Assisting regulators with Ireland’s €485
billion ($617.7 million) bank-guarantee scheme and a changing mix
in business are set to provide PricewaterhouseCoopers Ireland (PwC)
with a challenging 12 months, according to senior partner Ronan
Murphy.

Ireland’s highest fee-earning professional services firm last
month reported all-island fee income of €355 million for the year
ended 30 June 2008, an increase of just above 10 percent on
2007.

The Irish Financial Services Regulatory Authority appointed PwC
to assess sensitive information being exchanged between the six
Irish-owned financial institutions covered by the guarantee and the
regulator. The banks are part of the government’s guarantee scheme.
Murphy confirmed the firm had assembled a 25-strong team to work on
the project.

Referring to the 2008 results, he said the firm was very pleased
to record solid growth in “a year of two halves”.

“The first period from July 2007 to December 2007 was a
continuing period of growth and expansion. Then what had initially
appeared as a period of correction has got more dramatic in the
early part of this calendar year,” he said.

Performance improvement, business restructuring and tax advisory
practices as well as supporting foreign direct investment business
were the areas of strongest growth in 2008.

Murphy anticipates growth to be in the “high single-digits” in
the next financial year backed up by first-quarter results that
have matched PwC budgets.

He said while the core mix of the firm’s business of assurance,
audit and tax compliance work remained the same, there was a shift
in the mix from transaction and deal-making work towards
performance improvement, cost control, re-organisation and
restructuring.

“Anything of a deal-making nature has diminished quite
significantly over the last six to nine months,” he said.

The senior partner said he didn’t envisage staff cuts in the
face of the downturn but the Big Four firm would reduce the hiring
of experienced staff “very significantly” from the 120 it employed
in the year to 30 June 2008. He said the firm planned to recruit
about 250 graduates this year, a similar number to 2008.

Nicholas Moody