UK Head of Oliver Wyman Rebecca Emerson talks Brexit and growth plans

10 November 2016 5 min. read
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An interview with Dr. Rebecca Emerson, UK Head at international management consultancy Oliver Wyman, reflecting on the results of the landmark EU referendum vote and her ambitions to grow the firm. 

Tell us what attracted you to Oliver Wyman.
When I first met my future colleagues at Oliver Wyman, I was struck by how different they were to other senior leaders I’d met during interviews with other companies.

As an experienced hire (Emerson joined in 2005), I was interviewed by CEO Scott McDonald and Ted Moynihan, who now heads up our Financial Service practice globally. In fact, every time I met Ted we ran way over time because we were discussing some really interesting issues and it was just great fun. I remember noticing as I went through the various rounds of interviews here that I didn’t meet a single person I wouldn’t have wanted to work with.

What are your priorities for the firm over the coming months and years?
My current priority is serving our clients as they get to grips with what Brexit means for them. While for some industries, like banks, the impact could be fairly immediate, for others the change is likely longer term. For example the NHS may have to navigate the changes to skilled worker migration, and retailers will see a difference to their value chain as import costs and labour models change.

Rebecca Emerson - Oliver Wyman

For our UK consulting business, of course we may lose some work if businesses relocate out of the UK to access the European market. Oliver Wyman is a global firm and many of our team relish the opportunity to travel and live abroad. Currently, we have a huge amount of incoming work in the UK because our clients know we are the best problem solvers.

How have you steered Oliver Wyman through the uncertainty of Brexit?
For me, there was no ‘uncertainty’ around Brexit, as we were prepared for either outcome of the EU Referendum. Together with the leadership team at Oliver Wyman, I prepared our business for the vote. We spent a lot of time with clients – having honest conversations about potential outcomes and working through authentic solutions. Internally, we did the same, so when the results of the vote came in, we were ready.

I dedicated a lot of time to discussing the implications of Brexit with all levels of staff, from our CEO through to managers, the support teams, and even the summer interns. The people working at Oliver Wyman are some of the smartest people there are, and I am really proud of the way our office culture is so quick at adapting and carrying on.

How do you expect the Brexit vote to impact the UK consulting industry?
Brexit is all about opportunities, opportunities, and more opportunities! We’ve never had to deal with a problem like Brexit before, and so finding the right solutions will sort the consulting wheat from the chaff. I am supremely confident in Oliver Wyman because we’re a firm of problem solvers and free-thinkers.

What is your vision for the firm and plans for future growth?
Not enough people know Oliver Wyman is more than just a Financial Services consultancy. We have a rapidly growing Health Services practice that is delivering on-the-ground change to the way NHS services are planned and delivered. They’re involved in obesity prevention at the highest level and have been publishing recommendations for change since they hosted a World Economic Forum session in Davos in January.

Oliver Wyman office in London

Our Consumer practice is helping some of the biggest retailers transform themselves to compete in a world of low-cost discount formats and companies operating online-only models. They’re also using their Big Data capabilities to help make front-line decision better and easier for the thousands of low- and mid-level decisions made every day, which add up to millions and billions within a business.

With our problem-solving mind set we’re well placed to advise companies on adapting to industry-wide disruptions. This is the case for our Energy practice, where we are looking at how companies can re-shape themselves given regulations that make it easier for customers to switch providers, and examining the technology that makes it easier for customers to make their own energy – such as through solar panels.

To build our UK divisions I want to celebrate the work we’ve been doing in these areas outside of Financial Services and continue to build our brand as a cross-sector, world-leading consultancy.

How do you plan to address the challenges currently facing the consulting industry?
At Oliver Wyman, we see ourselves as differentiated by the people who work here. Because we are only ever going to be as good as the talent we attract and retain I am dedicated to continue making Oliver Wyman an employer of choice, among consulting firms and the wider business world. By cultivating a broad and diverse talent pool we will be able to adapt our business and creatively solve any problems, be they our own or our clients’.

Globally Oliver Wyman is led by the Canadian Scott McDonald – he joined the consultancy in 1995 and was appointed CEO early 2014. Oliver Wyman's French arm, with around 250 employees one of the firm's larger arms outside the US and UK, is led by the Lebanese Hanna Moukanas.

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