Solidiance buys China-based management consultancy Technomic Asia

26 July 2016 Consultancy.uk

Asian management consultancy Solidiance has acquired Technomic Asia, a China-based management and M&A advisory. As part of the bolt-on, Solidiance adds around 20 consultants and associates to its ranks and expands its Chinese operations with a third hub.

Founded in 2006, by Damien Duhamel (the current CEO of the firm) and Heiko Bugs (COO), Solidiance is one of Asia’s larger specialised management consulting firms. The consultancy has seen a steep growth trajectory since its inception – what started as a two man show ten years ago from bases in Singapore and China has grown into a consultancy with a team of around 130 consultants across locations in 11 countries. Solidiance differentiates itself through a portfolio of high-end consulting services and through its dedicated focus on the Middle East and in particular the Asia region*, with offices spanning from Lebanon’s capital Beirut (launched early 2016) to its most Eastern hub in the Philippines (based in Manila; opened in 2013).

On the back of the growth, the firm’s leadership team has set out an ambitious expansion strategy for the years to come – in the summer of last year Duhamel stated that the consultancy has “plenty of room to double, if not triple, in revenue size within the next few years”, adding “there are several more emerging markets in Asia to enter and a few mature ones to tackle as well.”

As part of its execution plans, Solidiance has ramped up hiring across the region over the past 12 months, and, in a move that departs from its strategy to grow its base from within, set its sights on potential acquisition targets. “We have been approached several times to be acquired by large consulting groups,” said Duhamel a while ago, highlighting the firm’s strategy to continue as an independent partnership, adding “we are now also presented with potential acquisitions of our own.”

Solidiance acquires management consulting firm Technomic Asia

Solidiance’s M&A endeavours have now come to fruition as the consulting firm earlier this month unveiled that it has picked up Technomic Asia, a China-based counterpart. Technomic Asia, founded in the late ‘70s by CEO Steven Ganster, is a Shanghai-based firm that provides a range of growth strategy, M&A and operational support services. The business advisory has built a track record of almost 1,000 assignments in Asia, of which over 700 in China alone, serving both corporates such as DuPont and General Motors, as well as startups.

The move provides, according to the newly wed partners, the combined entity in China (led by Pilar Dieter; a former advisor of Accenture and Alaris Consulting) three main benefits. Firstly, it delivers the consultancy with more scale in the Chinese market, in particular key for the attractiveness of its service portfolio towards multinationals – clients which typically demand larger on the ground resourcing. The ramp up will further enable Solidiance to tap into the growing Chinese consulting market – the top tier segment of the advisory landscape is valued at around $3.3 billion according to data from Source Global Research, with the industry still seeing healthy growth rates despite the overall slowdown.

The joining of forces in addition bolsters the firm’s industry experience. “Together both parties will cover virtually every major market sector,” explains Duhamel, and sees a variety of IP, productivity tools and best practices in internal operations exchange hands. The combination of the above three factors will ultimately lead to a “greater level of service to clients” and, more importantly, a “greater capability to advancing client company value,” states the Solidiance chief executive.

Asked for how the blending of cultures is set to materialise  – a feat commonly cited as a major challenge in strategy and management consulting deals (recall the cultural issues following the mergers between A.T. Kearney and EDS, KPMG Consulting and Atos or Roland Berger calling off a deal with two of the Big Four’s just to name a few) – Ganster says that he foresees no such scenario’s following integration. “We share the same no-nonsense, street-smart approach to helping our clients grow.”

Looking ahead, Solidiance COO Bugs says that the firm is looking forward to the road ahead, stating “China is again transforming its economy and our clients’ businesses with it. We, as Solidiance, are committed to supporting our clients on the ground in China with market driven actionable advice.” Among the topics forecasted to dominate transformation agendas in the country are growth strategy, innovation (China is becoming the globe’s hotspot for R&D export), talent management (top three strategic priority for CEOs in China) and corporate governance (a key barrier at corporates according to McKinsey).

The deal was completed on 12th July 2016. M&A dealmaker Equiteq acted as exclusive financial adviser to Solidiance.

* To support engagements outside the Middle East and Asia, Solidiance works together with other consultancies affiliated with NextContinent, an international network of consulting firms with around 1,100 consultants in 28 countries.

Profile

More news on

×

Accenture's push into the creative sector is an identity crisis

18 April 2019 Consultancy.uk

In its latest push into the creative sector, Accenture Interactive acquired New York and London-based ad agency Droga5 earlier this month, adding illustrious clients such as HBO, Amazon and The New York Times to its roster of clients. With the latest in a long line of similar purchases, Accenture Interactive further demonstrated its ambition of becoming the globe’s leading trusted advisor to chief marketing officers. Yet according to Ben Langdon, Chairman of Class35, Accenture’s strategy may be heading in the wrong direction.

A press release on Accenture’s website announcing the acquisition sits next to a quote stating that “brands aren’t built through advertising” – a huge contradiction from a consultancy firm hell-bent on becoming the ‘CMO agency of choice’. It’s not alone of course. The entire consulting industry wants a piece of the creative pie right now. In addition to Accenture Interactive, recent acquisitions by PwC Digital, IBM iX, and Deloitte Digital meant that in 2017, for the first time ever, four of the world’s ten largest creative agencies were consultancies.

So just what it is that Accenture wants to achieve from this? For one thing, it’s clearly trying to be a digital transformation business. A one-stop creative shop rivalling more traditional models, it wants to lure CMOs in with the promise of lower ad spend and a “more impactful customer experience”. At the same time, though, it’s still in thrall to those same slinky, shiny branding and advertising agencies it’s attempting to disrupt. The Droga5 acquisition and that of Karmarama a few years before are both testament to this.

There’s a fundamental problem with this, though. Digital transformation businesses don’t sell to CMOs. These people have enough on their plates trying to transform their own marketing skills in order to keep up with an ever-changing market – they just don’t have the time or the energy to concern themselves with digitally transforming a whole business. If Accenture’s purpose is digital transformation, then going after creative agencies is barking up the wrong tree.Is Accenture's push into the creative sector an identity crisis?

Worlds apart

Perhaps more importantly, these two industries are worlds apart in terms of the way they think. Creative agencies are all about ideas, campaigns and consumers. Digital businesses, on the other hand, are customer-driven – they think in terms such as lifetime value, measurement, and efficiency. Customer-led thinking is an entirely different beast to consumer-led thinking.

The reality is that the arrival of digital and an all-encompassing obsession with technology, measurement and social has led to the death of agencies in a reductive, zero-sum, efficiency-focused battle with brands. Indeed, agencies have become so obsessed with the latest tech fads, they’re beginning to forget how brands work. Worse still, they’re beginning to forget how brands are built. And, by forgetting, they’re destroying their own values.

Killing creativity

All things considered, it really feels to me as though Accenture is a chip leader in a game it doesn’t understand. Expensive acquisitions like these show that they’ve got the big money, but they don’t appear to have any idea what they’re doing with it. Take talent, for example. The best talent in the creative industry right now is out in the market; it’s not tied to any one agency. Both agencies might well be at the top of their game, but why would a consulting firm waste so much money on buying them when they could hire high-quality creative talent on a contingent basis instead?

As their presence in the top 10 creative agencies shows, there is a growing trend in which Accenture, like many of the other big players, are buying up agencies as if they were nothing more than keywords. What they’re really buying, though, is a collection of credentials, clients and IP. Unfortunately, the talent that created those credentials aren’t going to stay at the business, the clients that hired the agency in the first place won’t be interested in buying what is basically just another part of Accenture, and the IP never really existed to begin with.

Droga5, for example, was one of the few agencies that did great brand work the old-fashioned way – undoubtedly something that made it attractive to Accenture in the first place. The irony, though, is that by leading it further away from the way of working that made it so special, the consulting giant will kill its creativity.

“Accenture Interactive has been dazzled by its ambitions to become the CMO agency of record…. But, in flashing its cash, it is spending millions on acquiring nothing of any value.”

If pressed, the recently acquired agency staff at Accenture will tell you just how dysfunctional the new arrangement is. They’re largely unfulfilled. Rarely do they feel their work has any sort of meaning or purpose. What’s more, the different disciplines have found little or no common ground, and find it hard to work together as a cohesive whole. It’s not surprising, then, to see talented people leaving in droves.

Beyond the window dressing 

It’s clear, then, that consulting firms and creative agencies are no easy bedfellows. But in his company’s defence, Accenture Interactive’s Senior Managing Director for North America, Glen Hartman, described its culture as being “far, far away from what a stereotypical consulting firm would look like. Our office and studios look a lot like Droga5’s.”

In demonstrating a belief that office design equates to workplace culture, this statement serves as an illustration of how confused Accenture is right now. It wants to justify its new strategy so badly, it’s started dressing like a creative agency. But if you look beyond the window dressing and see that you and your partners are speaking a different language with a different purpose, selling to different people in a different market, there’s no getting away from the fact that you’re different.

Accenture Interactive has been dazzled by its ambitions to become the CMO agency of record, and it wants to dazzle others with its new direction. But, in flashing its cash, it is spending millions on acquiring nothing of any value.

Related: Space between consulting firms and creative agencies is converging.