What consulting firm PwC has to say about the coronavirus

18 March 2020 Consultancy.asia 3 min. read
More news on

As the coronavirus outbreak continues to spread across the globe, so to the information overload from around-the-clock coverage. Adding to that mix is a wealth of advice from the world’s leading business consultancies. Here’s a summary of what they’ve had to say to date: PwC

Since the outbreak of the coronavirus a little over ten weeks ago, some 29,000 academic research papers and scholarly articles have reportedly been published on the topic – not to mention the millions upon millions of news and opinion pieces courtesy of the blanket media coverage. Naturally, with the grave economic threat posed by the virus and measures to contain it, the world’s leading consulting firms have chipped in with some advice as well.


Big Four professional services giant PwC operates a dedicated Global Crisis Centre (GCC) which provides preparation, response and recovery support for clients in the event of a crisis, covering a wide range of incidents such as financial and reputational fallouts, operational breakdowns, cyber-attacks of tech crashes, and even humanitarian disasters, including famine, wars and pandemics. Lately, the firm says, the phones have been ringing off the hook.  

“At PwC’s Global Crisis Centre, we deal with crises every day. But as the COVID-19 outbreak has worsened, the volume of calls fielded by our teams has noticeably increased,” write GCC leaders and PwC forensics veterans Kristin Rivera and Melanie Butler (the latter who led the firm’s response to the recent Ebola outbreak) in a piece for strategy+business. “Business leaders are concerned, and rightly so, for the welfare of their people and their organisations.”

What consulting firm PwC has to say about the coronavirus

Noting that no crisis is an isolated, neatly contained incident, the firm describes the current COVID-19 outbreak as exceptional by any standard and a situation that is well beyond the experience of most business leaders, thanks to its extreme scope and levels of uncertainty. Recently, McKinsey outlined three broad economic scenarios, from a quick recovery to a pandemic-driven recession. Here, PwC offers some practical advice for overwhelmed leaders.

As is uniform among the advice currently being offered by leading consulting firms, the very first step concerns human resources. Priority number one according to PwC is to establish exactly where staff are located and how many workers are in affected or vulnerable territories. Clear policies and protocols, around travel restrictions, health reporting, and absences due to sickness, caring for relatives, or other disruptions for example then need to be put in place.

Following on from that on PwC’s seven-point plan, are urgings for businesses to revisit their crisis and continuity plans, evaluate supply chains, identify potential points of failure (such as considering which teams and individuals the business relies to perform critical processes or services), conduct scenario planning, and, importantly, get communications right – especially as disinformation and confusion continue to spread along with the virus.

On another note, the firm adds that businesses shouldn’t lose sight of other risks. “Often organisations are at their most vulnerable when dealing with a crisis that dominates their attention. The many other risks that your business faces aren’t diminished by an epidemic,” the firm states, noting that the “response window for a crisis is measured in months, while recovery is measured in years. Those companies that are well-prepared will always recover more quickly.”