James George succeeds David Krucik as OC&C's Managing Partner

20 October 2017 Consultancy.uk

James George, a 21 year veteran at OC&C Strategy Consultants, has succeeded David Krucik as International Managing Partner of the global strategy consultancy. Following a turbulent period, George aims at quickly returning the firm to its former size of around 500 consultants, and building on that, to push forward for an “exciting next phase” of growth.

For the past two years, OC&C Strategy Consultants, which has 14 offices in nine countries and generates revenues of around $150 million, was led by David Krucik. He joined the UK headquartered consulting firm in 1999, having previously served The Kalchas Group, a London based professional services firm, and Booz Allen Hamilton, one of the globe’s largest consultancies. Early 2016 he succeeded Chehab Wahby as International Managing Partner, who in turn  succeeded Michael Jary, one of the founding members of OC&C*, five years previously.

During his leadership tenure, Krucik steered the partner-led firm through arguably one of the firm’s most challenging periods. Faced by a changing environment – strategy consulting in its traditional firm is being disrupted by a range of factors – OC&C Strategy Consultants crafted a new vision aimed at transitioning from a historic model of franchises into an international partnership model, similar to how rivals such as McKinsey, BCG, Bain and Roland Berger operate. “Three years ago we realised our business model needed to evolve to create the right platform for long-term growth,” Krucik explained.

The move came with its ups and downs, however. On the one hand the integration proved fruitful, with the firm’s integrated offices in key markets such as the UK, the US, Poland, Turkey and China growing “materially faster” than the market average. The UK consulting industry, for instance, grew 5% last year to £9 billion, while the US saw quicker growth at 7%, taking the market to a total of $58 billion. Across most mature markets, consulting growth averaged 4% to 5%, although the rate is picking up on the back of improving economic conditions. OC&C’s offices, however, managed to book growth of circa 15% in the past 12 months, which places the firm in the top performing quartile in the industry**.

James George - International Managing Partner at OC&C

OC&C’s performance positions it next to the likes of other growth leaders such as The Boston Consulting Group (+12% growth in 2016), Booz Allen Hamilton (+10% in 2016), Deloitte Consulting (+10% in 2016) and EY Advisory (+10% in 2016), and ahead of the consulting practices of KPMG and PwC, AccentureMcKinsey & Company and Strategy&, among others. The new model has also enabled the firm to improve the returns to its Partners – one of the key metrics to be able to keep top leadership talent committed and on board – with the consultancy providing “top quartile returns” according to Krucik.

On the other hand, the transition has also faced internal resistance. Prior to its new integrated structure, local partners enjoyed relative freedom in their endeavours. Key decision-making, such as client engagement and project delivery, as well as top-line financial aspects, such as revenues and profits, fell under the mandate of the country partner teams. The incorporation of a true global partnership makes cooperation at an international level more important, with some Partners resisting the perceived loss of autonomy. This was most notable in the Netherlands and France. In September 2016, the Benelux arm of OC&C joined Parthenon-EY, while exactly a year later, the French arm followed suit in a similar move to EY’s strategy consulting outfit. The carve-outs were a big blow to OC&C, seeing 13 partners and 95 consultants taken out of the firm’s footprint.

In France, Europe’s third largest management consulting market, OC&C moved quickly to restate the firm’s commitment to the country, where it has been active in since 1989. Philippe Pruneau, who was one of the original founders of the French office, returned to OC&C, while two UK based partners, Henri-Thierry Toutounji and David de Matteis, were relocated to Paris to shape the rebuilding project. “France is and will remain a key market for OC&C,” said Krucik immediately after the news went public.

James George succeeds David Krucik

After two years at the helm, Krucik has now passed on the mantel to James George, another veteran at the consulting firm. He joined the business over twenty years ago, and has worked on more than 300 different assignments to date, more recently holding a number of leadership roles including heading the firm’s UK Consumer Sector Practice, before latterly leading the international Retail Practice. George, who took up the role in the end of September, was selected by the Partnership, tasked with executing the firm’s growth strategy for the coming years. “It is a real honour to have been selected as the next International Managing Partner, having joined the consultancy in 1996 and watched it go from strength to strength. I am extremely excited to be taking on this role at such a pivotal time for the business,” he said.James George succeeds David Krucik as OC&C's Managing Partner

At the heart of the strategy lies a commitment to remain independent – in an article on Consultancy.uk in June, Krucik slammed M&A speculation in the market by stating that “independence is a core value for the firm.” In the coming twelve months OC&C aims to add about 80 consultants across its geographies, as well as new Partners, which would bring it roughly back to its size prior to the Benelux and French reshuffle. Building on the momentum, OC&C then will seek to grow further, in a market which is seeing scale become increasingly important, particularly for bringing in large cross-border strategic and digital transformation projects.

“Our ambition is to continue to deliver strong growth,” said George, adding that the firm always is looking at interesting (inorganic) growth opportunities to realise the goals, “we are having several conversations with new groups of Partners about joining the network.” Although OC&C are not being more concrete on where they are eyeing expansion, with regions the firm still has limited presence in including Asia’s rapid growth markets, along with Australia and the West coast of the US, George highlighted that the firm is mainly focused on expanding its international partnership “across the world’s largest markets.”

Sector-focused strategy consulting

Asked about how he believes OC&C sets itself apart from the rest, George pointed to the firm’s unique combination of “gold standard” strategy consulting services and its deep sector-focus. The consulting firm operates with four industry practices – Consumer, Technology, Media and Telecom, and Industry and Business Services – and has built a particularly strong reputation among large clients in the retail, grocery, media, FMCG and private equity sectors. Recent analysis lent further credibility to OC&C's claims, with a global survey of more than 10,000+ consultants naming OC&C one of Europe’s top 15 most prestigious consulting firms in Europe, while specifically for strategy consulting services, OC&C ranked 8th in the list, trailing just the 'MBB', Roland BergerOliver WymanA.T. Kearney and Strategy&. Its prowess has also been confirmed through a long list of client accolades garnered in recent years, including awards for ‘Best Strategy Consulting Firm’ by ACQ5 (a finance platform) and ‘Best M&A Advisor’ by Acquisition International (an M&A publication).

Chris-Outram,-Michael-Jary,-Chehab-Wahby,-David-Krucik

The inbound Managing Partner said, “We have a proposition that we think is distinctive in the eyes of our clients – one that delivers sector-focused, strategy advice in a human way. Combined with a really special set of values, we are able to deliver great impact to our clients. It is these values that are the bedrock for our great business 30 years in, and that will be the foundation for our exciting next phase of growth.”

George added that, building on a robust foundation, the partner team share a common vision and great sense of optimism about the future journey. He stated, “I am committed to continuing to build a successful firm that achieves above market growth year on year, whilst maintaining the independent view and deep sector expertise valued by our clients.”

* OC&C was founded in 1987 by Chris Outram en Geoff Cullinan, both former consultants of Booz Allen Hamilton’s UK organisation. The German and Dutch offices of OC&C were founded by former partners of McKinsey & Company: Gerd Schnetkamp and Hans-Dieter Kleinhueckelskoten in Germany (1987) and Philippe Kaas and Pieter Witteveen in the Netherlands (1992).

** Data provided by OC&C. Financials validated by Consultancy.uk include OC&C being named one of UK’s 20 fastest-growing mid-cap companies in 2015 (by the Times) and one of UK’s top 100 firms with fastest-growing international sales in 2014 (The Sunday Times FastTrack).

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