The fastest growing management consulting firms of Europe

03 July 2017

Paris based Theano Advisors, Germany’s Dietzel & Company and London headquartered Elixirr are Europe’s fastest growing management consulting firms, according to a new analysis. The three consultancy firms booked an average growth rate of over 2,500% in their three latest financial years.

Last week featured an analysis on Europe’s fastest growing companies, finding that combined the top 1,000 of the continent’s jewels generate a revenue of €34.7 billion, booking an average growth of 490% along their past three financial years.

The list, which has been derived from data sourced by The Financial Times and Statista, further found that technology services & software and e-commerce are the industries that are the best breeding ground for growth. The fastest growing sector across those surveyed was the IT services and software industry, which accounted for 11% of the companies listed, followed by the retail segment, which contained 9% of the top 1000 fastest growers.

Europe's fast growing companies - Industry analysis

Audit & consulting meanwhile, which includes a variety of services segments such as accountancy, audit, consultancy, tax consulting, financial advisory and other business services, ranks 6th overall, accounting for a 5% share of the top 1,000 in terms of companies. While the portion is undoubtedly lower than other sectors however, management consulting is heavily involved in the implementation of innovation and business strategy in the other industries, particularly IT, as the digital consulting market continues to boom to the tune of $23 billion worldwide.

Management Consulting

16 management consultancies take their place in top 1,000 fastest growing companies in Europe, with the UK hosting the most – with six firms residing on British shores. Meanwhile, Europe’s largest economy, Germany, is home to a further 4, Italy to 3, France 2 and the Netherlands hosts 1 of the fastest growing management consulting firms in the continent.

Unsurprisingly then, as it hosts the most such firms, the UK sees the highest level of revenue brought in by the sector – however the impressive margin by which it outstrips its EU competitors sees British management consultancies rake in more than all the others put together. With €565 million in revenue drawn by the industry in the UK, the nation is numerically the best performer by some distance – however, proportionally, the two firms hosted by nearest competitors France performed best, drawing over a shared revenue of €206 million. German companies meanwhile brought in a total €159 million, with Italy and the Netherlands posting drastically lower figures of €8 million and €2 million respectively.

Following on from their proportionally impressive revenue, the French consultancies were by far the fastest grower of the group, with a rate of 2,976% compared to Germany’s 429% and the UK’s 175%, with the two boasting more established names among their companies as opposed to the more explosive early years of the French operations. In terms of the boost to employment the sector provided meanwhile, the fastest growing UK consultancies hosted over 600 staff, while German companies employed 527 people. The consistency of the German results in these figures shows the country’s rapidly expanding consultancies quickly making ground on UK competitors, with their higher portion of growth reflected in a continued investment in employees, with the companies based in the country hiring a higher number of workers than the UK companies.

The fastest growing consultancy in Europe was Theano Advisors. The company, who were also the outright fastest growing company in the whole of France, recorded revenue growth of 5,758%, reaching €15 million, with a staff of just 45 employees. Following in second, Dietzel & Company, a much smaller outfit from Germany, saw revenues grow by 1,371%. Despite the explosive proportional growth they experienced however, the company of 27 strong staff saw substantially smaller revenue of €3.4 million. Completing the top three consulting firms on the list, UK-based Elixirr – who recently launched an exchange programme to help young South Africans gain international consulting experience – meanwhile recorded a revenue of €21.5 million, at a growth rate of 424%.

Europe’s fast growing management consultancy companies

Commenting on the firm’s ranking of 291 on the overall list of fastest growing companies, Stephen Newton, Founder and Managing Partner of Elixirr remarked that it was an honour to be Britain’s most rapidly expanding consultancy considering the firm's humble beginnings. “Elixirr started life around my garden table. 7 years on, we are honoured to have been recognised by the Financial Times as one of the fastest growing companies in Europe. To be selected is a tremendous accolade and a testament to the quality of our team.”

Italian firms Business Strategies – a firm specialising in international expansion strategies which supports over 500 Italian companies – and Mind the Value – a company founded in 2011 and built on university graduates specialising in technical consulting – who ranked 371 and 393 respectively, meanwhile posted growth in revenues of 316% and 292% to close out the top five consultancies listed.

In sixth, UK-based Mansion House Consulting (MHC) – which has established offices in New York, Frankfurt, Singapore and Bangalore since the company was founded in 2009 in London, and come to employ over 300 people worldwide in that time – ranks 539 on the list overall, with growth of 198% boosting revenues to €49.3 million. Following closely behind, French company GreenFlex, which boasts the second highest revenue in the industry of €191 million, saw growth of 194%.

German management consultancy CORE, which saw revenues grow 156% to €15.4 million, ranked seventh among fast growing European consulting groups meanwhile. In a release following the news, CORE commented that its strategy of consistent development of IT expertise had been vindicated by the increase in sales of €20 million in the fiscal year 2016. The firm also stated they were forecast to almost double their current revenue figures, with a forecast to grow in 2017 to €30 million in sales. “CORE’s presence within the "FT1000" list reaffirms the success made in becoming a growth champion amongst numerous European companies. We are delighted about this award,” the statement concluded.

The fastest growing management consulting firms of Europe

Blackrock PM – a company specialising in witness, tribunal, and construction consulting services based in the UK – experienced growth of 131%, driving revenues to €21.9 million. Completing the top ten, Italian Lenovys and Dutch legal and public affairs consultancy Considerati saw 128% growth. Other top UK growers Huntswood posted the outright highest revenue in the sector, with the recruitment advisory registering €413.1 million (123%) over the three year period the data relates to. German companies KPS (99%), Iskander Business Partner (90%) and British consultancies Efficio (86%) and Redington (85%).

Speaking after the news Efficio had been found to be the 15th quickest growing management consultancy in Europe, Jens Pedersen, CEO of Efficio, pointed to the breadth of services the firm offers as key to their success, concluding Efficio’s inclusion, “highlights the strength of our solutions and the exceptional consultancy team that implements them.”

IT consulting

Beyond management consulting meanwhile, the top 1,000 also provides an overview of the most rapidly developing IT consultancies in Europe. This sector, which links with the largest group of rapidly growing companies, that of the IT market, contains players that provide digital & technology consultancy, but also those that provide IT services, software solutions, application development and managed services. This segment led by Green IT Das Systemhaus, a German firm which ranked third in the overall list, with revenue growth of 11,114%, followed by fellow outright top ten company Black Swan Data, a UK-based technology and data science firm, and their compatriots UKCloud, a public sector cloud-solution company boasting revenues of €43.8 million. The top five is completed by Nervecentre, a software advisory, and Swiss passenger-flow analysis firm Xovis.

Other companies that belong to Europe’s ten largest fastest growing IT consulting firms, which fall outside the top 30 overall fastest growers, are 33rd placed Swiss firm Sixsentix, 61st ranked Aquila Insight, fellow UK company Fairsail in 64st, Italian firm Consorzio delle Tecnologie at number 69, and MyElefant, a French technology consultancy ranked 72st. All top ten fastest growing IT consulting firms registered growth at a rate above 1000%.

Three firms specialising in cybersecurity, providing both advisory, implementation and support services, also made the grade, with Defenx (305), MWR InfoSecurity (741) and Hornetsecurity (848) all polling within the top 1000 fastest growing companies in Europe. The sector looks set to experience an exponential boom over the following period, with a series of cyberattacks hitting since the beginning of 2017 making the subject a top item on the majority of business and governmental agendas.

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

18 April 2019

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.