Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Does the brand name mean anything any more?

Dear Colleagues

I did my professional training in accountancy with Cooper Brothers in the early 1960's. I was very proud of the training and the professionalism of Chartered Accountants. Around that time Cooper Brothers combined with Lybrand, Ross Bros. and Montgomery to form Coopers and Lybrand. Over the next 40 odd years there were more combinations and Coopers and Lybrand grew to become a huge international firm.

And then Coopers and Lybrand combined with Price Waterhouse to become and even bigger firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers.

I am an "alumnus" of this combination ... and was recently contacted by the PWC alumni organization and given some Internet access to information about the firm and the activities of the alumni. The first page of the website stated the following:
© 2006 PricewaterhouseCoopers. All rights reserved. PricewaterhouseCoopers refers to the network of member firms of PricewaterhouseCoopers International Limited, each of which is a separate and independent legal entity.
The words that got my attention were "each of which is a separate and independent legal entity"

The PriceWaterhouseCoopers brand name is global ... but there is a disconnect. The brand name gives PWC a global upside while at the same time the leadership and the network carries nothing of the responsibility associated with professional performance.

Yes: the world has changed since the 1960s ... but the need for ethical behavior and for professional excellence has not. I understand the "need" for avoiding legal responsibility since the Anderson debacle, but this dis-association from the worldwide brand name seems disingenius.

My take from this little fact is that relying on brand name reputation is a risky business. Essentially you take your chances even when you are working with the apparently best name in the business.

Peter Burgess

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