PwC’s Steele shows her mettle by going it alone in tech-savvy Cambridge
PwC’s inspirational head of Cambridge office Sian Steele is leaving the firm after more than 20 years and going solo in the Cambridge UK science & technology heartland.
Steele has been largely instrumental in ensuring that the 21st Century PwC in Cambridge has trampled down barriers and created a broad and inclusive ethos to its 24/7 approach to working.
This has been reflected in the firm’s internal gender equality policies and, in terms of outreach, in the way it has thrown open its showcase facilities at the firm’s new headquarters in Cambridge to charities and businesses of all kinds and sizes.
Steele will continue to work on selected PwC portfolio business on a freelance basis while building a broad-based consultancy in her own right drawing on contacts she has made in the world-leading innovation cluster over the last two decades and more.
In her transformative work at the helm of PwC, Steele has drawn inspiration from her roots and experiences both in the domestic and corporate arenas. When she started out at PwC she and husband David, a technology wizard in his own right, had two children under two and fledgling Robert was not sleeping through the night.
PwC appreciated her obvious professional talent and exceptional people skills and granted her the enlightened opportunity through flexi-time working to follow a career without sacrificing the once-in-a-lifetime chance to raise a family. It is a debt that Steele has paid forward in spades.
Along with colleagues throughout the PwC UK management tier she has ensured that other young women have been granted a similar opportunity. It is one of the thrills of her distinguished career with the practice that PwC has adopted inclusivity as a business and employment game-changer.
Times have changed in the accountancy profession. There are specific protocols which impact on different types of work and guidelines and borders cannot be crossed, which can be frustrating for the practitioners concerned and the clients they serve who want them to handle ALL their financial requirements.
As she looked ahead to retiring at 60, Steele contemplated all her options. She had enjoyed fashioning networks in Cambridge, making long-lasting contacts, building bridges, helping client companies and management teams scale.
She believes she can continue to add value to family clients and other individuals as well as to growing businesses operating under her own steam.
Steele is taking her remaining few weeks with PwC to grade her many options at a sedate and considered pace.
“PwC is a fabulous firm and has been my life for more than 20 years but in common with any other organisation it is not the centre of the entire universe. Having said that I have been part of a really big firm and run very fast for a long time.
“I have helped build big teams and assisted in taking the firm to fresh heights based on embracing diversity and inclusivity in terms of people, practices and general culture.
‘Now I need a couple of months to reflect on where I want to position myself in terms of advising personal and corporate clients as I venture out on my own.”
Audit partner Andy Grimbly, who has been based in Norwich, will take the reins on a temporary basis while a permanent new head for PwC Cambridge is sought. There is no shortage of able candidates.
Steele said: “Whoever takes over here long term will find a fantastic infrastructure, a highly able group of practitioners and a superb environment in which to work to further relationships with some of the best clients, both individuals and company management teams.
“I have been on a long, successful and often breathtaking journey with PwC. I was a new mum when I set out, both boys under two and young Robert didn’t sleep through the night.
“Neither working mums nor flexi-time were anywhere near commonplace at the time but PwC allowed me to pursue a career without having to sacrifice the really special experience of raising a family.
“In those early years a lot of client organisations were male-oriented; this too has changed and I have been able to help a lot of families in the private context and male and female executives in the corporate world.”
Steele officially flies the PwC nest on April 30 but Cambridge remains a natural habitat for her talents.
She says: “Just look at the way Cambridge University, AstraZeneca and a host of other locally based organisations have rallied to provide expertise, products and funding to fight the coronavirus pandemic; it shows what a special place this is.
“Cambridge entrepreneurs are so generous with their time, money and expertise and it is difficult to envisage a more committed, integrated and innovative corporate community geared to changing for the better the way we live and work.
“I could not be more proud of Cambridge and the calibre and integrity of the contacts I have already made here. Working for PwC all these years has been a real blast; now I feel a fresh buzz at the thought of continuing to build relationships here and help more management teams and families succeed in their chosen pursuits.”