Campus hosts global chair of major accounting firm

When Robert Moritz joined PriccewaterhouseCoopers directly out of college in 1985, he did not expect to eventually become the international chairman. Rather, he planned to work there for two years and then leave for IBM.

“I went on spring break and made the decision on spring break,” Moritz said. “Trust me, that degree of influence on what I was doing probably influenced my thinking at that point in time as well. I chose to go to the PwC because I thought it would be easier to go from PwC to IBM, as opposed to IBM then PwC.”

Moritz worked his way up and served as chair of PwC’s U.S. branch 2009 to 2016, according to their website. As one of the world’s four largest accounting firms, PwC garners influence around the globe, not just the U.S.

Speaking at the Marano Campus Center auditorium Oct. 12, Moritz is in year two of a four-year term as international chair of the firm. After more than three decades at PwC and 22 years as a partner, his role in the workplace far exceeds that of an accountant.

One of the points Moritz touched on repeatedly was being able to adapt, regardless of the work field. When listing the top three skills for the workplace, taken from a PwC survey, all of them were generic skills relating to fluidity in the workplace and ability to work with others.

“Top of the list, problem-solving, adaptability, collaboration,” Moritz said. “These are the soft skills that become ever so more important because the world is changing so fast. I can’t tell you with a linear explanation what your job is going to be today and what your job will be three years from now.”

This was reaffirmed by Andrea Pagano, an accounting professor at Oswego State who has seen Moritz speak previously, both as a professor and a student at the college.

“You definitely need to understand the numbers,” Pagano said. “It used to be, you go back 25 years and you had accountants sitting at desks, doing debits and credits, creating balance sheets and income statements. Not true anymore. We have computers, we have technology that are doing things like this.”

One such technological example is the robotic processing automation, or RPA, which is created in Microsoft Excel and speeds up the process for accounting firms.

“So that ties a little data analytics because now you’re not making the numbers, you’re reviewing the numbers and you have to understand what they mean,” Pagano said. “You have to be able to make managerial decisions based upon the analytics that you will view from the information that’s been automatically created by a computer.”

This does not mean that humans will be phased out and replaced by computers though, Moritz said. One example he keyed in on is the interaction of people and robots in the medical field.

“They are spending time with robotics, to think about how [to] create the robot that’s the nurse that can take care of some basic, maybe not advanced issues, but some basic issues,” Moritz said. “So, as I think about scaling issues for health care, you know, sort of simple stuff that can be taken care of automatically.”

One of Moritz’s points was that there are a multitude of directions the world can go in the future, so confining his message to any singular point is too narrow.

“The question’s going to be, do [companies] have the right people and skill set to adapt very quickly,” Moritz said. “Which is why, in fact, softer skills become ever so more important.”

This relates to the individual because it falls on that person to demonstrate that they can expand their skill set beyond their expertise.

“What you did to go outside of your comfort zone and still be successful is going to be important to your interview process, regardless if you’re looking for a teaching job, an engineering job or a job at PwC from a business perspective,” Moritz said. “This applies to every single sector in every single country around the world.”

Photo: Taylor Woods | The Oswegonian