Yesterday the World Economic Forum (WEF) kicked off in Davos. More than 2,500 CEO’s of the largest corporations globally, international politicians and high-profile scientists and academics have travelled to the world-known city in the Swiss Alps to discuss the most important economic, social, demographic and technological challenges that face society and humanity. For consulting firms, WEF represents the most prestigious stage there is to showcase their expertise, with this year 21 consulting firms privileged to act as a contributor of the summit’s agenda.
Since its foundation in the early 70’s, the World Economic Forum, a Swiss non-profit foundation, has grown into a leading network and think tank for governments, academic institutions, businesses and entrepreneurs. Every year the WEF organises its annual winter meeting – the largest and flagship of its global meeting cycle* – in Davos, a mountain resort in Graubünden, in the eastern Alps region of Switzerland. The WEF has as its goal to engage “leaders in society” to shape global, regional and industry agendas.
For CEO’s, there is arguably no better stage on the globe than the WEF to represent their firm and learn from peers and best practices. For companies that serve the globe’s executives, such as advisors, the annual meeting in Davos is one of the most valuable hubs around. The WEF provides consultancies a podium to share their thought leadership to CxOs and offers opportunities to network with decision-makers who stand at the top of the power spectrum. Across the board, around 300 of the world’s top corporations can call themselves a partner of the World Economic Forum, across three partnership levels and a range of communities, of which 21 are active in the management consulting industry. An overview:
At the top of WEF’s partnership value chain stand ‘Strategic Partners’ – companies that provide essential support to the Forum’s research agenda and serve as the driving force behind the Forum’s activities and the work of its communities. “Strategic Partners make a tangible impact on global issues and society by contributing to better policy-making, informing business decisions, sharing best practices and engaging stakeholders beyond commercial objectives,” states the WEF. A select group of 100 leading global companies from diverse regions and industries can call themselves ‘Strategic Partners’, and among the fortunate few are eleven consulting firms: A.T. Kearney, Accenture, Bain & Company, The Boston Consulting Group, Deloitte, EY, KPMG, Marsh & McLennan Companies (the parent of Oliver Wyman, Marsh, Mercer, NERA Economic Consulting, Guy Carpenter), McKinsey & Company and PwC (includes Strategy&). Among the elite are also four IT giants which have considerable consulting units – Hitachi, Infosys, Tata Consultancy Services and Wipro.
Besides the Strategic Partners, the WEF also has approximately 200 so-called ‘Industry Partners’, companies that are actively involved in the Forum's mission at the industry level. On top of the 15 consultancies highlighted above, also AlixPartners, Aon, Arup, FIS (parent of among others Capco), FTI Consulting and Willis Towers Watson belong to the group of industry experts.
In the run-up to the 2016 edition of the World Economic Forum many of the high-profile partners of consultancies who are attending the event have released their view on the key themes and topics they believe should be addressed. Dominic Barton, Global Managing Director of McKinsey & Company, for instance posted an article in which he highlights digital as the top priority for CEOs in 2016. “Catching this fast-moving – and rapidly growing – ‘digital wave’ is the only way to avoid getting left behind,” he stated. Boston Consulting Group CEO Rich Lesser moderated a digital transformation panel on the first day, and sat down with several media outlets, including Liz Claman from Fox Business.
The Dutchman Johan Aurik, CEO of A.T. Kearney, went into the Davos meetings with a personal note, comparing David Bowie’s inspiration to the music scene to how companies and organisations should follow the example of role models when it comes to topics such as diversity, inclusiveness and equality. Aurik, who describes himself as a “diehard David Bowie fan”, says he was “deeply saddened” when the news was unveiled, adding “Bowie was apolitical, but he influenced the state of the world and those he touched. As Davos 2016 begins, I can’t think of a better model.” Bain’s Chairman Orit Gadiesh yesterday led a discussion on the transformation of health with a panel of senior executives in the health arena, while Accenture CEO Pierre Nanterme unveiled on behalf of his firm a study (conducted by Accenture Strategy) which shows that a waste-free economy could account for trillions of dollars in revenue by 2030. Accenture also served as one of the key partners of the ‘Circulars’, an awards ceremony which recognise individuals and organisations that have made notable contributions to the circular economy.
Marsh & McLennan’s delegation includes Scott McDonald, CEO of Oliver Wyman, and Peter Beshar, General Counsel of the Group. The company has so far released two major reports – the ‘Modular Financial Services: The New Shape of the Industry’ and the Global Risks 2016 report, and facilitated a panel on obesity and the costs it brings to society (estimated to be $2 trillion a year by McKinsey).
As always the Big Four are strongly represented at the World Economic Forum. Deloitte’s formal delegation includes Punit Renjen (CEO), Cathy Engelbert (CEO Deloitte US), Jim Moffatt (Global Leader of Deloitte Consulting), Alain Pons (CEO Deloitte France) and David Sproul (CEO Deloitte UK). PwC Chairman Dennis Nally is among others active on the board of the Partnering against corruption initiative (PACI) and is a member of the WEF’s International Business Council. The firm also was one of the first to launch a study at the event with its annual ‘Global CEO Survey’ – the 19th run of the study. Mark Weinberger, CEO of EY, kicked-off his contribution to the WEF with an article titled ‘Three ways to find purpose at work’, and featured as a key expert on several media outlets, including CNBC, Reuters and Fox Business. John Veihmeyer, Chairman of KPMG, was interviewed by several media outlets, including CNN, France24, Sky News and ET Now, on a range of economic topics, providing his view on among others business confidence, global productivity, geopolitical and market risks, as well as the outlook for the global economy.
* The WEF holds six to eight regional meetings each year in varying locations across the globe.