At PwC, we believe that quality’s the cornerstone of our brand.

Keeping the audit process on track

Our Assurance clients don’t just expect us to support their compliance efforts, but deliver a vigorous audit that offers real insight and added value, carried out in an efficient, cost-effective way. We’ve introduced a number of real-time assessment tools to do that. These tools run scripts on all audit files centrally to detect discrepancies and flag issues, enabling concerns to be directly picked up and dealt with.

They not only make the audit process more efficient, but assure a more robust audit and help increase transparency.Determining the root cause of issues puts us in a better position to prevent them recurring. These tools also underscore the importance we place on maximising our use of data.

Keeping the audit process on track

Adhering to the strictest standards

Within PwC, we adhere strictly to a number of quality standards including the International Standard on Quality Control (ISQC1), a quality control set out by the International Auditing and Assurance Standards Board (IAASB) that expressly relates to our financial audit services. We’ve extended equally rigorous controls to cover all services within our Assurance practice in the guise of our Quality Management for Service Excellence framework that was introduced in FY19. The new framework takes us beyond compliance and focuses on how we can best meet our quality objectives.

“As part of our audit quality management framework, we make significant investments in audit quality. This is targeted into many different areas, including technology, training (technical, ethical and behavioural), audit methodology and exploring new ways of delivering an audit. Each investment reflects a common determination to understand the factors that drive quality, to identify opportunities for improvement and to make those enhancements promptly to prevent issues from recurring,” explains Alexis van Bavel, Partner, PwC Belgium.

Taking a firmwide approach

Taking a firmwide approach

Other units within the firm also employ quality management systems (QMSs) as appropriate to their work and services. These QMSs address essential topics such as leadership involvement in risk and quality (R&Q) and the recruitment, training and retention of people.

For over 10 years, our Advisory practice has also retained ISO 9001 certification, the international standard that specifies requirements for a QMS. The certification covers the majority of activities within our Consulting practice including the services delivered by our Experience Centre. Our compliance with ISO 9001 norms is confirmed via regular internal and external audits.

Playing the canary in the coalmine

Like PwC, the KBC Group also strives to deliver good results and services, something that Johan Thijs, CEO, KBC Group, admits is increasingly challenging in the very complex world in which we live and where the financial industry’s undergoing big changes. "In this context, you need the help of a lot of people, not just internal people, but also external people, and for that reason I always consider relationships with external parties as fundamental to adding value. Amongst others, PwC plays that role perfectly, helping us make the next step in a very difficult and complicated world," he says.

In 2015, it selected PwC to act as "the canary in the coalmine", giving us proactive advice on what’s happening. "Next to controlling our books, PwC gives us insight into what’s happening in the outside world, what’s happening within the European Central Bank (ECB), etc. They’ve always been very proactive in this, thinking together with us. For me that’s a huge added value,” enthuses Johan Thijs.

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PwC & Pfizer client business case: Building on good experiences

Building on good experiences

The quality of our services is one of the principal reasons that the Intercompany Operations division of Pfizer, one of the world’s premier innovative biopharmaceutical companies, called on us to help it fully implement its plans to prepare the business for the future. "When you’ve had good experiences, you want to build further on them," says Danny Hendrikse, VP Intercompany Operations, Pfizer.

The assignment in this case – one of many projects with which we support the firm –, involved Pfizer’s outsourcing of its transactional customer service activities to a third party in India and offshoring other operations to a Pfizer company in the same country, an initiative in which, according to Danny Hendrikse, "PwC plays an instrumental role in terms of PMO (project management office) support and actual project management." One of the reasons the project’s been such a success, Danny Hendrikse believes, is the ability of the PwC team to integrate seamlessly into that of Pfizer.

"It was hard to distinguish who was from which firm. The PwC team truly embraced our culture and fully blended in, while of course not losing their own PwC values," he notes. 

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Trust breeds quality

Trust between people and parties plays a crucial role in our client relationships. Although only in our first year of the audit mandate with global technology leader Barco, a firm that develops networked visualisation solutions for the entertainment, enterprise and healthcare markets, the client already senses that a trusted environment has been created. "PwC first does its homework before offering an opinion on a specific matter, and we know that the decision made will remain consistent," Ann Desender, CFO, Barco, says.

Quality also means being there for the client when they need you and having the information they need to hand."When looking for a new audit firm, being a global player was one of the first criteria we set. We need to be sure that our auditor’s present and has local audit teams at least in the countries where our biggest operations are situated,” Ann Desender says. She adds, “with local teams, we know we’ll have the necessary access to knowledge for specific criteria with respect to regulations, IFRS and other local requirements relating to compliance.” 

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PwC core values: Act with integrity, Make a difference, Care, Work together and Reimagine the possible

Reinforcing our values

Our values -  Act with integrity, Make a difference, Care, Work together and Reimagine the possible - and the behaviours associated with them are a critical component to driving the right culture within our firm, but aren’t sufficient just in themselves. That’s why they’re reinforced through strong leadership, effective communication, consistent processes and policies and appropriate structures and metrics.

Specific training on our values is given during the onboarding process and they imbue all other development opportunities thereafter.

Actively addressing compliance

To increase our people’s awareness of compliance obligations and encourage and support compliance with the rules and regulations that PwC’s subject to, in FY19 we launched a Risk & Quality campaign. Each month, people are invited to

answer a compliance conundrum around a different compliance topic for a chance to win interesting prizes. We also carry out regular phishing exercises to raise awareness of how easily a cyber-attack can happen. Although we’ve sophisticated controls in place, they’re not infallible. As in most firms, our people are our first and best line of defence. Via intermittent phishing exercises, we’re continually strengthening our security culture.

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Axel Smits

Chairman & Territory Senior Partner, PwC Belgium Email
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