In partnership with Glassdoor, our investment analysts are taking a closer look at some of the most popular companies in Glassdoor's career community.

Pricewaterhouse Coopers (known as "PwC" for short) is one of the largest professional services organizations in the world. At its core, it is an accounting firm that employs tax and audit specialists. However, like the rest of the "Big Four" firms, it has also ramped up its consulting businesses in recent years.

To provide some perspective on the size of PwC's operations, let's crunch a few numbers:

  • 184,235: The number of PwC employees worldwide
  • $32.1 billion: PwC's revenue in 2013, just behind Big Four competitor Deloitte, but ahead of Ernst & Young and KPMG
  • 84: The percentage of companies in the Fortune Global 500 that hired PwC in 2013

Big Four firms benefit immensely from their reputable brand names – they're like the Ivy League of the accounting field. They also stand apart from smaller competitors due to their presence in more than 150 countries. Thus, PwC has considerable pricing power and benefits from recurring revenue that flows from longstanding client relationships.

Pwc

PwC's office in Manhattan. Source: Pricewaterhouse Coopers

The case for Pricewaterhouse Coopers
What makes PwC great in the eyes of its clients is that employees go the extra mile to deliver high-quality work. In turn, PwC recognizes that its most important assets are these talented and trustworthy employees, so they support and develop them as much as they can. Here are just a few examples of how PwC stands out as a great place to work:

  • Vacation time is substantial: Employees start with 15 paid workdays per year which jumps to 22 after two yeas of service.
  • In 2013, 30% of PwC's new senior managers took advantage of PwC's four-week sabbatical program.
  • As shown on Glassdoor, PwC offers benefits including competitive healthcare coverage plans, leave of absence programs for parents, and educational support up to $5,250 per year.
  • PwC supports learning and development: Employees dedicated an average of 1.5 weeks to these programs in 2013.

Beyond the formalized benefits, employees attest to being able to assume leadership roles early in their careers and having opportunities to participate in recruiting and volunteer activities. Regarding the latter, PwC reports that 71% of its employees participated in volunteer or other corporate responsibility programs in 2013. PwC also pays pretty well, too, with newly hired associates or analysts receiving an average annual salary of roughly $60,000 plus benefits according to employee feedback.

All of this translates into a satisfied workforce. On Glassdoor, for instance, the company receives an overall rating of 3.6 out of 5 stars based on nearly 5,000 reviews. Secondly, 77% of employees would recommend the company to a friend and 88% approve of the performance of PwC's CEO Robert Moritz. Even when employees do leave the firm, PwC stays engaged through a top-notch alumni program as well.

From the perspective of customers, PwC's professionals are much more than "bean counters." They streamline the financial reporting process, solve complex tax problems, and help companies prevent fraud, waste, and abuse. Although most client-satisfaction surveys are kept confidential, a report by Big4.com provides evidence that customers continue to value the services provided by these firms: Revenue growth across every service line has increased in all but two years since 2005.

Because PwC is structured as a partnership, its "investors" are different from a public corporation. PwC's owners are partners that have typically worked at the firm for at least a decade. Their personal compensation increases and decreases in proportion to PwC's profits. They benefit from the upside but also have downside risk. This is a positive but all-too-rare element of today's corporate world, where management's interests can often be misaligned.

When it comes to philanthropy and social causes, PwC serves as a role model for other companies. PwC's "Dollars for Doers" program gives $2,500 grants to causes employees are passionate about and work toward. Through its "PwC Charitable Foundation" the company invested $19.4 million in local communities in 2013. And, in-line with its area of expertise, PwC's U.S. practice dedicated 150,000 pro-bono hours to a financial literacy program called "Earn Your Future" in 2013. Finally, in terms of promoting diversity, PwC scores high as illustrated by its No. 5 ranking in DiversityInc's "Top 50 Companies for Diversity".

In a sense, public accounting firms like PwC are the "scorekeepers" of the corporate world. The general public relies on their audited financial reports when it invests in a wide variety of stocks and bonds. In this context, PwC performs an absolutely vital task for the financial markets and society at-large.

Some complaints to consider
The number one drawback of working at PwC – which is repeatedly mentioned in Glassdoor reviews – is the long work hours required of employees. During their busy seasons, audit and tax workers often log anywhere from 60 to 80 hours per week. In this category, however, PwC is no exception: Professionals at all Big Four firms and even many of the smaller competitors frequently burn the midnight oil.

Another concern involves potential conflicts of interest. As the audit and tax businesses post slower rates of growth, PwC is turning to advisory services to bolster sales. In 2012, PwC's consulting practice grew 16.7% versus the 5.1% growth rate of its audit business. The problem is that providing consulting services can raise questions about the independence of accountants. Since independent audit reports are crucial for our financial markets to function, Big Four firms need to be careful not to overstep the boundaries when it comes to conflicts of interest.

Finally, Big Four firms often tout their efforts in promoting diversity, but minorities occupy relatively few positions in leadership. While minorities make up 25% of employees in public accounting, that number drops to 6% at the partner level.

The bottom line
PriceWaterhouse has roots dating back to 1849. Over the years, it's built a brand that carries significant weight with Fortune 500 companies and in the public markets. That's good for its customers as well as the broader world of investors. PwC also emphasizes building long-term relationships with employees, communities, and alumni, three very important stakeholders.

While independence concerns remain an ongoing issue, advancements in connectivity and technology help PwC remain in compliance even with hundreds of projects scattered all over the world.

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