The Italian consulting market has grown last year, yet with a mere 0.4%, bringing the market value of Italy’s management advisory landscape to just under €1.1 billion. The outlook for 2015 and beyond remains challenging.
Over the past years the consulting markets of Southern Europe countries, including Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece, have been impacted severely by of the financial crisis. In Italy’s case, at the height of the crisis years (2008 – 2010) its consultancy industry contracted by an estimated 5% to 10% per year. By 2012, the Italian consulting industry was according to data from Source Information Services (Source) worth €1.11 billion, comparable to the size of the Spanish consultancy market.
On the back of a recovering economy Italy’s advisory business returned to growth in 2013, growing 0.6%, and new data from Source reveals that in 2014 the market has been able maintain the positive momentum, although growth continued to flat-line. Last year the industry grew by 0.4% to €1.06 billion, which equates to roughly one-fourth the size of the French consulting market and one-sixth the size of the UK consulting market. Growth is constrained primarily by the lacklustre state of the Italian economy, which has created “unhealthy buying conditions for clients” say the analysts, and spend on consulting is therefore suffering.
Industry and functional areas
Financial services is keeping the market afloat – the sector grew by 2.7% to €335 million, in a large part following the need for regulatory compliance due to both domestic legislation as well as European regulatory burden (e.g. ECB stress tests). The largest beneficiaries of the increase in financial services work have been the Big Four firms, which according to Source have a combined revenue of €412 million, making them the runaway leaders in terms of market share. Looking ahead, banking is forecasted to remain a growth driver, explains Danilo Viviani, President of Gruppo Coreconsulting, an Italian consulting firm with six offices across the country. “Banks had a lot of requirements to meet around regulation, which impacted demand for anything else. Italian banks have improved their stability now, so we think that demand will improve.”
From a functional perspective the financial management and risk service line experienced the best levels of growth in 2014, expanding 2% to €290 million. The analysts state that this was largely due to regulatory compliance work, and a growing interest in cyber-security as Italian clients recognise that they are not immune to threats from hackers. However, operational improvement, which is the biggest service line in Italy, suffered a poor year, shrinking by 2.4% to €301 million. This was due to the fact that cost reduction and process improvement opportunities have been largely exhausted, and large-scale transformation programmes are few and far between.
Digital, an area which is thrusting growth elsewhere, is on the rise, yet not yet taken hold in Italy to the degree that it has in other markets. An analysis of qualitative data form interviews with executives / partners in the industry reveals that the Italian market’s attitude toward exploring new digital solutions is often reactive rather than proactive. “For the majority of clients, their focus of interest in digitisation is more likely to be around defensive questions like, ’How does it hamper my business?’ and ’How will we survive the disruptors?,” says Alfredo Arpaia, Partner at Roland Berger.
The outlook for the coming years remains challenging, say the researchers, stating that “although the volume of work is holding up reasonably well, margins are being squeezed. In combination with the fragmented market structure at the client end – with few major consulting buyers – and with those clients now used to low prices with no compromise on quality, “it is difficult to see how the market can recover,” comments Zoe Stumpf, Head of Research at Source. She concludes: “The prospects for 2015 do not appear particularly rosy, though with a slowly improving economy, pent-up demand, and some interest in digital, the market may achieve modest growth.”
Earlier this year German consulting firm goetzpartners opened its first office in Italy, Milan, its 12th globally.