The US arm of professional services giant EY has purchased NorthPoint Digital, a New York-based design and digital solutions agency. With the deal, which sees nearly 100 professionals join the Big Four firm, EY significantly bolsters its digital advisory and tech practices.
To tap into the rapid rise of the digital market, professional services firms have been quick to embrace the potential of digitisation. In particular large consultancies – with the Big Four and big generalists such as Accenture leading the pack – have invested strongly in growing their digital expertise and capabilities, typically on the back of aggressive acquisition strategies. Data from Equiteq, a research firm that monitors M&A activity in the advisory space, for instance, reveals that combined the Big Four have closed 185 major deals between 2011 and 2014, with the majority of transactions either in or leaning towards the digital and technology domains.
Examples of deals concluded in the past months include Deloitte Digital’s pickup of Digital One, buying its way into the Central European market, Accenture’s acquisition of Cloud Sherpas, Chaotic Moon (both in the US) and PacificLink (Hong Kong), and Synechron’s purchase of Usable, a US-based digital design firm. In Europe, EY has lately been the most active in the top of the market, with the addition of Bluestone Consulting (data science specialist) in France and London-based digital design firm Seren the key exponents. In combination with the year-on-year acquisition spree of late, lifted by a strong organic push and an end to end offering coupled with pioneering ‘tech hubs’ and ‘sandboxes’, large consultancies have been able to thrust their digital units into the top of the league tables, nestling themselves among the likes of traditional advertising and marketing agencies such as WPP, Omnicon and Publicis. According to the latest data from Advertising Age, a global magazine on marketing and media, Deloitte Digital can nowadays even call itself the second largest digital agency worldwide, with an estimated revenue of $1.5 billion, while also IBM, PwC and Accenture are positioned as market leaders.
In the latest move in the digital landscape, EY has poached NorthPoint Digital, a US-based firm that designs, builds and implements technology for websites, apps and portals on various devices. Founded in 2003, NorthPoint Digital has in recent years orchestrated an impressive growth trajectory, with over 30% growth realised for six consecutive years, building the fundament for new offices in Boston (opened in 2012) and Philadelphia (2013), as well as recently opened larger premises in New York (located at the 41st Floor of 1540 Broadway). Key capabilities the firm possesses include web technologies, content management systems (CMS), database technologies, search tools, back-end integration and front-end development tools.
With the move, EY significantly bolsters its digital footprint – adding 91 specialists to its advisory and other tech disciplines – and adds complementary services to its integrated digital portfolio across functions, which spans strategy, customer, creative, analytics, and security functions.“NorthPoint Digital offers unique IP and credentials that we can immediately leverage to help further our growth across a full range of digital capabilities that are critical for our clients,” says Greg Jenko, a former Accenture consultant and now Principal at EY and Americas Global Digital and Emerging Technology leader. “The talent we are bringing in can also help us embed digital capabilities in our services and sector offerings. These are skills that are increasingly in demand in a world that becomes more digitalised every day.”
Jeff Penner, who co-founded NorthPoint Digital and led the firm together with Richard Cooley, says he is “very excited to join EY,” adding “Our experience by design capabilities combined with EY’s broad global reach can produce game-changing services for organisations around the world.”
Globally EY has over 212,000 employees, generating a combined revenues of $28.7 billion.