The consulting firms with the most differentiated offering in the market

04 April 2018

Thanks to numerous sustained campaigns of merger and acquisition activity by the world’s largest consultancies, the top-table of modern consulting is increasingly dominated by firms with wide-reaching portfolios, and highly differentiated offerings. According to a new benchmark, L.E.K. Consulting, PA Consulting and Roland Berger can call themselves the consulting firms with the most differentiated offering in the industry.

A new survey of over 3,000 senior end users of advisory services from around the world has determined the consulting industry members with the most differentiated offering on the market. Analysis of the clients responses – all of whom had made extensive use of consultants over the past years – determined that, despite the wide-reaching, multifaceted nature of most of the world’s largest professional services firms, it is ultimately mid-sized companies which stand out most. It is important to note that, while differentiation is a key component of building a successful consulting firm, it is not the holy grail. A firm could be totally different from the market but still be too unaligned with the demands from clients. Others are aspects such as degree to which work with clients, solidity of financials and strength of marketing and sales capabilities.

To come to measuring differentiation, the researchers from Source Global Research looked at 15 dimensions that in their view accurately portrays the ‘DNA’ of consultancies. The fifteen factors included commercial topics such as brand and reputation, account management process and prices, services portfolio (breadth of services, quality of services, innovative approach), organisational culture and quality of thought leadership. The largest chunk of factors however related to how strong a consulting firm is in delivering on its services, with aspects such as global reach, matching people to projects, ability to implement, speed of delivery, strength of methodologies, stakeholder management and responsiveness/flexibility being measured to come to a score.

Consulting firms with the most differentiated offering

Top 5

Topping the pile, L.E.K Consulting has the most differentiated organisational offering. L.E.K. was founded in 1983 by three individual partners from Bain & Company; James Lawrence, Iain Evans, and Richard Koch. Unsurprisingly, given its position at the top of this ranking, the firm utilises a generalist model across all major industries, including a large presence in defence, aviation, life sciences, healthcare, energy, entertainment, transport, retail, consumer products and financial services. The firm presently employs over 1,200 individuals across 21 offices worldwide.

Following L.E.K is fellow London-headquartered firm PA Consulting. PA is a consultancy specialising in management consulting, technology and innovation, and is considered the second most differentiated consulting firm due to its strong blend of consulting, technology and design services. Employing 2,657 workers globally, with offices in Europe, the Nordics, the United States, the Persian Gulf and Asia Pacific. PA has clients in both the private and public sector, including local and national governments and the defence sector.

With a headcount of ‎around 2,400 consultants spread across 50 offices in 36 countries, German-origin firm Roland Berger ranks third. Founded in 1967, originally under the name Roland Berger Strategy Consultants, by the firm’s namesake, the generalist strategy consultancy advises clients on management issues ranging from strategy development to performance improvement.

PwC’s subsidiary Strategy& is positioned fourth. The strategy wing of the Big Four firm boasts around 3,000 consultants, making Strategy& the globe’s sixth largest strategy consulting firm, following the ‘MBB’ trio (McKinsey, BCG, Bain), Oliver Wyman and A.T. Kearney. The firm is followed by a trio of equally matched consultancies in fifth; including parent firm PwC. The consulting firms with the most differentiated offeringAs one of the Big Four, PwC is home to a large headcount, with more than 236,000 employees in a network of firms in 158 countries, and 743 locations. Also in fifth are A.T. Kearney, founded in 1926, now boasting a staff of 3,500 (2,300 consultants), and McKinsey & Company. The global management consultancy – which is currently undergoing a period of transition as outgoing Managing Director Dominic Barton prepares to make way for Kevin Sneader in July – was also founded in 1926, and employs 27,000 people globally.

Top 15

The Boston Consulting Group and Capgemini share eighth spot. BCG is one of the 'Big Three' strategy consulting firms (MBB), and advises clients in the private, public, and not-for-profit sectors around the world, including more than two-thirds of the Fortune 500. Capgemini, which recently celebrated its 50th anniversary, is a multinational professional services and business consulting corporation, headquartered in Paris, France. It provides IT services and is one of the world's largest IT consulting, outsourcing and professional services companies with over 200,000 employees in over 40 countries.

Rounding off the top ten are Bain & Company and Olivier Wyman. Founded in 1973 by the late William Bain Junior, the third member of MBB on the list has provided advice to public, private, and non-profit organisations, and hosts a global staff of 8,000. Founded in 1984, Oliver Wyman adopted its current form in May 2007, as Mercer Oliver Wyman joined with Mercer Management Consulting and Mercer Delta to become one broad-ranging, differentiated firm named Oliver Wyman.

EY is the second Big Four firm to appear in the list. EY’s 250,000-strong global staff provides assurance (including financial audit), tax, consulting and advisory services to companies around the world. In 13th, Accenture has spent the past 12 months sustaining an aggressive expansion campaign, spending over $1 billion on purchases aimed at expanding its new design agency, Accenture Interactive.

In 14th, IBM Global Business Services, the professional services arm of IBM Global Services, includes offerings in management and strategy consulting, systems integration, and application management services. It is possibly the only member of the list currently working to downsize its workforce. In December it was reported that almost 1,900 front line services personnel at IBM UK were at risk of redundancy, with more than 500 of those scheduled to leave the company as part of its latest cost purge.

Finally, in joint-15th, the other constituent members of the Big Four are found. Despite large multidisciplinary portfolios, Deloitte and KPMG both find themselves some distance behind their mid-market competitors, in terms of differentiations in their offerings.  


Six attractive professional services firms to work for in UK

23 April 2019

Consulting firms dominate the 25 companies named by LinkedIn as the most attractive organisations to work for in Britain. JLL, Engie, CBRE, Atkins, Schroders and GE each made the grade, with the professional services sector putting in the strongest showing of any industry in the UK.

Each year, the editors and data scientists of social business platform LinkedIn examine which firms are the most attractive to job seekers, as well as which are the best at retaining their talent. Utilising information gathered from billions of actions taken by more than 433 million members, LinkedIn leverages a data-driven approach to consider what members are doing – not just saying – in their search for fulfilling careers. The result is the Top Companies list, an annual ranking of the most sought-after companies – now in its fifth year.

Each of the previous incarnations of the list has seen a strong showing from the UK consulting industry, with its contingent including McKinsey & Company, EYBoston Consultancy Group and Accenture in 2018. This year has seen the sector continue to see its stock rise, with the diversity of the sector’s workload buoying six professional services firms which were not on the previous ranking to prominence.

Analysing the anonymised actions of British-based LinkedIn members, the company determined which firms were the most attractive through four main pillars: interest in the company, engagement with the company’s employees, job demand and employee retention. As a result of this, real estate professional services firm JLL was found to be the most attractive consulting firm to LinkedIn members in the UK.

Six most attractive professional services firms to work for in UK

Ranked sixth in the overall list of companies, 2018 saw the commercial real estate services consultancy expand its London-based Ratings practice in anticipation of growing demand for real estate valuations in the UK. JLL, which boasts a global headcount of 82,000, holds UK locations in London, Norwich and Manchester, and the firm was recently named one of the world’s most ethical companies for the 12th year in a row by The Ethisphere Institute. 

Sitting 10th in LinkedIn’s ranking, Engie is a French multinational professional services firm, headquartered in La Défense, Courbevoie. While the firm primarily operates in utilities – specifically in the fields of electricity generation and distribution, natural gas, nuclear, renewable energy and petroleum – its investment in cleaner tech has also seen it come to offer a host of engineering consulting services, including feasibility studies, engineering, project management and client support. The firm’s 19,000 UK staff work from offices in London, Leeds and Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

With a global headcount of 90,000, CBRE, which was ranked 13th by LinkedIn, is a real estate advisory firm, with UK offices in London, Birmingham and Glasgow. The firm oversaw the sale of a number of major locations over the course of 2018, including a key residential site in North Leigh, and an office belonging to the British Steel Pension Fund.

Atkins, which was listed 23rd, is a British professional services firm which was purchased by the SNC-Lavalin Group for £2.1 billion in 2017. With 7,300 employees in the UK, Atkins operates from locations in London, Bristol, Kingston-upon-Thames, and offers services in engineering, operations, programme and project management. Late in 2018, the firm was named one of the top employers in the UK for working mothers, receiving plaudits for its innovation in flexible working from

Schroders, a global asset management firm with UK offices in London, Bromley, Chelmsford, ranked 24th. Asset management is a fast-expanding segment of consulting, and according to LinkedIn, 43% of the professional services firm’s staff have been at the company for at least six years, while nearly a third of UK roles were filled with internal candidates in 2017. Schroders boasts a global headcount of 4,600.

Finally, multifaceted professional services firm GE was ranked 25th. The engineering, operations, information technology and advisory firm has its hand in everything from energy to health care – where it was recently nominated for a prize at the 2019 Management Consultancies Association Awards. The long-standing conglomerate said 2019 is set to be a “reset year”, while it seeks to revamp its power-related businesses at the same time that it builds on strong growth within the aviation scene.

Other sectors

Elsewhere, the financial services industry saw a high level of representation in LinkedIn’s ranking. JP Morgan was listed in second place, while Barclays, Goldman Sachs and Aviva also made the grade. This represents a decline of one listing since 2018’s figures, perhaps reflecting the uncertainty surrounding the UK’s financial sector, amid the continued twists and turns of the Brexit saga.

Retail saw a slight rebound on its decimation in last year’s ranking. Having seemingly fallen out of favour in 2018, Sainsbury’s returned this year, sitting in third place. It was joined in the top 25 by fellow ‘Big Four’ supermarket Asda – though the news that some 60,000 Asda staff could be in line to lose their paid lunch breaks under new contracts could well see the company drop off the list in 2020. Marks & Spencer also made the list. The historically up-market supermarket now runs a work-placement programme called Marks & Start, which helps single parents, people with disabilities and the homeless to build careers within the company.

Healthcare and pharmaceuticals saw three entrants in the list too. Britain’s 50 fastest-growing privately-owned pharmaceutical companies have all increased sales by at least 10% in each of their last two financial years, facing down headwinds such as Brexit and NHS spending pressures to deliver rapid growth. GSK represented the pharmaceutical sector in fourth place, while Bupa and Johnson & Johnson stood for the healthcare and hospital industry in fifth and 16th respectively.

While the technology sector ultimately hosted the ranking’s top performer, Amazon, the only other sector incumbent was Google parent company Alphabet, in 19th. Salesforce and Dell Technologies, meanwhile, dropped off the ranking, having both been present in 2018.

The oil and energy sector’s representation is supplemented by hybrid firm Engie; however, the sector only fielded two pure-play members. BP, in eighth, and Shell, in 11th, have both spent time attempting to diversify in recent years, prompted by public image crises relating to the negative impact of fossil fuels on the planet, as well declining oil prices and the rising demand for renewable energy. These dynamics have, in turn, led to new skills coming into demand within the companies. 

Finally, the list was rounded off by singular representatives of five separate industries. Representing leisure in 12th was TUI, followed by food producer Associated British Foods (17th), building materials firm Travis Perkins (20th), telecommunications giant BT (21st) and utilities firm Centrica (22nd).