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18th February 2016

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PwC seeks more data scientists to analyse deals

Recruiters hired to identify data engineers, statisticians and machine-learning experts

Professional services firm PwC plans to add more than a thousand data scientists to its deals business in the next two years, illustrating how firms are reshaping their workforces to reflect advances in technology.

PwC’s deals division involves processing large amounts of information for clients for due diligence, valuations and tax structuring. The firm, which is the largest of the ‘big four’ by global revenues, employs 500 data scientists across its global deals business and wants to triple this in the next 18-24 months.

“Our business is very vulnerable unless we modernise and use data,” John Dwyer, PwC’s global head of deals, said. “We have to be more progressive and change our workforce from traditional accountants to hire more data scientists, mathematicians and those who are comfortable with computer algorithms.”

PwC is working with recruiters to identify data engineers, statisticians and machine-learning experts, drawn from analytics-heavy sectors such as technology, healthcare and scientific academia.

The deals business includes transactions, restructuring and forensic services. Predictive analytics can help companies identify acquisition and divestiture opportunities, by evaluating metrics such as a company’s sales and marketing spend, headcount, or research and development, Mr. Dwyer said.

“The combination of technology and strategy will be key to how the deal landscape evolves in the next 10 years,” he said.

To drive the transformation, PwC appointed Henri Leveque, a senior partner in the US, as head of data analytics a year ago. He has now been promoted to the global deals leadership team.

Mr Leveque said: “Relationships, experience and human judgment will remain important long into the future. However, the deep insights that can be driven through the sophisticated analysis of high-volume data are playing an increasingly vital part of deal execution. Buyers now expect to understand risks and opportunities in far greater detail before making significant investment decisions.”

PwC’s expansion follows a bumper year for global mergers and acquisitions, in which a surge of deals in the pharmaceuticals, energy and consumer sectors pushed activity to an all-time high of $4.6tn, surpassing 2007’s peak.

The firm reported $35.4bn in global revenues as of December, across its three main business lines: assurance, tax and advisory. Last year deals accounted for just under half of the advisory division’s $11.2bn in revenues.

Its UK deals division has developed a hub in Belfast, where it has hired school leavers with an aptitude for handling data. “A lot of this work is done more cheaply with younger people who are just more tech savvy,” Mr Dwyer said.

In the US, PwC has developed a tool that analyses publicly-available data to highlight companies that are vulnerable to attacks from activist investors. By analysing metrics such as underperforming divisions, return on equity or executive salaries, it can help companies structure a defence against activists or position their strategy.