Management consultants can soon earn chartered status

26 September 2017 6 min. read

The Management Consultancies Association (MCA) has unveiled plans that will allow management consultants to earn chartered status. The new professional accreditation, aimed at raising the professional standards in UK’s consulting industry, will be developed in collaboration with the Chartered Management Institute (CMI).

The UK has around 2.5 million businesses, and, according to the Office for National Statistics, around 450,000 of those enterprises are active in the professional services industry. The largest group of professionals in the sector, estimated at just under 200,000, are active as consultants, and are either employed at a consultancy or working as a freelancer, serving clients across a wide variety of industries and/or functional areas. Nearly a third of the 200,000 of the UK’s management consulting and digital advisory specialists were found to be freelancers.

Contrary to the law or accounting professions, for instance, consulting is a much more open field to work in, as the occupation does not have a protected status. As a result, anyone can call themselves an advisor or a consultant, explaining for a large part the large number of consultants in the UK – something that has led to a growing number of former government officials and statesmen to offering their services as independent consultants after leaving office.

Management consultants are able to  earn chartered status for first time

While this offers a flexibility that can provide a large diversity of talent and specialist knowledge – as professionals can gain working knowledge of an industry before going on to consult within it – the situation also means that quality in the field is less well-regulated than other professions, such as lawyers, accountants and engineers. The larger and mid-sized firms in the industry typically have a reputation to uphold, and through internal governance, quality assurance and training & education, such companies work to ensure that 'quality' is provided. In contrast, in the freelance segment of the industry particularly, clients are often left struggling to understand the standards and quality they are purchasing from external suppliers.

As a result, clients can face widespread differences in the quality they receive for the services they purchase. Large clients spend billions on consulting, with small and mid-sized enterprises spending as much as £60 billion on professional services each year, but feel much of it is wasted. Many of those SMEs feel that, while many independent consultants they contract may be less costly than industrial heavyweights, freelancers often offer services that businesses do not actually need, or understand.

As part of its core task of “promoting the value of management consultancy for the economy and society as a whole”, the MCA has placed ensuring a credible and professional industry as a top priority. The representative body for management consultancy firms in the UK strives for the goal through a range of means, including a rigorous Code of Practice for its members (about 60 consultancies), and the provision of best practices on quality management.

The MCA also launched a large-scale initiative last year. Dubbed ‘Consulting Excellence’, the scheme was aimed at ensuring that MCA members committed to the “highest standards” of ethical behaviour, client service, and professionalism.

Chartered Management Consultant award

In a new initiative for the industry, estimated by the federation to be worth £9.3 billion, the MCA has teamed with the CMI to develop the chartered management consultant award. According to Ann Francke, Chief Executive of CMI, this will be a unifying professional standard that will transform management consultancy. The announcement followed after the Privy Council – a formal body of advisors to the Sovereign of the United Kingdom, comprised of senior Parliamentary politicians – gave the two professional bodies greenlight to develop the chartered status for consultants.

The benefits of the Chartered Management Consultant Award will be three-fold, said Francke. First of all, this will benefit the buyers of consulting services. “It will give clients greater confidence in the services they’re buying”, she said, helping them separate wheat from the chaff. Second, good for consultants themselves, as it will enable them to differentiate themselves from their peers. “Chartered status consultants will gain from showing that they’re at the top of their profession.”

Lastly, firms benefit too, particularly as they can provide their quality to clients, and it will benefit talent management. “By providing a pathway to Chartered recognition, firms will be able to attract and retain high-calibre people.”

The award will command real respect in the industry, with individual consultants and with our clients

The Chartered Management Consultant award will set out the skills, knowledge, behaviours and experience that will be needed to achieve this professional accreditation. The status will be voluntary, but the two organisations predict that it will provide a progression route to a recognised professional status for those starting out in the industry or mid-point in their careers. CMI has been named by the Privy Council as the body responsible for awarding Chartered status to consultants.

Commenting on the news, Alan Leaman, Chief Executive of MCA, said, “The creation of the Chartered Management Consultant Award is a natural extension of our Consulting Excellence scheme. We now have the opportunity to create an award that will command real respect in the industry, with individual consultants and with our clients.”

The CMI and MCA are planning that management consultants will be able to apply for Chartered status from autumn 2018. How many consultancies will show interest in the new certification remains unclear at this point, yet Leaman also highlighted that a Chartered Management Consultant has already received support from other Chartered bodies, including the Institution of Engineering and Technology, Institution of Mechanical Engineers, and the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants.

Business supporters of the initiative include PwC, AccentureIBMGrant Thornton, and Mott MacDonald.