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PricewaterhouseCoopers cuts 1,000 jobs in e-commerce push

The management consulting firm says it will cut 1,000 administrative and internal support jobs as part of its plan to shift its focus to e-commerce consulting.

Management consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers today said it will cut 1,000 administrative and internal support jobs as part of its plan to shift its focus to e-commerce consulting.

The firm, which circulated a memo to its employees earlier today, said the 1,000 positions targeted will be achieved through the dismissal of about 750 employees, through a combination of voluntary attrition, and through a hiring freeze already taking place. The company employs roughly 150,000 people worldwide.

"This will free ourselves to make the kind of strategic acquisitions that will enable us to provide our clients a broader range of professional services with a focus on e-commerce," said Steven Silber, a spokesman for the firm. Silber added that the firm will continue investing in technology and training particularly in the e-commerce space.

There has been an evident shift in the services industry to focus on Internet and e-commerce business among computer services firms and Big Five consulting firms, like EDS, Andersen Consulting, and Ernst & Young, as the firms begin to feel the pressure from smaller, more nimble Internet consulting players, such as Viant, Razorfish, and Scient. EDS and Andersen Consulting have both recently launched hefty ad campaigns to gain awareness for their new e-commerce focus.

Silber said the job cuts will not affect any internal accountants or consultants, and will mainly target positions in internal support departments, including human resources, finance, marketing, and administrative operations. While he couldn't specify which geographic areas will be affected by the job cuts, he did say some will take place in the United States.

Tom Rodenhauser, an industry analyst that heads ConsultingInfo.com, said while it's evident PricewaterhouseCoopers is attempting to garner more business from e-commerce-related consulting contracts, the job cuts really have nothing to do with their strategic move.

"The bottom line is they're making the cuts [in expenses to boost] partner profitability," said Rodenhauser.

Silber said the firm's cutbacks are due in part by the Coopers & Lybrand merger that occurred more than a year ago. And while layoffs didn't immediately follow the merger, Silber said that since then, "infrastructure cost has grown and it's not in line with our need to address market opportunities."

Silber claims that the firm's focus on building its e-commerce practice will also ultimately generate new job opportunities.

"E-commerce represents major opportunities for us," Silber added. "Recruitment and retention strategy for client service positions in such growth areas [like e-commerce] will remain aggressive."