PwC's Perfect Storm: Mohamed Kande is new U.S. Advisory Leader

Kande1 Mohamed Kande is PwC’s new U.S Advisory Leader and says the firm’s recent success is just the beginning. He says PwC is perfectly positioned to serve clients in this new “Technology Industrial Revolution” On July 1, Mohamed Kande took over as U.S. Advisory Leader for PwC. In that role, he oversees the firm’s consulting practice made up of U.S., Japan, China and Mexico. In 2015, PwC Advisory grew by 18 percent and accounted for some $11.2 billion of revenue. Advisory services now accounts for nearly one third of all PwC revenue. Prior to this new role, Kande was PwC’s U.S. and Global Advisory Leader for the Technology, Media, Telecoms, and Hospitality industry sectors. His expertise spans the areas of operational strategy, technology development, mergers and acquisitions, and operations management. Before joining PwC in August 2011, Kande was the Managing Partner of PRTM Management Consultants’ Europe, Middle East and South Asia business. Kande comes from a multi-cultural background, is fluent in French, and has accumulated a very diverse international business experience. Consulting sat down with him right as he officially took over his new role last month. Consulting: Where are you in the process as you take over as U.S. Advisory leader? Kande: Right now, I’m in the process of putting together a leadership team and I started doing the job a few weeks ago. I’m just getting a feel for the business and the complexity of the business. I don’t know if you know but we took our consulting business in the U.S. and merged it with our consulting business in China and Japan. What I effectively lead is the advisory business in the U.S., as well as the advisory businesses in China, Japan and Mexico. They are one combined organization and I’m the CEO of that business. This has been in effect for a little while and it’s how PwC is operating its consulting business now. Consulting: What’s been the biggest eye-opener in this role so far? Kande: I have been part of the Advisory leadership team for the last five years so I had a pretty good idea of the Advisory business. I used to run the Technology, Media and Telecoms business so I had the advantage of having a technology background, which I think is helping, a lot. Technology crossed all sectors so I had a pretty good idea of what was happening in those sectors. If one thing surprised me, I would say it’s being able to clearly see the enormous potential we have of not only growing our business here in the U.S. but also growing it across borders. It’s not just about growing our business in the U.S. but also in those other areas I mentioned—China, Japan and Mexico. I’m very happily surprised by the potential I see in the business. I’m also happy to report that I’m better able to see what a great team we have at PwC, and that makes a big difference. Consulting: What’s been your top priority since taking over? Kande: My first priority is all about clients and making sure that we continue to work together they way we should. We have a lot of different competencies within PwC and making sure we don’t miss a beat in the market is a big priority for me. Our clients keep coming to us to help them solve their biggest problems, and we have to be ready to serve them. I spend a lot of my time—more than 50 percent—market facing. So my focus and my top priority is, and will continue to be, our clients. Consulting: When you look at the market, how bullish are you?  Kande: We’re just starting our new fiscal year and I’m very bullish about the market. There are some headwinds in certain sectors, but we have a diverse enough portfolio not only of clients and sectors but also of competencies. So, we’ll be able to serve our clients wherever they need us to be, whether it’s a cost-reduction or growth. It’s one of the advantages of PwC’s size and scope. We have the ability to serve clients across the life cycle. It took us some time to build that portfolio over the last 10 years with all the acquisitions that we’ve done, but we’re very well positioned. Consulting: You mentioned headwinds in the market. Where are you seeing them and what do they mean for your overall business? Kande: We’ve seen some slowdown, especially in the beginning of the calendar year 2016 where a lot of the big technology decisions that were being made by companies got delayed a little bit. That was because there was a big inflection point in the industry. A lot of the companies were trying to figure out what does cloud mean? How do you adopt a cloud? How do you transform your business with cloud? This inflection point was because this is a new area and these are big decisions—not because the economy is slowing or is in decline. When you have to make big decisions—expensive decisions—you can’t rush it. That’s what we’re seeing in the market. Let me stress, this is very different than the recession we saw in 2008. Companies are just trying to figure out which way they want to go, and we’ll be there with them to help them make those big decisions. And we were seeing more of this in the beginning of the year. We’re moving through it, and I think were actually moving past it. Consulting: So, how would you characterize your clients’ mindset right now? Kande: Clients are full-speed ahead! Technology is so pervasive right now. A lot of the industry sectors are being impacted by technology right now. A lot of the discussion we’re having with clients revolves around how technology collides with the old way of doing things in various industries. We are really focused on helping our clients better understand how technology can help them deliver better products and services and how technology can help them run their businesses more efficiently. So, we spend a lot of time with clients thinking about technology-enabled services and products that they can sell and how they will use technology to run their business in very different ways. A lot of executives are still going through the process of defining what these new technologies are—cloud, operational technology, the internet of things—but also going through the process of deciding the implications for their business. It’s not just about revenues, but also how the entire operation will work. So, it’s not just about how you will make money, but also how you will spend money. I spend a lot of time speaking to executives about this. Consulting: Where do you see the opportunities by client industry? Kande: Basically, it comes down to where you see the biggest collisions between the old world and new world. For instance, Financial Services has massive opportunity right now in everything related to fin-tech. You have retail-tech and health-tech… areas where you have massive collision between technology and data. It’s changing the way people work. It’s fundamentally changing the way people sell and what people do. And technology is driving this change. It’s bringing about a revolution. For us, another huge opportunity is around this “technology industrial revolution” because everyone is going to be impacted. One reason is that we’re undergoing this disruption in the marketplace, but the other is around the expectations of the new labor force. As we know, the next generation is more connected. This is “The Perfect Storm” for us. There is a massive opportunity here because of this disruption caused by technology. Consulting: So, what are your forecasts for the future of advisory? Kande: I don’t see us slowing down at all. And I think, we’re really just getting started. Because of the way we’re set up that I described earlier with the U.S., Japan, China and Mexico, just imagine the potential of taking big companies we work with here and helping them in Japan and China. The two most significant destinations for foreign-direct investment from the U.S. happen to be China and Japan, and vice versa. That’s why I say we’re just getting started. It’s not the most effective way for us to organize this way. The most efficient way would be to organize around geographic boundaries, but we’ve opted to organize around economic clusters because it’s more effective for clients for us to be organized this way. Consulting: How is the firm gearing up from a talent perspective? Kande: We have a lot of the skills and capabilities we need spread around the organization so we’re bringing them together to deliver value for our clients. So, one talent challenge is an internal challenge. And that’s my job. Bringing the right people and capabilities together to better serve clients is a big part of what I do day-to-day. Some of our competitors have a lot of these skillsets too, but it’s how you go to market, how you put those skill sets in front of the client that matters. We are a partnership so anyone’s success is all of our success. That enhances or ability to work across departments and eliminate any of the friction internally that a lot of companies have. That’s a big advantage. The way we work; the culture we have; the fact that we are a partnership; these are all key differentiators for us. The second part is bringing that talent into the firm. PwC is a great destination for talent, and we’ve brought in a lot of great talent through our acquisitions. I joined the firm five years ago as part of the PRTM acquisition and I’m loving it. I’m proof that it works. The best decision PRTM ever made was to come to PwC. When you come to work at PwC every morning you don’t have to watch your back. That’s not true of every firm. We truly collaborate and work together like nowhere else, I believe. And whey we can show a client that collaboration and how we bring all the top talent together from various parts of the organization to solve a client’s problem… you have that client for life. Period.

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