When someone writes the definitive book on the growth of the global outsourcing market, there will be a chapter on how the Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC) BPO group shaped and drove the BPO marketplace in the late 1990s. Started in 1996, the PwC BPO group grew to $520 million in annual revenue by the end of 2000 with an annual run rate of $710 million when the firm sold the North American business to IBM in 2001. In just five years, the PwC BPO team grew from a core group of 15 executives to several thousand.
It’s no surprise that today PwC BPO alumni are in senior leadership positions at several top outsourcing firms such as Accenture, IBM, Capgemini, NorthgateArinso, Sutherland, ACS, Ceridian, WNS, OCE, and Wausau. Alumni are also financial and strategic consultants to many of the top providers and are leading breakthrough research programs across the globe. The industry considers them outsourcing industry influencers in North America, Western Europe, Eastern Europe, and Asia Pacific. They are board-level advisors to firms in both North America and Europe.
It was and is a special group of professionals who have led the industry for over 15 years.
PwC BPO was blessed with extraordinary leadership during its five-year run. Tom Beyer founded the group in 1996 with an ironclad vision that consulting firms needed to do more than just advise on strategies or implement systems. Beyer saw BPO as a new way for consulting firms to take responsibility for their recommendations by running operations and, in the process, redefine how corporations managed their businesses. He saw BPO as a revolutionary/radical approach to corporate management.
Beyer brought together a leadership team that shared his vision. He convinced PwC management they needed to invest at least $50 million in the business and that the BPO group needed to be a separate service line of the firm — just as important as audit, tax, and consulting. This was an extraordinary accomplishment that gave the BPO group the freedom to invest in its success and create a special kind of organization.
Beyer passionately drove the early growth of the business and then retired. But after Tom Beyer, there was a seamless transition to John Barnsley, the legendary head of the UK practice who, like Beyer, was a brilliant visionary.
Barnsley was the type of leader that just about everyone would go through walls for. He led the explosive expansion of the BPO business with a series of breakthrough contracts that built the BPO market across the globe. He was a brilliant communicator who understood the power of thought leadership and the importance of working closely with the leading research firms and influencers. Today, Barnsley is a director on several boards in both the United States and Europe. He is special. I would do anything for John Barnsley.
Prior to 1996, much of the focus of the outsourcing market was in ITO. Working closely with industry influencers, PwC BPO redefined the market to give BPO equal attention. But to succeed in the outsourcing market, PwC also needed to redefine the BPO market to mirror its strengths as a service provider.
PwC built its business around a multi-process value proposition. It anchored its positioning with F&A and the claim that “F&A R Us.” We wanted PwC to be known for its finance and accounting excellence. We connected other processes to F&A in a hub/spoke delivery solution that no other service provider could match. It was brilliant positioning.
Prior to PwC, the BPO market was mostly defined as a single process like payroll. PwC BPO redefined the market to focus on multiple processes bundled together. The corporate market led by transformational CEOs responded to the positioning and sought out the PwC big-bang approach to BPO.
The big early deals of the BPO market followed this approach of bundling multi-HR or F&A processes together for an integrated solution. The size of contracts increased significantly, bringing more attention to the BPO market and helping PwC BPO land a series of ground-breaking contracts such as:
- The largest F&A contract in the history of outsourcing serving BP in multiple geographies
- The largest HRO deal on an annual basis with Nortel in Canada
- The large Equifax deal, which integrated HR and F&A
- The Delta deal that brought best practices to revenue accounting. It was the first deal that integrated F&A and procurement in Europe
- The integration of applications with processes that powered transformational change at BP
- The real estate outsourcing deals in Australia where PwC BPO was the dominant provider of government services
- The European deals that integrated F&A and procurement for the first time
- The many deals in the UK and Western and Eastern Europe that were the early proof points for outsourcing’s ROI
Selling BPO contracts is always tough, but serving clients from scratch was even more difficult. PwC BPO took its $50 million war chest and invested heavily in building out its breakthrough Centers of Excellence in locations such as Rotterdam, the industry’s first Pan-European service center; Krakow, the industry’s first F&A center in Eastern Europe; and Tulsa, where we served BP and the energy industry with over 1,000 F&A professionals. We overcame political uncertainties and built world-class Centers of Excellence in Columbia and Venezuela.
Our HRO team invested several million dollars developing the prototype for the industry’s first self-service portal. In F&A, we formed a consortium with BP and Oracle to develop a radical framework to transform F&A to take out 70 percent or more of F&A costs.
The pace of change was breathtaking. We did this all in just five years.
PwC also invested millions in thought leadership through not only its series of white papers in each of the process domain areas but also through sponsorships of outsourcing information portals such as the Outsourcing Center, industry and association conferences, and industry research. PwC also conceived and sponsored one of the industry’s first awards program) — The Outsourcing World Achievement Award. If there was a conference or event, PwC had a presence. If there was a trade magazine story on BPO, it featured PwC BPO, as we built strong relationships with the media.
We even decided to call ourselves the same name as the market – BPO – in order to own the market definition. When buyers thought of BPO, we wanted them to think of PwC BPO. As an example, PwC owned and effectively used the BPO.COM and BPO.CO.UK domain names to drive prospects to the PwC BPO Web site that contained over 2,000 pages of information on PwC BPO and outsourcing. We made this commitment to thought leadership in order to educate the market and build the pipeline of new business opportunities. The Information Technology Services Marketing Association (ITSMA) rated the PwC BPO marketing program as a best practice and wrote two case studies covering the impact of the program.
But at the end of the day, it was the people of PwC BPO that made the difference. The early leaders were missionaries who passionately believed in BPO. They built from scratch the multi-process solutions that no other firm had dared to market. Connected by Lotus Notes and non-stop conference calls, they worked 24/7 in small conference rooms in Stamford, Dallas, Sydney, Bogota, or London as they built financial models that guaranteed major cost savings for clients, risked millions of dollars in PwC’s investment capital, and committed PwC to billion-dollar contracts. It took nerves of steel to sign the early transformational contracts.
They had to build a value proposition and create the best practices that no other firm had implemented or tested. They started without PowerPoints or glossy brochures. They had to convince buyers to take the BPO journey without proof points or long-term client references. They had to build not only a business but also a market. They succeeded because they were a special breed of operating professionals who easily could engage CEOs and CFOs in a strategic discussion and who combined technology and process expertise to develop out- of-the-box solutions that worked.
On the way to becoming a billion-dollar business, the PwC BPO dream ended when the SEC strongly suggested that the Big 5 accounting firms divest their consulting and outsourcing businesses because of concern over auditor independence. They did. But the PwC BPO dream continues to shape the industry.
Today, many of the early PwC BPO pioneers are still in the outsourcing business and shape the direction of the industry. There is a special bond that all of us feel when we connect in the industry. It is also fun to watch as so many PwC BPO pioneers compete against each other for business. Today’s line-ups include:
- Keith Strodtman of Ceridian versus Trey Campbell at NorthgateArinso
- David Poole, Claude Hartridge, and Gerry Gallagher at Capgemini versus Marcus Holloway at Sutherland
- Dennis Highlander and other former PwC partners at IBM versus Troy Williams at Unisys
- John Cutrone at ACS versus Charlie Gibbons at Wausau Financial
- Chris Aden and Scott Wilson at Accenture versus Karl Sachenmaier of ACS
It’s all serious fun among friends who shared the dream to reshape the outsourcing industry and continue to do so.
Below is a partial list of this special group of PwC BPO alumni.
Tom Beyer, Global Head of BPO business, former Head of PwC Consulting practice who went in 1996 to the PwC Management Committee to secure funding for the new BPO business. He retired in 1998 and is now enjoying retirement in the Washington, D.C. area. He is the father of the PwC BPO business.
John Barnsley, Global Head of BPO Business from 1998 to 2001. Former head of the PwC UK Tax practice. Now retired and on several boards in the United States and the UK.
Christopher Aden, Business Analyst for BPO in the U.S. Now Director of Management Consulting BPO Services at Accenture.
Matt Appel, Head of U.S. Operations. Ran the BPO center in Atlanta serving Equifax. Now CFO at Zales. Former CFO at EXL Service and former Head of BPO business at EDS.
Ted Ardelean, Marketing Manager, Global BPO Marketing group. Now Segment Marketing Director, OCE Business Services.
Bill Batiste, Head of the North American BPO. Founder of Argea Consulting. Now retired and an investor.
Ray Bayley, U.S. Head of BPO business. Now CEO of Novus Law, offshore LPO firm.
Peter Brooks, BPO Business Development Director in U.S. Now CEO, Thorne Brae.
Trey Campbell, Deputy U.S. Sales Director for BPO. Now President of NorthgateArinso in the Americas.
Jag Dalal, U.S. Head of Technology Industry BPO business. Now Head of Thought Leadership for IAOP.
Robert Earle, Managing Director, Procurement Outsourcing in the U.S. Now VP, Sourcing Relationships at JP Morgan Chase.
Allen Edwards, Managing Partner, BPO in Australia. Now retired.
Nigel Edwards, Business Development Director in Europe. Now VP Sales at Cognizant.
Tommy Eubanks, Head of BPO in Oil & Gas Industry. Ran the Tulsa BPO Center serving BP in the U.S. Now President, Eubanks Business Services. Former GM at IBM.
Gerry Gallagher, Managing Director, Sales for BPO Oil & Gas industry. Now VP Outsourcing Sales for Capgemini.
Dave Garrison, Managing Director, Procurement Outsourcing in the U.S. Now Director of Sourcing for ACS.
Rick Genovese, Global Head of Applications Outsourcing, part of the BPO business. Former General Manager, IBM. Now Founder, Independent Executive Advisors
Charlie Gibbons, Head of U.S. Business Development. Now Senior VP, Wausau Financial Systems.
Paul Halpin, Partner in charge of BPO business in Ireland. Now Managing Director, Halpin International in Mauritius and a BPO investor.
Claude Hartridge, Head of Business Development for BPO in Europe. Now Director for BPO Sales for Capgemini in the U.S.
Jodi Hayes-Roth, Director, HRO business in the U.S. Now Senior VP, HRO at Ceridian.
Ton Heijmen, Global Head of PwC BPO business in Asia Pacific. Former head of Coopers & Lybrand’s outsourcing practice. Now Advisor to Conference Board.
Dennis Highlander, BPO Energy Industry Partner. Now Senior Executive Partner at IBM.
Marcus Holloway, Managing Director, F&A Outsourcing in the U.S. Now Senior VP, Integrated BPO at Sutherland.
Claude Imbt, Managing Director, Transitions For BPO in the U.S. Former Senior Director, Product Market Maker at Accenture. Now Founder, Optimum Partners.
Hank Johnson, Head of BPO Transformation in U.S. Now VP, HRO at Ceridian.
Fergus King, Head of BPO Marketing in Europe. Now owner, Shirlaws Business Consulting in Edinburgh
Deborah Kops, Global Head of Real Estate BPO business based in the U.S. Former Chief Marketing Officer for WNS. Now Managing Principal, Sourcingchange
Tim Lloyd, Director, BPO South American Center. Now Managing Director, Alsbridge.
Bernadette Margel, Global Head of Procurement Outsourcing business. Now Principal Consultant, Orgsworks International
John Mathew, Senior Marketing Manager, CPA for the Global BPO Marketing group. Now Associate Director, Business Development, Media & Entertainment for E&Y
Fiona Meseck, Client Operations Manager, BPO Europe. Now Head of BPO Operations, Royal Sun & Alliance
David Muir, Head of Applications Outsourcing in Europe, part of the BPO group. Now Partner, IT Sourcing, for PwC in UK.
David Narrow, Head of Global F&A practice. Now an independent consultant. Former F&A Client Service partner for BP at IBM. Famous for napkin analogy for taking out 80 percent of the costs for F&A in an Outsourcing Center article in 2001 written by Beth Ellyn Rosenthal…well ahead of the time .
Helen Neale, Marketing Manager, BPO in Europe. Former Research Analyst for HRO at Nelson-Hall in UK. On leave.
Lucia Nunziante, Marketing Manager in the U.S. Now Marketing and Sales Market Leader for PwC in the U.S.
Rick Ostrander, BPO Oil and Gas Industry Partner. Now an independent consultant.
Pravir Pandya, Director, Procurement Outsourcing practice. Now Director with BP in Alaska.
Gil Parker, Global Head of Proposal Development for BPO. Now Vales Consulting Partner.
David Poole, Client Service Partner, BPO in UK. Now Deputy Global BPO Leader for Capgemini.
Kate Rogers, BPO European Communications Director. Now Director, KMR Communications in London.
Lance Reschke, Manager, HRO business in U.S. Now VP, HRO at Ceridian.
Karl Sachsenmaier, U.S. Sales Director for BPO. Now VP, Sales at ACS.
Diane Shelgren, Global Head of HR Outsourcing business. Now runs successful consulting business focusing on HRO. U.S. based.
John Simke, Head of BPO business in Canada. Now Chairman of Center For Outsourcing Research ( CORE) in Canada.
Richard PB Smith, Global Head of Operations from 1998 to 2001. Head of BPO business in UK from 2002 to 2004 when European contracts were sold to Exult and Capgemini. Now retired in UK.
Keith Strodtman, Director, HRO business in U.S. Now EVP and GM, HRO for Ceridian.
Joe Vales, Global Marketing Director, BPO. Now Senior Partner, Vales Consulting Group.
Terry Weber, Head, BPO Real Estate Outsourcing in Australia. Now PwC Partner in Australia.
Troy Williams, Sales Director for BPO in Oil & Gas. Now Outsourcing Services Director at Unisys.
Scott Wilson, Director, BPO Transactions. Now Partner, Accenture.
Peter Winterble, Director of Thought Leadership. He wrote many of the white papers that differentiated PwC BPO. Now semi-retired in Argentina doing freelance work for consulting companies in the U.S.
About the Author: Ben Trowbridge is an accomplished Outsourcing Consultant with extensive experience in outsourcing and managed services. As a former EY Partner and CEO of Alsbridge, he built successful practices in Transformational Outsourcing, BPO, Cybersecurity assessment, IT Outsourcing, and Cybersecurity Sourcing. Throughout his career, Ben has advised a broad range of clients on outsourcing and global business services strategy and transactions. As the current CEO of the Outsourcing Center, he provides invaluable insights and guidance to buyers and managed services executives. Contact him at [email protected].