That feeds our growth. Companies and stakeholders want to put their faith in quality. We're particularly strict in that respect – quality is in our DNA,” says Axel Smits.
More transactions and transformation processes increase demand for advice
The Advisory department showed the strongest growth: 17%. This branch, which has made quite a name for itself in the business world, yielded no less than 10 million euros in extra sales. First and foremost, that’s due to the significant rise in strategic advice and management consulting involved in the (digital) transformations clients are going through. The increasing number of takeovers, carve-outs and mergers also play a part. The economic climate is favourable, and thanks to the low interest rates, companies have an easier time of financing acquisitions, ensuring they increasingly call on PwC’s services for those transactions and integrations.
“During the past few years, our Advisory department invested heavily in human and technological resources to provide integrated “strategy to implementation” advice with regard to both consulting and deals, backed up by the required industry experience. This enables us to bank on the current needs of our clients, who are in the middle of transformation processes and are focusing on growth and digitization as well on cost efficiency,” says Axel Smits.
Tax & Legal Services
Tax & Legal also went up by nearly 8.5%, good for a total revenue of more than 124 million euros. Independent law firm PwC Legal took on an extra nineteen legal staff. The economic upturn and the increasing number of deals PwC was able to supervise are among the growth factors. The corporate tax reform also resulted in a rising demand for advice. In addition, the higher number of confrontations with the tax authorities is a significant factor.
“The taxman is clamping down on companies. We're seeing a substantial hike in the number of unannounced inspections at companies. Inspectors are confiscating a lot of documents. All of this requires more involvement by PwC Legal's lawyers, fuelling growth. On the other hand, we do deplore this trend – we advocate a consultative model that sees companies and tax authorities work together in complete transparency,” says Axel Smits. That is why PwC welcomes the first steps the government has taken towards horizontal consultations for large companies.
Assurance achieved a revenue of almost 115 million euros in financial year 2018, nearly 2 million euros more than the year before.
“In the audit industry, we're Belgium’s number one and, in some sectors such as the banking and insurance sector, we're particularly strong. We're also landing ever more local mandates (such as Ageas and Barco in the past year), making us less dependent on our international network. The 2017 rotation law, which obliges companies to switch auditors every nine years, also has an impact. Our teams are adapting and focusing on new services such as Cyber & Privacy, among other things,” says Axel Smits.
PwC also undergoing digital transformation
Just like other companies, PwC Belgium is undergoing a digital transformation. The company is increasingly focusing on new technologies such as data & analytics, robotics process automation (RPA), artificial intelligence (AI), drones, augmented reality, blockchain and the Internet of Things (IoT).
“New technologies are crucial because they enable us to make both our own organization and our existing services more efficient and customer-friendly. They give us an opportunity to develop new services to guide clients through their digital transformation. In that regard, it’s essential that the technological component is just a limited part of that transformation. Most work goes into getting the underlying foundation right and following up on the change process,” Smits explains.
In order to facilitate these changes, PwC set up an in-house Data & Analytics Academy for all its employees. For clients, PwC established an Experience Centre in Brussels, where they can develop new and creative ideas into workable prototypes. In addition, that Experience Centre should challenge young employees to remain creative and innovative in an increasingly digital world.
More than seven in ten PwC employees are millennials.
During the past financial year, PwC recruited 452 new people, whereas, the year before, it took on 407 (+ 11%). PwC totals 1,730 employees, 75% of whom are so-called millennials.
“These millennials are invaluable to PwC. To keep them on board for longer, we want to pay more attention to their wishes. And we’re also investing heavily in lifelong learning. We have the reputation of being the best business school in the world, and we’d like to keep it that way. On average, our people were in training almost 12 days a year. That also helps them to understand clients even better, what they want, and how they think,” says Smits.
PwC is also recruiting employees from highly varied backgrounds. Taking on nothing but economic and legal profiles is no longer enough. That’s why the company is investing in engineers, statisticians, data analysts and computer scientists to be able to anticipate innovation and digitization even faster, together with clients.
Going for 1,730 healthy consultants with yoga and Pilates
PwC Belgium is making major efforts to keep staff healthy and fit because healthy staff means more sustainable employment and better service to clients.
“We're constantly investing in health, by way of several sports initiatives and more healthful food in the company. Right now, we’re also offering yoga and Pilates sessions for our employees. In addition, we stimulate working from home and are investing in virtual meetings and flexible work, so our employees can find a better work-life balance,” says Axel Smits.
Meantime, 42 different nationalities are working at PwC in Belgium, spread across the nine offices in Brussels, Antwerp, Ghent, Hasselt, Liège and Charleroi, and other locations. 53% of them are men, and 47% are women: a nice gender balance. For Axel Smits, who's been at the helm of PwC Belgium for two years now, diversity and inclusion are important cornerstones of the company culture.
“We make it an absolute priority that all social groups working in our company are treated equally and get every opportunity to keep growing. Too often still, we notice that women don't dare to climb higher up the corporate ladder because they believe it’s not compatible with having a family. We can't make anyone’s career choices for them, but we can facilitate them as much as we can,” says Axel Smits.
Saved almost 2 million kilograms of carbon dioxide in just one year
PwC Belgium is looking to further decrease its carbon footprint. During the past financial year, PwC Belgium consumed 25% less paper and it made the switch to Google, sharing documents with employees in the cloud. By 2020, the company wants to be 95% paperless – a logical step in a more digital world.
To conclude, PwC Belgium’s fleet has become cleaner, which is why employees’ carbon emissions plummeted by 1.8 million kilograms, a decrease of nearly 40%.
Need for a global vision of entrepreneurship
In conclusion, top executive Axel Smits is calling on the government to urgently develop an integrated vision of entrepreneurship in Belgium. He feels it should more often portray our enterprises favourably, if we no longer want to lose out when international companies consider setting up shop in Belgium.
“We need a better framework to attract international businesses and keep them here. That doesn't mean we should just have, for example, the lowest tax charge. No, we have to aim for a coherent environment in which it’s easy to do business. We're talking about factors such as customer-friendly and efficient authorities, quality of life in bigger cities, better mobility, modern financial legislation, competitive tax and social laws, etc. All sorts of initiatives are being set up, but, far too often, they're limited to their own separate pigeonholes. That's why a more holistic approach is key.”