After working six years for accounting and consulting firm PwC, Nitesh Palana recently moved over to PA Consulting Group. Palana reflects on his move, his first three months at the London-headquartered consulting firm and the type of projects PA works on.
When I left PwC to join PA Consulting Group, a lot of my friends, colleagues and contacts asked if I was leaving the financial services industry. I realised that whilst I knew PA’s extensive work in financial services, most people know them for innovation, technology and management consulting. The combination of these three services was a key factor for my decision to join PA as this is where I believe the future is for my field of expertise, financial services regulation.
As a curious consultant, when I joined PA Consulting Group, it was natural to compare it to my previous experiences of consultancy. I compared interactions with clients, the working style and environment and I compared the calibre of employees. While I haven’t documented my findings, my view of PA can be summarised as ‘a management consultancy with lots of smart people driven by creating forward-looking solutions and strategies that actually work and deliver client value’. As this sentence sounds very much like a series of buzz words, I have dissected it and defined it below.
To me, there is a small but important difference between professional services and management consultancy. In professional services, firms have a combination of general consulting (e.g. change management) and a number of subject matter experts (SMEs) in technical areas. Management consultancy has smart people with sector (e.g. financial services) or industry (e.g. banking) specialisms. Management consultants may also have particular expertises (e.g. conduct regulation), but their role is much broader than technical expertise and they use every tool available to find holistic solutions. I joined management consultancy not only to solve complex problems for clients, but to also join the dots and identify how problems and solutions have a wider impact on the client’s business.
PA’s tough recruitment standards mean that they only hire smart and capable people (including a number of people from the Big 4). A couple of weeks ago, I was asked to assess graduate recruitment and I was shocked that I was one of five Managing Consultants who spent the best part of a day to fill just one graduate position. My colleagues at the Big 4 were generally smart but, given their size, it is harder for them to have such a robust recruitment strategy.
All consultants talk about solutions and some solutions are better than others. I used the term forward-looking as PA use their expertise in innovation and technology to develop solutions for financial services clients. In the field of regulation, PA has developed a workflow management tool that, through automation, reduces the cost and headcount of any case management process, such as complaints handling, anti-money laundering checks and remediation exercises. On other projects, PA has found the most suitable technological solutions available in the market and brought them to clients.
RegTech in PA's DNA
A lot of consultancy firms are partnering with technology firms or setting up ‘technology hubs’ to offer RegTech as a proposition. At PA, RegTech is not a proposition – innovation and technology are considered when solving every client problem; RegTech is in the firm’s DNA.
One example of how PA is assisting firms with strategy is detailed research and analysis on how companies can better understand their customer’s decision and outcome by making customers the centre of their universe – this allows companies to change their business model to remain relevant and valuable to customers. In banking, understanding the customer is essential for existing conduct regulatory requirements and to remain competitive after the implementation of the new Payment Services Directive.
There would not be a demand for consultancy if clients didn’t see the value provided by consultants. There is value in delivering general consulting and helping the client solve technical queries; there is greater value when consultants find innovative ways to grow their client’s business or identify efficiencies and cost savings; I have noticed that my colleagues at PA are dedicated to doing all of the above.
When my friends, colleagues and contacts ask what I do at PA Consulting, my simple answer is: “I specialise in conduct regulation and we help our financial services clients solve problems”.