PwC is to buy a consultancy specialising in cloud-based technology, in the latest move by a big professional services firm to try to reduce its reliance on lower-margin accountancy and audit work.
The firm has reached a conditional agreement to purchase Warsaw-based Outbox Group for an undisclosed sum, and expects to complete the deal next month.
Consulting was the fastest-growing division at PwC UK last year, and the latest deal follows on from the acquisitions of Booz & Company and Mokum in 2014.
Outbox helps companies develop computer systems that improve their interactions with customers, using software from suppliers such as Salesforce, Oracle and SAP.
Ashley Unwin, a member of PwC’s UK executive board, described the acquisition of Outbox as “a major milestone for PwC’s UK and central and eastern Europe alliance”. The addition of Outbox’s 270 staff means PwC will have almost 3,000 technology specialists across Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
Enthusiasm for cloud technology is a growing trend among the big accountancy firms. PwC launched a cloud accounting program in September, and its Big Four rivals have been competing to improve their own cloud-based offerings: KPMG invested £40m in a new cloud software service for small and medium-sized enterprises in 2014, and last year EY announced a partnership to integrate its advisory services with Microsoft’s cloud technology.
Many of the initiatives aim to increase the Big Four’s reach among small and medium-sized enterprises, but Jonathan Tate, who runs PwC’s technology consulting practice, said Outbox “absolutely will focus on the top tier of companies — the cloud has universal appeal”.