PwC to cut further staff and partners amid Australian restructure

31 March 2024 4 min. read
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Professional services firm PwC is further restructuring its operations in the wake of its government tax scandal, with another 329 employees to lose their jobs along with 37 partner exits.

Having already slashed its Australian headcount late last year, professional services firm PwC is cutting a further 366 jobs – or altogether more than 3 percent of its rapidly diminishing local workforce – as part of a $100 million cost-cutting exercise dubbed ‘Project Maple’.

While the firm says the redundancies will be made across “all lines of service and support functions”, the AFR has reported the heaviest impact will be felt in PwC’s consulting division.

PwC to cut further staff and partners amid Australian restructure

“This has been a very challenging and complex process, but an important one, as we realign our business structure with our new long-term strategy,” stated CEO Kevin Burrowes, who only last month had his own tenure extended until at least 2026. “At its heart, this reorganisation will make the firm a more simplified, efficient and centre-led business, enabling us to continue delivering the highest quality of service to our corporate and private sector clients.”

Despite previous pleas from Burrowes for the troops to stop leaking, the AFR in its report cited an internal partnership briefing held before the announcement. Per the publication’s sources, the majority of the cuts will come from the back office following a centralisation of the firm’s support functions which had previously been split between its three primary divisions. The duplicated positions within PwC’s consulting division are said to be the first in line to go.

While there is no word on how PwC’s remaining support staff might feel about a potential threefold increase in their workloads, other recent, dubiously-titled ‘projects’ in the advisory realm haven’t gone down well. Fellow Big Four firm Ernst & Young was forced to abandon its ‘Project Everest’ consulting split-bid last year, while McKinsey’s ‘Project Magnolia’ job-cutting exercise last year may have come close to costing global managing partner Bob Sternfels his own.

And then there’s ‘Project Kookaburra’ – recently revealed by former PwC chief Luke Sayers as the firm’s own serious look into at splitting off its consulting division back in 2019, in what could have been a potential $1 billion payday.

PwC has since lost a huge chunk of its high revenue-generating consulting talent through the sale of its public sector business for just $1 and other senior departures, and appears to be now prioritising, ironically, its bread-and-butter assurance division.

As a grim reminder of the challenges the firm faces in recovering from its government tax scandal, PwC as the largest of the local Big Four previously had a headcount in excess of 10,000 partners and staff. That figure is now being reported as closer to 7,000, with an estimated 1,300 professionals crossing to public sector breakaway Scyne Advisory alone. The reduction also includes the 344 cuts made less than six months ago while shuttering its highly-touted Adelaide Skilled Services Hub.

Meanwhile the latest headline figure includes the hastened retirement of up to 37 partners, bringing the total number down toward 700 after a year of delayed promotions and hampered senior recruitment.

However, the firm says that with the restructuring in place it will resume its standard mid-year partnership intake, and will also extend its executive management team to include a chief financial and chief information officer, with a new independent chair also on the way.

As to its latest staff cuts, the firm said any new roles created through the restructure would be advertised internally prior to going to market, with those who have been sacked invited to reapply where possible; “We acknowledge that days like today are especially difficult for those affected, as well as their teams and colleagues. I can assure you that we will work closely with impacted individuals to ensure they are aware of their options and next steps.”