THERE is a quiet, determined resolve which strikes you when you meet Claire Reid, the new leader of PwC in Scotland.

It is a trait she displayed early in her career, when she left her hometown of Glasgow for Silicon Valley, California, not long after joining the accountancy giant in 1998.

Now, more than two decades later, she remains driven to test the limits of her abilities.

In July, Ms Reid was named as the first woman to head PwC in Scotland, succeeding Lindsay Gardiner who stepped down after seven years in the role.

Ms Reid, who joined the firm after graduating from the University of Strathclyde in international business and modern languages, said it was a post she coveted, ever since returning to Glasgow from London three years ago.

“It gives me the platform to make a difference,” she said when we met in PwC’s spacious Glasgow office. “It’s what gets me out of bed in the morning. What’s driven me in my whole career is that I don’t sit still. I’m very much an action-orientated person – I’m driven by making a difference.”

Ms Reid has been eager to make the most of the opportunities she was earned since leaving university. “I remember wanting to be a businesswoman, that’s what I wanted to do be when I graduated,” she said. “I fell into being an IT auditor. I didn’t really know what it was, but it sounded like it would give me access to broader business, which is exactly what it gave me, and a lot of air miles.”

The two years she spent in the US have a lasting influence. She was in California at the height of the boom at the turn of the millennium, providing solutions for the likes of Cisco, eBay and Oracle. PwC continues to have relationship with Oracle, today the firm’s cloud computing partner.

Although she did not come from a computing background, she found her strength in crunching numbers and analytical ability served her well.

And her immersion in IT gave her the know-how and confidence to establish the firm’s Oracle assurance business when she returned to the UK.

Ms Reid arrived in London on a two-year secondment but would ultimately stay for 10 years. Her initial role was focused on helping organisations implement new finance and operations systems.

“This was the old-fashioned on-premise technology, none of the fancy cloud technologies we live with today,” she said.

“At that time, the organisations were looking to integrate and modernise their processes and systems, but they weren’t always that good at it. They didn’t know how to secure them or control them, and that was the gap in the market that I’d seen. The US were further ahead so I brought that back.”

Having gone on to help build the firm’s cyber security business in London, Ms Reid returned to Glasgow in 2016, and since then has worked to build the firm’s risk assurance services in Scotland.

Her appointment to the top job was followed by Royal Bank of Scotland naming Alison Rose as its successor to Ross McEwan, becoming the institution’s first-ever female chief executive.

While it was news observers had long expected, it was still a notable victory in the campaign for greater representation for women at the top of UK business.

Ms Reid is not the first female to lead a Big Four accountancy firm in Scotland. At the other end of the M8 in Edinburgh, Catherine Burnet is the senior partner for KPMG in Scotland.

However, Ms Reid does feel a certain responsibility to be a role model as a woman – and it is one she is happy to bear.

“For me it is a privilege,” Ms Reid said. “If I can inspire someone that you can be a success being a woman…

“Diversity goes way beyond gender, but if I can do my bit on the gender balance piece, even if it is one or two people that it impacts in a positive way then that’s great. I’m not out to change in the world, but I believe small changes are important.”

And she certainly does not appear to have found any barriers to her own ambitions within PwC as a result of being a woman. Indeed, Ms Reid recalls that she was made a partner at the firm in 2012 just before she went off on maternity leave with her second child.

Ms Reid, who was working for PwC in London at the time, had previously “crashed and burned” on her first attempt to become partner. That came shortly after she returned to work following the birth of her first child, and she admits she fell short “because I wasn’t ready”.

But it wasn’t going to deter her from trying again.  Second time around she was successful, with the firm having agreed to defer her interview. And by the time she returned to work, not only was she a partner and mum of two very young children, she also had a new job running the firm’s cyber security business.

“I just threw myself in,” she said. “Just because something has not been done before, doesn’t mean it’s not possible. It was never written in a policy that if you are on maternity [leave] you can’t become a partner.”

As to her immediate priorities, Ms Reid anticipates bringing her expertise in the tech sector to bear as the firm looks to expand in Scotland, where it now has more than 1,000 members of staff.

PwC, she notes, has spent a long time helping companies in Scotland become “technology enabled”, but until now hasn’t talked publicly much about it.

“One of my priorities is to make sure we are very clear about what our external proposition is to Scotland,” she said.

“It’s making sure we are on the front foot with that. The other thing is the skills piece.

“Through this role, I feel a responsibility, as an employer of over 1,000 people in Scotland, that those people have the skills and the tools to keep them relevant in the future too.”

Six Questions

Q What countries have you enjoyed travelling to, for business of leisure?

A I have always loved travelling, with highlights being South America (Buenos Aires and Cusco in Peru), and Borneo in Malaysia. I enjoy visiting the US on business, particularly if I can fit in a stopover in NYC or Chicago.

 Q When you were a child, what was your ideal job, and why did it appeal?

A I always wanted to be a primary school teacher, right up until I left school. My mum was a teacher and a big role model, and I loved kids too. Now, as a mum of three primary school aged kids, I don’t think I have the patience!

 Q What was your biggest break?

A Being picked to go on secondment to San Jose for two years during the dotcom boom. It taught me the importance of building my network and trying out things.

 Q And what was your worst moment in business?

A A few years ago, I flew to Doha to meet a client, to agree terms and kick off a significant piece of work. When I got there, I realised we hadn’t won the project – all lost in translation, and much embarrassment when reality sank in!

 Q Who do you most admire and why?

A It’s hard to choose one person, but Bill Gates has many qualities I admire. He changed the world of computing with Microsoft. I admire his focus on doing the right thing through his foundation.

 Q What book are you reading and what music are you listening to, and what was the last film you saw?

A I am currently reading The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris. I listen to whatever is on our Alexa in the kitchen (usually Little Mix, Ed Sheeran and Ariana Grande). The last film I saw was Dumbo.