Belfast Telegraph

PwC set for office move as Northern Ireland comes out as firm's top-performing region

PwC, which employs 1,900 people in Belfast, is in negotiations with the owner of the £70m Merchant Square development in Wellington Place (stock picture)
PwC, which employs 1,900 people in Belfast, is in negotiations with the owner of the £70m Merchant Square development in Wellington Place (stock picture)
Margaret Canning

By Margaret Canning

Business advisory firm PwC is planning to move its 1,900 staff in Belfast to new offices at Merchant Square, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.

Details of the move come as PwC said Northern Ireland is now the firm's top-performing region, with 460 staff recruited in its 'Operate' division over the last year.

Its annual report reveals that revenues for the UK-based firm were up 5% to more than £3.7bn in the year to June 30, with profit before tax at £935m.

The Belfast Telegraph understands that PwC will set up at the Merchant Square development at Wellington Place after leaving its existing Waterfront Plaza site.

PwC said it would not comment on the details of any possible move.

But the Belfast Telegraph understands that a move into Merchant Square - formerly known as Oyster House - is on the cards, though a full agreement has not yet been signed.

It's believed there has been some discussion over PwC's specifications for the building, which is owned by Oakland.

Oakland is led by Northern Ireland developer Gareth Graham. A spokesman said there would be no comment from Oakland.

The project has involved a series of renovations and extensions to Oyster House. The first phase of the scheme was granted planning permission at the end of 2016 for the refurbishment and extension of Oyster House and Royston House, located on the corner of Wellington Place and Upper Queen Street.

It comes as Northern Ireland emerged as the UK's fastest-growing region for PwC.

The firm said its PwC Operate division in Belfast brought in annual sales of over £40m, mainly from markets outside the province. The division has almost doubled its workforce from 540 to 1,000, operating in helping clients deal with regulations.

Clients in the division are mainly in financial services though there are some working in oil and gas, utilities, retail, pharma and the public sector.

Ian McConnell, the PwC Northern Ireland partner responsible for Operate, said the firm's investment in the Belfast operation was "a tribute to the availability of skilled graduates and an abundance of technology skills".

The practice has also launched a flexible talent network for people seeking to work for just a limited number of days a year.

Kevin Ellis, PwC UK chairman and senior partner, said: "Despite uncertainty over Brexit, all four of our business divisions grew this year, with high demand for technology-related services, including cyber, data analytics and GDPR.

"And 29% of the firm's revenues came from inbound - organisations headquartered outside the UK - highlighting the importance of the UK as a global business hub.

"Momentum in our business is good, driven by a strong deals market and demand for technology-driven business expertise, as we see organisations turn to us to help them transform their business models, many in response to digital disruption."

PwC has also launched fully-funded tech and data degree apprenticeships in Queen's University Belfast and another four universities in the UK which will give over 100 students a traditional university experience while receiving paid on-the-job training.

Belfast Telegraph