Nordic strategy consultancy firm QVARTZ enters Dutch consulting market

08 January 2018 Consultancy.uk

Nordic strategy consulting firm QVARTZ has continued its international expansion by entering the Dutch consulting market. To serve the local market, the Copenhagen headquartered consultancy has launched a joint venture with Boer & Croon, a renowned player in the Dutch professional services industry, in a move that sees the Dutch firm return to its consulting heritage.

QVARTZ was founded sixteen years ago in Denmark, setting out with the objective of becoming a Nordic alternative to the large strategy consultancies. By building a team that builds on an established track record – around 70% of QVARTZ’s partners have a background at the ‘MBB’ (McKinsey, BCG, Bain) and another 15% at the Big Five (Big Four and Accenture) – combined with what the firm calls a “unique approach” to consulting, the Scandinavian-origin consulting firm has reaped major benefits from its strategy.

Last year, QVARTZ was named Europe’s eleventh best consulting firm last year, in a list dominated by the industry’s big guns, ahead of well-known rivals such as Alvarez & Marsal, BearingPoint, L.E.K. Consulting, Marakon and the consulting outfits of the Big Four. This growing reputation has been coupled with substantial growth in QVARTZ’s international presence, as well as its staff size.

Today, QVARTZ has a team of around 300 consultants, with its largest base being the firm’s native Denmark, with 190 professionals, followed by Sweden (60-70 professionals) and Norway (~20 consultants). QVARTZ’s German arm, which was formally launched in the summer of last year through an acquisition of Bülow & Consorten (rebranded as BÜLOW & QVARTZ), currently has a team of 20 consultants, with the remainder of the team based in the recently launched offices in the US (May 2017) and Singapore (October 2017).QVARTZ enters Dutch consulting market

Expansion into the Netherlands

The firm’s venture into the Netherlands with Boer & Croon, a corporate finance and management firm based in Amsterdam, marks the seventh country in which it has a foothold. “We are very excited to start the collaboration and couldn't think of a better way to kick off the New Year,” said CEO Hans Henrik Beck, a former McKinsey & Company consultant who was part of the QVARTZ’s founding team in Copenhagen.

Since its foundation in 1973, Boer & Croon has grown into one of the most reputable consultancies in the country. The firm, based in Amsterdam, provides clients with management services, including executive and interim staffing, as well as young professionals, and through a different subsidiary (Boer & Croon Corporate Finance), corporate finance services, spanning M&A, transaction support, financial advisory and restructuring.

The organisation’s reputation was recently exemplified by a survey of over 2,500 managers, which saw the firm ranked among the Netherlands’ top fifteen consultancies for both if its core areas: interim management and corporate finance. Commenting on the blend with the firm, as QVARTZ aim to solidify their European presence, Beck stated, “The Danish and Dutch have a similar culture, plus we believe Boer & Croon is a great fit with our offerings and culture.

QVARTZ Boer & Croon

The partnership between QVARTZ and Boer & Croon sees the launch of a new joint venture company – branded as QVARTZ Boer & Croon – which QVARTZ will hold a 75% stake in. The operation will focus on strategy and management consulting services, allowing Boer & Croon to return to the segment it left in 2014, following a somewhat tumultuous period in its finances.

Asked about why Boer & Croon decided to partner with QVARTZ – as opposed to returning to the scene independently – Jos Zandhuis, an executive at the Dutch consultancy, said, “At QVARTZ people are central, the consulting approach revolves around a practical mindset, they work closely with clients and are open to cooperation with other parties that have complementary knowledge. This is a perfect match with the values of Boer & Croon, our culture and way of working.”

Zandhuis added, “With the collaboration with QVARTZ, one of the top three strategy consultants in the Nordics, we can even better serve our clients. It is the next step in the further growth of our company.”

The executive’s comments are backed by recent Danish data, which show that QVARTZ has actually become larger on home turf than all three of the ‘MBB’. McKinsey, the globe’s largest strategy consultancy, employs 155 employees in Denmark, BCG has 146 employees on its payroll, while Bain trails considerably with around 40 consultants. QVARTZ’s 190 strong Danish team, of which 145 are consultants, often pitch and operate on a similar playing field to the Big Three of strategy. For instance, the Danish consultancy worked side-by-side with McKinsey on a large transformation at Postnord, Denmark’s government-owned postal agency. Other large clients QVARTZ serves in Denmark include airline SAS, the Danish government, Danish Crown, Grundfos, Falck and Danske Bank.Nordic strategy consultancy firm QVARTZ enters Dutch consulting marketThe strategy consulting services segment is estimated to account for 12% of the global consulting industry, with growth, business model redesign and digital disruption the key themes top of mind of executives’ agenda. Data from Consultancy.nl, a Dutch platform the consulting industry and a sister site Consultancy.uk, meanwhile shows that growth is picking up strongly in the Dutch market. In 2016, the nation’s top consultancies averaged growth of 8%, with 2017 touted as an even better year.

Competitive edge

As the market’s growth continues to encourage further investment, QVARTZ is one of many consultancies looking to expand. The firm’s development comes at a time when more strategy consultancies are trying to internationalise – as the notable example of Parthenon-EY shows.

EY’s strategy arm has currently been leveraging a campaign of aggressive expansion across the European continent, poaching three offices from top-ten competitors OC&C Strategy Consultants in the space of 18 months (Benelux, France and Germany). Parthenon-EY in Q3 last year also decided to enter the Scandinavian consulting market with the purchase of BOX Associates. These developments, in combination with the firm’s own growth, has seen QVARTZ steadily approach the size of OC&C, as the firm bids to become a top ten presence itself. External competitors, including Asian firm Solidiance – who arrived in Germany last year, adding to a new US presence – mean that this is far from a foregone conclusion, however.

In order to ensure QVARTZ Boer & Croon is in good hands amid this stiff competition, QVARTZ has dedicated three partners – Jesper Kjerside, Jesper Adeltoft en Niels Reiff Koggersbol – to lead the practice in the Netherlands, while Boer & Croon has lined up several staff with consulting experience to serve the new firm. Leveraging the ready-made network of the Dutch consultancy, QVARTZ Boer & Croon expect to hit the ground running. Over the past months the firms have, as part of the market research phase, explored targets that could provide for the first series of engagements, with “several projects” already up and running, according to Zandhuis.

As the new outfit’s portfolio of projects grows, the joint firm will see QVARTZ staff engagements through its global consulting network, while Boer & Croon can either bring forward its young executives for junior consulting roles, or rely on its network of interim managers, of which many have a consulting background, to fill senior roles.

Kjerside and Zandhuis jointly concluded with the statement, “Building on each other’s’ strengths, we firmly believe we have what it takes to successfully nestle ourselves as a powerful and mature player in the management consulting industry.”

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