Accenture bolsters digital banking arm with Allen International deal

19 October 2016

Accenture has pushed deeper into the Financial Services consulting space with the acquisition of Allen International, a London-based design consultancy that works for dozens of banking clients globally.

Founded in 1992, privately-held Allen International is a design consultancy focused on helping banks transform their branch networks and digital capabilities to reduce costs, increase revenues and better engage customers. The firm has over the past 25 years, according to its website, worked with more than 350 banks around the world including nine of the top 20 banks. Among its customers are institutions such as Emirates NBD, Bank of Ireland, CIBC, Banorte, Mauritius Commercial Bank, Creditbank, State Bank of India, Santander, Islandsbanki, Qatar First Bank and Virgin Money.

With the acquisition of Allen International – terms of the transaction have not been disclosed – Accenture bolsters its UK-based Banking practice with a range of digital and customer experience offerings aimed at branch networks. Against the backdrop of the rising power of digital, and changing consumer expectations, physical branches are losing their importance. The UK has, for instance, seen a sharp drop in the number of bank branches in recent years (more than 600 branches have closed across Britain in the past year alone), yet, according to a study by A.T. Kearney, the industry still faces an optimisation potential, particularly in light of the high penetration rates of online banking.

Accenture acquires Allen International

Branches will, however, not disappear entirely from the streets. While consumers increasingly prefer to engage with their bank via digital channels, there is still a need for branches, with nearly 70% using them for important financial decision making. Branches also still play a key role in brand positioning for banks and are seen as vital in building customer trust – a key area of concern for banks – despite lower usage. 

With the added expertise of Allen International, Sushil Saluja, Senior Managing Director of Accenture’s Financial Services unit in Europe, Latin America and Africa, says the firm will be better positioned to support clients with optimising their branch networks. “Current branch formats and networks are unsustainable in the long-term and moreover banks are yet to capitalise on potential efficiencies in their branch networks. Combining Accenture’s deep financial services, distribution and marketing expertise and scalability with Allen International’s digital and physical banking experience will enable banks to strategically optimise branch networks”, Saluja explains.

The bolt-on will, he adds, also strengthen Accenture’s digital portfolio of services to banks, geared at helping them transition to a so-called ‘phygital’ bank model that offers the right blend of branch and digital services. Propositions include helping branches re-invent their technology-enabled target operating model, supporting them with adopting an omni-channel approach, digitisation, reducing distribution costs and raising customer engagement. “The acquisition expands and complements our capabilities to help banks make the branch a physical manifestation of the digital experience. This will help banks transform physical structures at scale within a sustainable cost structure without losing customer engagement by delivering a seamless, cross-channel experience consumers increasingly expect.”

The pickup of Allen International is the latest in a string of acquisitions Accenture has closed in the past two months. Six major deals have been closed, including Kurt Salmon and New Energy Group (see here for all deals).

Michael Allen, founder and group CEO of Allen International, says he is delighted with the joining of forces, adding “Joining Accenture offers us the scale and complementary skills and expertise to continue to help banks realise significant benefits at a time when there is no choice but to bring branches into the digital age.”

According to a recent study by EY, the importance of the banking sector as a whole is sliding down globally.


SQW Group purchases property-based regeneration consultancy

19 April 2019

UK consulting firm SQW Group has completed its first acquisition since it completed a management buyout in January 2019. BBP Regeneration joins the company having collaborated with SQW for more than 20 years.

Established in 1983, SQW Group now operates all over the world. Comprising SQW, Oxford Innovation, Oxford Innovation Services – one of the UK’s leading innovation centre operators – and Oxford Investment Opportunities Network, the organisation’s origins can be traced to Britain’s two ancient university cities: Oxford, through Oxford Trust founders, Martin and Audrey Wood, and Cambridge, through SQW’s work in producing The Cambridge Phenomenon.

The consultancy specialises in public policy, working with entities from the public, private and voluntary sectors to research, develop, implement and evaluate social and economic development interventions. It now employs over 250 people across regional offices in London, Oxford and Edinburgh, and provides business support to over 4,000 entrepreneurs and small businesses each year. At the start of 2019, SQW secured its independence in a management buyout, advised on by M&A experts from Liberty Corporate Finance and Penningtons Manches.

SQW Group purchases property-based regeneration consultancy

SQW has strengthened its position as a provider of services across the business spectrum with the acquisition of BBP Regeneration. Founded in 1994, the consulting firm specialises in land and property-based regeneration and growth schemes, and is a leading social and economic development consultancy. 

The two firms first worked together over 20 years ago, when SQW and BBP collaborated to develop the first Regional Economic Strategy for the South East. More recently, they developed an economic strategy for Thanet and are now working together in locations stretching from Cwmbran via Oxfordshire to London.

With the addition of BBP, SQW can now provide an integrated advisory service for organisations developing property schemes which deliver economic benefit to their local area. By joining SQW, meanwhile, BBP hopes to further enhance its ability to support clients in delivering property and place-making ambitions. 

Speaking about the deal, SQW CEO David Crichton-Miller commented, “The UK more than ever needs solutions to the challenges of places – of high streets under threat, of meeting housing delivery targets, and of both economically over-successful and economically challenged towns and cities – and the combination of SQW and BBP is uniquely suited to developing those solutions. [This deal] brings together critical and complementary services relating to places to serve our clients with leading edge and practical advice.”

Andy Smith, Director of BBP Regeneration, added, “SQW shares with BBP the same values of seeking to provide outstanding, practical, real world advice that helps get buildings built and places developed.  We greatly look forward to the opportunities that come from joining our two organisations together.”