LSBF Great Minds Live: ‘operating globally is a challenge in a less global world’, says PwC Managing Partner

One of the key challenges in running an international business is to operate globally in a world that is becoming less global than it has been in previous years – at least this is the view of PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) Managing Partner Kevin Ellis.

Speaking yesterday to an audience of business and financial students at London School of Business and Finance’s (LSBF) inaugural Great Minds Live series, he said the idea of a globalised world has gone backwards, presenting a challenge for businesses.

“There are big challenges for all global organisations in a world that is less global than before. We see things like sanctions [in a number of countries] and we need to operate in these countries. There isn’t one global law,” he said. “We are seeing [globalisation] go backwards with terrorism and unrest and, for businesses, that is a challenge.”

Having worked for PwC since 1984, Mr Ellis has specialised in providing turnaround and restructuring services for underperforming businesses in the public and private sectors. He said that one of the most important things for long term success is to cultivate relationships “in the real world” and to ensure the business’s reputation is well managed.

According to him, one of the most effective ways to ensure this is by establishing better internal processes that are aligned with that goal. He suggested that businesses needed to start at recruitment, checking CVs and references, and encouraging a culture that allows people to call out bad behaviour.

One of the ways PwC achieves this is by working with education providers in the UK and internationally; as well as a large apprentice scheme for school leavers, the firm currently has programmes for international graduates to train in the UK.

The company has also invested to ensure higher levels of diversity across the board. “Diversity is critical and increases innovation. You have to widen the gate, not lower the bar,” Mr Ellis said.

Reflecting on the dynamics of business, Mr Ellis said that failing is an essential part of how the global market works. “History has shown that if things don’t fail, you don’t have a proper market. In a world that is so volatile now and the gambles you have to take, things are going to fail. Our job is that we have got to make sure people understand the facts, and that it is a consequence of advancement as well as business going wrong.”

A chartered accountant by trade, Mr Ellis said that, despite the automation of certain functions, global businesses still have a lot to benefit from integrated reporting and auditing. “A lot of focus is on efficient use of business resources. 75% of CEOs say their business is dependent on long term reporting,” he said.

Mr Ellis was the first guest of the inaugural LSBF Great Minds Live, a series of events aimed at bringing students, business and political leaders together to debate current issues related to economy, employment, business and finance. “The event was very informative and it was great to meet a senior manager from PwC,” said LSBF ACCA student Astrid Lewis. “I really enjoy the Great Minds Series,” she added.

LSBF Great Minds Series

As well as offering programmes dedicated to fostering leadership skills, LSBF also endeavours to provide students with insight and inspiration through a number of innovative resources. One of these initiatives is the LSBF Great Minds Series: a collection of video interviews with leading business and political leaders promoting debate on education, employability, entrepreneurship and the economy.

The video series started in 2011 with a conversation with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, followed by an interview with former Education Secretary Lord Kenneth Baker. In 2012, entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson, founder and chairman of the Virgin Group said that universities worldwide should become hubs to boost entrepreneurship and inspire self-starters to develop their own businesses. In 2014, LSBF spoke to Will Butler-Adams from Brompton Bicycle, Guy Hayward-Cole from Nomura Bank International, with former British Prime Minister Sir John Major, entrepreneur and investor Deborah Meaden, Google UK sales director Kevin Mathers and BBC Worldwide CEO Tim Davie.

Kicking off 2015, LSBF hosted interviews with Andrew Miller, CEO of Guardian Media Group; Jill McDonald, CEO of McDonald’s UK; Kevin Costello, CEO of Haymarket Group; and Amy McPherson, CEO of Marriott Hotels Europe and, most recently, an interview with veteran BAFTA-winning journalist Jon Snow.

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