Bob Moritz ’85, chairman and senior U. S. partner of the Big 4 accounting firm PwC, pulled into Oswego April 16 to pick up the Beta Gamma Sigma business honor society honorary member award on his way back to New York from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductions in Cleveland, where he was thrilled to see Green Day honored.
A drummer himself, who played in a band while at Oswego, Moritz has instead taken his Oswego accounting degree to a kind of rock star status in the business world.
“I never would have thought debits and credits would have gotten me here,” Moritz modestly told students in a Business Law II class. “I have sat on panels with Bill Gates, interviewed Presidents (George W.) Bush and (Bill) Clinton and stood on the red carpet at the Oscars.” His firm, formerly called PricewaterhouseCoopers, is probably most well known to the public as the people who count the ballots for the Academy Awards.
From his office in New York City, his work keeps him on the move, with travel occupying 70 percent of his time — anywhere from Washington, D.C., to Canada to South America, with occasional trips to Japan and China. He visits with CEOs of the companies PwC serves, holds town hall meetings with PwC members across the country and calls on lawmakers and regulators to give them his advice about the financial services industry.
But his journey to the pinnacle of the accounting profession in the United States all started with a bit of fatherly advice. “I was working in the stock room at a clothing store in high school and wanted to keep on working,” Moritz admits. “My father talked me into going to college.”
He chose Oswego because it “fit best” — he loved the look and feel of the place, and the people were friendly. He chose accounting as a major, because he had read in the guidance counselor’s office that partners made $90,000 — pretty impressive money 30 years ago — and he had shown an aptitude for math in high school.
The choice proved fruitful as Moritz earned his accounting degree and went on to a stellar career in the field, joining PwC right after graduation and working his way up the career ladder. Now he leads the U. S. practice of the international firm, which totals $9 billion in annual revenue.
‘Amazing’ global awareness
When he visited campus in April, Moritz was impressed with his alma mater, especially the School of Business. “It’s amazing how much more globally aware our students are and how engaged they are on a multidisciplinary level.”
That international focus and well- roundedness are important to Moritz, who prizes diversity and innovation for the company he leads.
There’s a solid business reasoning behind his focus. At PwC, the average age of employees is 27. “How do we make a work environment that’s a talent magnet?” he asks rhetorically. The firm wants people who are engaged, inclusive, having an impact and making a difference.
By fostering diversity, the firm ensures it is attracting the very best and by being seen as a company appreciating diversity, it can be a talent magnet.
His commitment to diversity stems from two personal experiences — the three years he spent on assignment in PwC’s Japan office, where as an American he was in the minority, and his time working in the firm’s human resources operation.
Now as chairman, he guides programs to create an inclusive environment, to mentor and sponsor diverse staff and to overcome unconscious biases.
Programs are designed to broaden horizons, like the one that brings hundreds of PwC employees to Belize to help build schools and teach people there.
Moritz is quick to point out that for any business to be successful, it needs innovation. For PwC that means being relevant to its stakeholders — the businesses it serves, the people it employs and the investing community. “So we listen to what they need and continually improve,” he says. “We aim to make lots of little improvements every day.”
Doing good is good business
Also important to Moritz, both personally and in his role as a business leader, is the notion of giving back.
He believes that giving back is a three-pronged effort: giving one’s time, doing pro bono work and making financial contributions.
As a firm, PwC focuses on youth education and financial literacy, inclusiveness and going green.
As leader, Moritz believes it is his responsibility to create an environment where people have the time and feel empowered to support causes important to them, to be a role model for his employees in ways to give back, and to demonstrate his own interest by developing his own personal story and passion.
Most recently, he put that into practice by making a significant donation to Oswego, of which half is designated for the Center for Accounting Research and Education, or CARE. The balance will be used for college priorities and where the need is greatest.
“Bob Moritz is a leader in the field of public accounting, and he is a lead donor to Oswego as well, supporting important initiatives that benefit today’s students,” said President Deborah F. Stanley. “We are grateful for his generous gifts of financial support and time, as he shares his insight with students in our classrooms.”
“I am happy to be able to help Oswego and the School of Business, and I trust the school to use the money properly for whatever is needed,” Moritz says. “I hope it inspires other alumni who are fortunate enough to be able to give something back to do that — whether it’s financial support or sharing your time with students.”
PwC has been honored for its commitment to diversity, innovation and giving back. It regularly makes “best places to work” lists including those published by Fortune and Working Mother. The U. S. Chamber of Commerce honored PwC with its Corporate Citizenship Award for its commitment to community service.
But Moritz is the first to point out that while external recognitions are “nice to have, they are not the driver.” He believes that consistency and continuous improvement — doing better every single day — is what makes an individual great. Multiplying that by the continuous efforts of PwC’s 35,000 employees is what makes the firm great.
If he sounds like the first among equals, that’s the culture at PwC. The company is unique in that the chair and senior partner is elected by all 25,000 partners who have one person-one vote balloting rights.
“Our culture is a partnership, where everyone is an equity owner. They can all be engaged, impactful, and feel like part of the process,” Moritz says.
Diversity, innovation, giving back — all these things have roots in Moritz’s Oswego experience as well. It was the first time he had met people from outside his hometown, who came from other areas and had different backgrounds.
The friends he made at Oswego probably made the biggest difference in his life. He played intramural sports and lived in Cayuga and Scales halls, serving as an RA his last two years to help pay for his education. “I have fantastic memories of the people I met there, my network of people I still interact with and vacation with.”
The RA before him was a role model for how he interacted with the students and the dorm director modeled team building. Moritz was especially tight with Tommy Lavalle ’85 and John Gary ’85, traveling together over spring break and spending Sundays in Syracuse for good home-cooked spaghetti and meatball meals.
Reminiscences of icebergs in the lake, 80 mph winds and huge snow banks round out his memories of campus.
As important as his financial support, Moritz knows, is the time he gives through the Oswego Alumni Association’s Alumni-In-Residence Program, where he is happy to speak in classes. While classes can give excellent academic and theoretical approaches to the work world, the stories Moritz and other alumni share give the students a flavor for the real world, he says.
“How do you share your experience with others so they realize they have potential and go and execute it?”
He also invests his time on the Oswego College Foundation Board of Directors. “In my work I get to see other schools and non-profit programs. If I can contribute even one little thing to help the foundation benefit the school and the students, I am happy.”
Oswego made a strong foundation for Moritz, who used it to build a towering career in business. Now he rolls up his sleeves to help current students build their own futures.