PwC pushes tech to the limit with their new Frontier space

PwC is one of the biggest employers in NI, offering a wide range of services including audit, tax, consulting, deals and managed solutions. There has been a major shift in how we deliver these services, with technology playing an integral role in our changing business. Our clients now expect innovative, efficient technology alongside the subject matter expertise traditionally associated with the PwC brand. 


We offer a wide range of opportunities to people of all ages and disciplines, recently investing $3 billion globally in the upskilling of all existing staff members in technology. We also continue to invest in the development of our business by providing opportunities to local talent in NI. We work closely with local universities through programmes such as the Technology Degree Apprenticeship with Queen’s University of Belfast, a Masters with Ulster University and the Assured Skills Academies with Belfast Metropolitan College covering Data Analytics, RPA and testing. As a result, we are consistently rated as one of the top graduate employers in NI and the wider UK.


Since launching in Belfast in 2016, Operate has become the fastest-growing division with PwC UK. It’s an operational delivery service, employing more than 2,500 people across the UK. Operate is focused on delivering large-scale operational projects across a broad range of sectors from finance and compliance to technology solutions. 


As a tech-led business, we have been the creators of state-of-the-art systems used in many sectors and across global clients. We also regularly partner with well-known vendors and emerging technology scale-ups and start-ups to ensure we’re delivering the best of technology to our clients.


Our new Merchant Square office in the heart of Belfast is set to be a landmark building both for the city and PwC. This building will be at the forefront of innovation, with collaborative workspaces for all. The Frontier space will provide an immersive environment, perfect for demonstrating and collaborating with clients on VR, AR and other exciting emerging technologies. Working with global colleagues and academic and industrial partners in a Research and Engineering capacity, this space will enable us to uncover and shape new ideas, allowing us to bring original concepts to market validation. We also provide product management expertise to support individuals, teams and clients in building new tech-enabled products and solutions.


Technological innovation is central to our business. Operate currently has more than 250 technology staff members across the UK, engaged in well-known disciplines such as software development, data analytics, and testing. We also have teams specialising in RPA, AI, Natural Language Processing, Low Code, workflow, and DevOps. 


Part of the experience of working at PwC is the exposure our people receive to an incredible range of clients, consisting of household names both large and small. We’ve worked with iconic global businesses in industries including streaming services, financial institutions, energy firms and technology companies.


Aside from working with some of the biggest names in the tech industry, our tech has also helped to make a significant impact in local communities. The Government’s ‘Future Fund’ project involved building and launching core technology systems, in a matter of weeks, that were used to keep small UK businesses running throughout the Covid crisis by providing more than £1 billion in much-needed funding. 


Research and Development is a key component of our future plans to ensure that we’re developing sustainable solutions that cater to future market needs. Our RPA team, which is the largest automation team in the UK firm, delivered over £2m of savings in the last financial year. Our Data Scientists, through advanced analytics and machine learning techniques, have also helped private and public sector clients tap into massive datasets. They have provided new-found insights into their customers’ behaviour, enabling us to provide new services to help our clients during the pandemic. 


Dr Owen Sims, Artificial Intelligence Lead, commented: “What attracted me to PwC was the opportunity to develop technologies for a diverse range of real-world business problems and have a tangible and significant impact on the efficacy and trajectory of the firm. An exciting aspect is the ability to develop innovative technologies from scratch and proof-of-concepts that are tried and tested across different parts of the business. A breadth of skills is available to draw from as technologies are being developed to resolve problems. It has helped me improve my technical skills by delving into  new technologies in AI, Machine Learning and Automation; better understand business problems and client requirements; and provides an excellent basis from which to further my career.”


Our Software Development Team builds the applications that keep some of the biggest businesses in the world moving. One example brings together company information from worldwide company registers and other sources, reducing the time taken for analysts to onboard these companies. The onboarding analysts saw the time taken to review each company drop from hours to minutes. This application has now gone global, covering 154 countries, extended by adding an API which other business applications can use. This application has users across the globe.  It needs to be widely available and scalable to meet demand, due to seasonal peaks and variations in daily demand as high-use countries come online. With that in mind, our DevOps specialists used technologies like Kubernetes clustering and Docker containers to ensure the application is scaled to meet demand and highly fault-tolerant while minimising the cost of unused capacity.


Looking to the future, PwC and Operate’s tech capabilities will continue to extend across every area of our business in NI. Our upcoming focus on original projects with the new Frontier space at Merchant Square, and some exciting planned partnerships to develop brand new products and market propositions are set to make PwC NI one of the most exciting places to work in the UK. 

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