Pathenon-EY has acquired the Benelux organisation of OC&C Strategy Consultants. The deal significantly bolster EY’s strategy consulting and business advisory capacities in the region, and sees six partners and 53 employees transfer to the firm’s Dutch Pathenon-EY service line. Financial details of the deal have not been disclosed.
Founded in 1987 in London, by former Booz Allen & Hamilton partners Chris Outram and Geoff Cullinan, OC&C Strategy Consultants today is one of the globe’s larger strategy consulting firms. The London-headquartered consultancy, which specialises in supplying solutions in retail, consumer goods, media, services and private equity sectors, among others, has since grown to 15 offices in 11 countries around the world*.
The Dutch office of OC&C Strategy Consultants was started by Pieter Witteveen and Philippe Kaas, both previously partners in McKinsey’s local office in Amsterdam. Witteveen, who serves as Managing Partner at OC&C Benelux, yesterday unveiled that the Benelux arm of the consultancy has decided to leave its affiliation with OC&C’s international network in order for it to be acquired by EY.
The deal sees OC&C’s Benelux employees, 6 partners* and 53 employees, join Parthenon-EY – EY’s strategy and management consulting unit, which sits within EY Transaction Advisory Services, formed in 2014 when EY acquires The Parthenon Group, at the time a strategy consultancy firm with around 350 consultants. Under the wings of the Big Four, the unit has grown significantly since, leveraging EY’s scale and aggressive push into the advisory space, growing into a team of around 900 professionals working across nearly 30 offices around the globe.
The addition of OC&C Benelux provides EY a large boost to its strategic advisory portfolio in the Netherlands and Belgium, says Coen Boogaart, CEO of EY in the Netherlands. “With the acquisition, we are taking an important step in further building a distinctive practices for strategy consulting services, for which we anticipate international growth opportunities among our clients.”
Stephan Lauers, a partner in EY’s Transaction Advisory Services unit, adds, "With the specialists at OC&C Benelux we expand the position of our strategy consulting team in the Netherlands further and we strengthen our role as advisor to Boards of Directors to meet the challenges and issues facing their strategic capital agendas.”
EY Advisory has recently completed a string of acquisitions, more than ten globally over the past year alone, with analytics expert i3 and financial consultancy firm Montesquieu picked up in the Netherlands. In Belgium the Big Four in July acquired A-THREE.
OC&C Benelux previously was part of OC&C Strategy Consultants International, the firm’s umbrella organisation for its global operations. The international network and its fourteen offices will remain to operate as is, says Witteveen, without providing any further details on as to why the Benelux team has decided to leave the network. He however highlights the benefits of joining a larger, multi-disciplinary player: “By becoming part of an international organisation like EY, we strengthen our European coverage and gain access to additional local and international growth prospects. The deal benefits our clients and offers unique career opportunities for our employees.”
Asked for the cultural match between the two parties – the blending of cultures between mergers of strategy houses and accountants has a notorious track record – Witteveen comments, “Since the cultures of our organisations are very similar, we believe that integration is a perfect match.”
Big Four push into strategy consulting
The purchase of OC&C Benelux is the latest in a series of consulting deals closed by the Big Four in the strategy consulting domain. The trend on the one hand demonstrates the growing importance of scale in the industry, while on the other hand highlights the blending between traditional strategy and more operational consulting services, with the Big Four making bold moves to beef up their share in the landscape. Deloitte, for instance, acquired Monitor Group in 2012 – a consultancy co-founded by strategy guru Michael Porter – while PwC sent a shockwave through the industry when it bought Booz & Company in 2013 (today the arm operates as Strategy&). All of the Big Four put considerable efforts into buying Roland Berger when the German consultancy was going through a strategic reorientation back in 2014, with EY reportedly coming closest (the deal was blown off on the last day, similar to Deloitte Consulting’s endeavours two years prior).
Insiders report to Consultancy.uk that OC&C has been on the target list of the Big Four for a while, although “serious steps” were not undertaken as the firm’s partners underlined their desire to remain independent.
* The OC&C Benelux partner team prior to the transaction consisted of Managing Partner Pieter Witteveen, Max Groeneveld, Dirk Rens, Marc van der Goot, Bram Kuijpers en Irvin Faneyte.