PwC appoints HR veteran Karen Lonergan as people chief

22 March 2024 3 min. read
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HR veteran Karen Lonergan has been appointed as PwC’s next Chief People Officer as the scandal-hit firm tries to rebuild its reputation, bringing experience from some of the country’s biggest companies.

Professional services firm PwC has appointed former Qantas human resources executive director Karen Lonergan as its incoming Chief People Officer to replace Catherine Walsh, who recently joined Qantas in the same role.

Lonergan will commence from the start of July after the past five years at Stockland, with other senior leadership and executive stints spent at Woolworths, David Jones and Castrol across her more than two and a half decade career.

PwC appoints HR veteran Karen Lonergan as people chief

“PwC has taken significant steps to advance its cultural transformation over the last several months, yet we know meaningful change takes time,” stated chief Kevin Burrowes, who noted Lonergan’s strong track record of delivering exceptional results at some of Australia’s largest companies. “Karen will be an asset to our leadership team and is the right person to ensure the steps we have taken are comprehensively embedded into the fabric of the firm.”

Lonergan joined Castrol in 1996 after completing an MBA with Western Sydney University, and just six years later was head of HR at Qantas, where she spent close to a decade and a half rising to executive manager of performance & culture and International HR top boss. She has since added the Chief People Officer title to her resume entries for Woolworths, David Jones and Stockland, the latter where she also oversees stakeholder engagement.

“I am excited to be joining an organisation which is committed to enhancing its culture and has placed a strong emphasis on people experience,” Lonergan said of her appointment. “Having worked across a wide range of sectors and companies, I am energised by the opportunity to apply my skills in a new environment. I look forward to contributing to its continued growth and success. as the firm continues to make progress on its commitments to change.”

Lonergan reverses a strong recent trend in bringing her background from Qantas and Woolies to PwC, with both companies notably packed with former leaders from the consulting sector – including Walsh, PwC’s former head of people & culture who took up the newly-created chief people officer role at Qantas earlier this year following the airline’s own reputational hit.

Lonegran will also now be tasked with managing job cuts amid a consulting sector slowdown.

PwC however further pointed to Lonegran’s experience in implementing transformational programs across a range of business stages and cycles, with Burrowes concluding: “We pride ourselves on our commitment to a flexible workplace and progressive initiatives, such as our 26 weeks of paid parental leave, progress in tackling gender pay gap. I am looking forward to working with Karen to ensure we remain a leader on these important issues.”