Posted on Tuesday 6 August 2019 by Ulster Business

Emma 12

Professional services giant PwC is developing and expanding, and that includes appointing its latest equity partner Emma Murray, moving in to the firm’s new Audit line of service

Inspired by the region’s entrepreneurs and proudly rooted in Dungannon, Emma Murray is now an equity partner in PwC’s new Audit line of service.

“When I left Dublin after gaining an actuarial degree to return home to become an accountant, I was the black sheep of the actuary family,” Emma says. “Most stayed to work with big city firms, but I wanted to work with local entrepreneurs. My family weren’t all professionals, many had a trade and owned their own businesses, so I’m very comfortable in that environment. I have a massive respect for them and their achievements.

“I’ve supported companies which are booming and expanding into new markets, but I’ve also been there with owners who’ve been on the cusp of failure. It’s really tough when things aren’t going well, but that entrepreneurial passion kicks in. The sheer resilience from someone who gives it their all is incredible.”

And they will need that resilience with the complex challenges of Brexit. “The next twelve months will bring its challenges to most businesses – some more than others. Sectors such as high street retail seem to be really struggling in a competitive environment with the inexorable march of the online retailers.

“While it sometimes feels like it’s all doom and gloom while we await the outcome of Brexit, the Northern Irish cohort are a resilient bunch. Most businesses I speak to about the dreaded ‘B’ word will say ‘There’s a limit to how much we can prepare, so we’ll take it as it comes.’ They’ve faced and navigated challenges in the past and they’ll do it again.

“Those who prepare well, who are flexible and agile enough to make changes and find ways to innovate, will be the ones who come out of this best. They’ve got to do it – we’ve got the border situation, the lack of an Assembly, we’re facing a growing skills shortage. It’s essential to always be in turn-around mode, never complacent but continually reinventing ourselves.”

A skills shortage is one of the biggest problems for NI businesses, and a recent survey from the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry reported that half of their members couldn’t get suitable people for jobs, with almost two-thirds revealing that the skills gap was impacting on businesses. Urging businesses to stand up and apply collective pressure, Emma said they’ve got to be the leaders in the absence of a functioning Assembly.

“Organisations like the IoD and CBI are encouraging businesses to stand together and be reckoned with. There are so many doing their own thing, but I believe we’d be better off working together.

“Take the skills shortage for example – we need to educate society about what is really needed. Parents need to know that it’s OK if your daughter or son wants to be a mechanic, to gain a trade, that’s the type of skill that put us on the map to start with. It’s the same with the likes of accountancy – you don’t need to go to university. Apprenticeships are a fantastic way to achieve your qualifications – without the debt.”

For Emma, it’s the genuine commitment to doing the right thing for its people and the community, that makes PwC stand out. For example the PwC Challenge has seen it work with organisations in west Belfast to raise suicide prevention awareness.

“We’ve been doing so much around mental health. It’s frightening how much more young people are being impacted by worries than the previous generation. It’s really important to me that those who can, do support their people. Take us with 2,300 people – if PwC helps its people with flexible working hours, time off to volunteer, a genuine commitment to well-being – we’re going to be more mentally-resilient.  If every business did the same, ensuring a good environment for their people, that passes down into their families and society.

“The difference our purpose makes for clients is massive. If a business is considering who to work with, what matters at the end of the day is the person they’ll be working with. If they see you’re working with a firm that’s more socially aware and more minded to respect and give time to others, that plays to the values of the person standing in front of you.”

Emma is also looking forward to the move to new headquarters in Belfast city centre, the £70m Merchant Square development. It’ll be one of the most tech-enabled spaces in the city, accommodating 3,000 people.

“I am very excited about the move to Merchant Square,” Emma says.“There’s a lot of innovation around design and client-engagement. The firm has changed so much since I joined, from being a series of small sector-specific services to now being strategically linked right across PwC’s global network. We’re focused on bringing the best of the global firm’s experience to our clients – regardless of size and location.”
 
Emma’s admission as partner is somewhat overshadowed by an even bigger life change – expecting her first child. “This is genuinely my biggest achievement to date and I’m very grateful for the support I have received from PwC and my new colleagues in the partnership. Some family wondered if my pending maternity leave would impact my promotion, but it didn’t which shows how far we have come in developing and nurturing a diverse workforce.

“This is a real step-change for women and sends a positive message about how things should be. A career goal doesn’t mean you have to give up on your personal dreams – it just means you need to find an employer that respects you enough to want both for you too. I’ve found that in PwC.”

Professional services giant PwC is developing and expanding, and that includes appointing its latest equity partner Emma Murray, moving in to the firm’s new Audit line of service

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