The best boutique management consulting firms to work for in the UK

05 June 2018 8 min. read

Eight consulting firms have been named a top boutique management consulting firm to work for in the UK. Abbott Risk, Alpha Financial, Clarasys, Q5, OEE, Redington, Kantar Health and Red Badger were all exalted by the annual Sunday Times ranking in the small businesses category, based on feedback from employees of firms sized 50 staff and over.

The Sunday Times has released a list of the best companies to work for in the UK. The assortment of top firms comes in three categories; small, medium and large. The top 100 small companies in the UK has a large presence from the consulting industry. The competitive list features eight firms from across the spectrum of the professional services sector – all of whom have to employ at least 50 full-time staff and achieve a high approval score among those staff in order to be named. Scores are pieced together via an eight-fold survey, asking employees their opinions on a company with regards to management, leadership, team culture, wellbeing, pay and benefits, personal growth, corporate social responsibility and overall feelings toward a company.

Boutique firms

Abbott Risk Consulting was established in 2002, and provides advisory services to some of the most high-hazard industries in the global economy. From 12 sites across the UK and Australia, the firm works to plan for the risk associated with hazardous events, such as oil platforms exploding, trains crashing, or accidents affecting nuclear power stations. The firm’s employees think most highly of the organisation in terms of its inclination to corporate social responsibility efforts. 98% of staff agreed that their organisation encourages charitable activities, while Abbott has also made strides toward clipping its carbon footprint, including having no parking policy at its Edinburgh head office, resulting in more than 50% of staff either regularly cycling or walking to work.

Alpha Financial Markets Consulting is based in London, and since its launch in 2003, it has become a leading global consultancy to the asset and wealth-management industry. The company offers industry leaders a competitive edge through unique expertise and industry insight. Staff at the firm most value its leadership as its top quality, and 100% of Alpha staff agreed senior managers truly live the values of the organisation. The rules apply the same to everyone at the firm, to the extent that the open-office hot-desking policy means anyone can sit next to the UK Chief Executive Officer, Global Chief Executive Officer or the senior management team, providing chances to engage and network within the firm on a daily basis.

Founded by Chief Executive Officer Matt Cheung, Clarasys is another London-based independent management consultancy which works for a range of clients from small not-for-profit organisations to multinational corporations. The versatile firm offers business process, business change, project management and related services to enterprise B2B clients. While all staff polled similarly cited leadership as a key quality, 100% of employees also noted that their job was good for their own personal growth. Clarasys maintains this atmosphere by assigning each employee a coach to meet with them once a week for an hour, and talk through their personal development, building a plan to develop their skills in areas best aligned to their career ambitions.

The best boutique management consulting firms

Having opened for business in 2009, today Q5 has nearly 200 employees and offices in London, New York, Sydney and Hong Kong. The brainchild of four friends wanting to change the way things were done in the traditional consulting industry, during the world’s worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. They believed they could help businesses respond to the challenges confronting them, with benefits that lasted beyond the four quarters of the financial year, into the 'Q5' the company derives its name from. A key part of the firm’s subsequent success has been that a large part of this new breed of consultancy has been tight-knit and trusting teams. 100% of Q5 staff agreed people in their team go out of their way to help them – and Q5 fosters this in a number of innovative manners beyond face-to-face interaction, including the Q5er (an internal Google+ community), Global Espresso video calls, Slack, WhatsApp, Google Hangouts and a monthly team meeting outside the office hosted by a different Q5er.

OEE Consulting was established in 1997. In the 20 years since, the Oxford-based consultancy boasts a global reach, with more than 200 consultants and trainers working internationally across multiple disciplines and languages. OEE Consulting works with clients to transform and improve the business model of large organisations. 96% of staff agreed that the organisation’s leader – Managing Director Mark Palmer – runs the company based on sound moral principles, the top favoured factor from OEE employees. According to the firm, OEE Consulting’s values reflect the attitude of everyone at the company: bringing people with us; understanding the real issues; creative energy; focused on outcomes; and “getting stuck in”.

Redington was co-founded by Robert Gardner and Dawid Konotey-Ahulu in 2006. The duo aimed to transform people’s experience of saving for retirement from fear and uncertainty to clarity, confidence and control – a mission continued by current Chief Executive Officer Mitesh Sheth. Redington provides investment consulting, offering expert advice to pension funds, with a long-term goal of helping 100 million people enjoy a financially secure retirement. One of the key factors leading to the firm’s popularity among staff is its keen sense of giving back. At least 20% of staff are known to undertake charitable activities during business hours without incurring financial loss – as a result, 98% of staff agree that the organisation has a strong social conscience. The firm also upgrades staff PCs every three years and have introduced flexible working.

Other representatives from the professional services space were Kantar Health and Red Badger. Kantar’s presence in the ranking was boosted by its employee’s opinions of their managers. 94% of staff agreed that their manager regularly expresses appreciation when they do a good job. Meanwhile, Red Badger has a senior management team that is at least 40% female, something which has no doubt contributed to the opinion of 94% of staff that their job is good for their personal growth.

Large consultancies

The successful consultancies of the small businesses list join a prestigious trio of firms on the Sunday Times’s list for big companies.

EY, which has 15,302 staff in the UK, saw its favourability among employees boosted by its commitment to personal development. The firm is among a number on the Sunday Times’ list which support non-work related training, while the Big Four company has also launched a ‘Let’s Talk Digital’ programme to upskill its workforce in digital fluency. The on-demand learning course for all EY people is one of the reasons why 87% of staff agreed the experience they gain from their job is valuable for their future.

Accenture has 67 sites across the UK. Employees at the firm praised Accenture for its ethical standpoint, with the firm committed to helping 3 million people in the world build the skills they need to get a job or start a business by 2020. Since 2010, local initiatives have provided training and support to more than 112,000 young people in the UK. 91% of staff therefore agreed their organisation encourages charitable activities.

Deloitte, which has 17,161 staff in Britain, was similarly praised by employees on this basis. 89% of staff agreed that the organisation encourages charitable activities as the firm enters its second year of the One Million Futures (OMF) Responsible Business strategy, which aims to help a million people get to where they want to be by 2021; whether in the classroom, the workplace or the boardroom.

In mid-sized company list, while consultancies are absent, many professional services firms made the grade. These include: accounting and advisory firms PKF Cooper Parry, Bishop Fleming, Anderson Anderson & Brown and Price Bailey, IT consultancy Kainos, digital and creative agency Karmarama (acquired by Accenture in 2016) and engineering consultancy BWB Consulting.

Related: Cost-weary clients could look to specialised consultancies for best value.