Financial services consultancy Projective expands into France

24 October 2017 7 min. read
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Projective, a financial services consultancy specialised in programme and project management, has opened an office in France. The Paris location marks the firm’s fifth European presence, following earlier expansion from their original Brussels base, into The Hague, London and Frankfurt.

Launched in 2006, Belgian consulting outfit Projective focuses solely on the financial services (FS) industry; chiefly serving banks, insurance companies, asset and wealth maangers, regulators and FinTech startups. Building on its succesful expansion strategy to date, and the potential it sees in France, the firm has jumped into the French consulting market, an industry estimated to be worth almost €6 billion. After working three years on home turf, Projective expanded to the Netherlands in 2009, followed by the United Kingdom in 2010, and in June this year they also entered Frankfurt. The new Paris office is grounded on forecasts that the post-Brexit financial services industry will increase the importance of Paris as a hub in Europe’s ecosystem, which will provide stakeholders in the FS ecosystem, including advisors such as Projective, with major opportunities.

With the approaching 2019 Brexit deadline, continental financial centers, such as Amsterdam and Paris, are vying to take on the business that is set to leave London. Earlier in the year, Oliver Wyman predicted that the UK financial sector could face as many as 75,000 job losses if hard Brexit becomes a reality. According to the firm’s analysis, the exodus is likely to include 40,000 investment bankers, while having a severe knock-on effect on the broader financial service ecosystem, including specialist professional service firms, while the UK economy as a whole could miss out on £10 billion in tax revenue every year.

Speaking in English, at a banking conference in July, French first minister said the French government were committed to attracting businesses “by all means”, in order to help “Paris to become Europe’s new number one financial hub after Brexit.“ Despite this, the German city of Frankfurt has so far emerged as the biggest winner in the fight for thousands of London-based jobs that will have to be relocated to new hubs inside the European Union after Brexit. HSBC Holdings is the biggest non-French bank so far to opt for Paris, however, Projective is well positioned in either eventuality.

Financial services consultancy Projective expands into France

According to Stefan Dierckx, the CEO of Projective, “The French financial services industry is one that will surely see considerable growth in the coming years, and we plan to capitalise on this business influx to the market.” He added that he believes the firm is well placed to seize on this opportunity through an approach which has proven its success in existing markets. “We are excited to bring our seasoned, change-driven approach to project delivery and financial services consulting to yet another European financial hub.”

Yet there are opportunties beyond Brexit, says Dierckx. The French financial services consulting market is estimated to be worth €1.9 billion (one third of total French consulting industry), as major changes sweep across the sector. FS players are having to redefine their strategy and business models, as products and services that have delivered them huge market shares for decades no longer work in the digital world. In order to avoid being outflanked by new innovative competitors, financial institutions are having to replace legacy infrastructure for newer and more efficient business models making use of improved technologies. Regulations such as PSD2 are also changing operations and cracking the industry open for rivals, with the playing field to some extent levelled through the access to top talent and resources.

Concrete targets for the French office have not been communicated externally, however the firm does state it has begun on-the-ground project work. As it stands the Paris team has six consultants, with “recruitment well underway” for expansion. Illustrating how quick growth can go, Dierckx pointed at he firm’s Frankfurt office. Launched just earlier this year, it now hosts a team of 15 project managers, and he believes the office will generate €4-5 million in revenue by the end of 2018. For the end of this year, the group aims at booking revenue of €21 million across all its locales, which would bring the firm’s growth rate to around 20% for the second consecutive year, a growth which sees it outperform most market competitors.

The consulting practices of KPMG and PwC, and AccentureMcKinsey & Company and Strategy& all grew by less than 8% last year, while even market 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) expanded by a lower margin than Projective’s figures. While Projective is a much smaller company than those groups, theoretically making growth easier, in an intensely competitive market, its performance still signals the firm’s ability to successfully draw confidence and market share from clients of established industry names.

Large change programmes

Projective specialises in navigating clients through major change programmes, offering project management delivery of large and complex change programmes. The firm works with a senior resourcing model, so all project managers must have over 10+ years of in-field experience before they can go to work for Projective’s clients directly. While the firm is particularly strong in the fields of regulatory change, operational excellence and digital transformation, Projective is also active in the fields of digital innovation, data management, FinTech and change management. “Projective works with its clients to help financial institutions compete in today’s financial landscape”, Dierckx said.

Quote Stefan Dierckx

However, competition is strong in Paris. All the major consulting firms, incuding McKinsey, BCG, Bain, the Big Four, Oliver Wyman and Accenture, have presence in France. The country also has a relatively strong group of French-origin consulting firms that have a strong foothold in the area, such as Wavestone, Ayming and Kea & Partners, as well as smaller player such as Advancy, Vertone, Estin & Co and Ares & Co holding reputable positions in their respective markets/segments.

Switzerland to follow

Looking ahead, Projective, which has set ambitious growth strategy after it was acquired by Germany’s Wincor Nixdorf in March 2016, has now set its sights on Switzerland, where it plans to open a Zurich office. Projective will begin servicing the Swiss financial services industry by early 2018. “Through the financial backing of Wincor Nixdorf (which was acquired by US company Diebold) we are able to more rapidly pursue our international expansion strategy,“ Stefan Dierckx reflected.

Projective is not only FS consultancy that is expanding. Capco, which originally also has Belgian roots, recently moved into Scandinavia with a Stockholm office. Boutique firm 11:FS, contrastingly, went straight into the world’s largest consuling industry of the US. In Europe, Chappuis Halder is growing its footprint through its alliance network CH Alliance, recently acquiring TargetST8. Synechron has also been growing rapdily globally over the past five years, likewise fuelled by an M&A strategy, while Strategy& moved into Belgium, first setting their sights on the country’s improving FS sector.

Related: The 20 most prestigious strategy consulting firms in France.