Six UK consultancy firms win Best Business Awards

16 April 2015

Six consulting firms have in recent months been recognised by Awards Intelligence for excellent performance: Barnett Waddingham, BCR Associates, Elixirr, Kloud, Moorhouse and Newton Europe. The consultancies have received a ‘Best Business Award’ and have the privilege to for the 12 months that lie ahead market themselves as a “leader” in their respective field.

Every quarter Awards Intelligence, a provider of business awards support services, organises the ‘Best Business Awards’ competition. The ceremony aims to highlight and reward excellence across the private and public sectors and attracts a wide range of entries from across all sectors, from large international PLCs and public sector organisations to dynamic and innovative SMEs. Awards are handed out in nineteen categories – 6 in the public sector and 13 in the private sector – across 30 different sectors.

Among the 100+ winners of the most recent ‘Best Business Awards’ competitions* are six consulting firms: Barnett Waddingham, BCR Associates, Elixirr, Kloud, Moorhouse and Newton Europe.

Best Business Awards

Barnett Waddingham, a pensions expert with roughly 500 actuaries, administrators and consultants at seven offices across the UK, has been recognised in the ‘Best Employer’ category. The firm has “all the bases covered when it comes to nurturing employees”, according to the jury. “Its employee programmes are just as professional as its business services and meticulously planned and executed. It has thought of just about everything including staff engagement, continuous professional training, employee assistance programmes and reward and recognition. As a result everyone now works together as a team towards the same objectives."

Profit improvement consultant BCR Associates won an award in the ‘Best Service’ category, for its no-obligation review services of overhead costs, a proposition which stands out in the market, says the jury, and is dubbed a “must-have service for any company”. The offerings works as follows: companies get a free audit of their business overheads – utilities, insurance, vehicles, finance and phones etc – and if BCR Associates can find a more suitable contract which is also cheaper, the client gets 100% of all the savings. Over the past year, BCR Associates has achieved total savings of roughly £1,4 million says the Exeter-based consultancy, with average running costs slashed by 27%.

Barnett Waddingham - BCR - Elixirr

Elixirr has been named an award winner in the ‘Best Small to Medium Sized Business’ category, recognised for its “exceptional growth”, with the firm’s turnover rising by 700% in only five years. “In the past 18 months alone to July 2014, it has won more than 30 clients across a spread of industries and the number of staff has risen to 70 people from 45. The company thrives on being creative and it is one of the few consultancies to offer collaborative solutions with other suppliers. Elixirr has a bright new approach that has shaken up the consultancy market." The jury in addition highlights Elixirr’s focus on “bespoke quality service” on its ability to recruit high-profile staff. In recent months Elixirr for instance recruited Karina van den Oever from A.T. Kearney, while senior advisors Katie Gillett and Emily Farrimond joined from Accenture.

London-based Elixirr has also picked up an award for its product offerings in the procurement market. The jury: “Rather than getting involved with a long list of vendors, using ELIX-IRR's collaborative solution clients can engage with a few selected vendors to jointly come up with a solution to a problem. Saving money, time, effort and creating new innovative results, the collaborative solution has already produced impressive savings for clients.”

Workday specialist Kloud, acquired by Aon Hewitt earlier this year, is recognised for its strong growth, an average of 25% per annum over the past years, and its good employership. “Kloud has got being a good employer just about right with its flexible working environment, its informal management and its impressive training programme. The staff survey shows that no member of staff has had a bad day in the office and the retention rate of 95% says it all. Rather than recruiting staff in a formal way, most people are taken on through recommendations from the existing team. Consequently, Kloud has built up a team of like-minded people who embrace the entrepreneurial spirit.”

Kloud - Moorhouse - Newton

Business transformation consultancy Moorhouse managed to scoop an award in the ‘Best Small to Medium Sized Business’ category. The jury noting: “Moorhouse specialises in working with client organisations to support the delivery of complex change initiatives. Over the past 18 months, the tables have been turned as Moorhouse has experienced major change itself as Directors achieved a management buy out. The company could not have provided a better example of how to successfully manage change as Moorhouse has bucked the trend in business consultancy to achieve phenomenal 30% growth”. The firm was also acclaimed for the high-quality of its research.

Richard Jones, partner at Moorhouse, says his firm is “proud of the recognition”, adding that it is a “fantastic achievement and demonstrates not only our ability to execute strategies on behalf of our clients, but that Moorhouse practices what it preaches.”

Newton Europe, a specialist operational consultancy, won an award in the ‘Best Employer’ category. "What really impressed the judges is the way Newton Europe has gone about doing just everything it can to retain ambitious and talented young graduates. It employs the cream from the top universities and realising that its people are its future, it is vital to the company that these young recruits stay with the company. To keep them interested and challenged, it has implemented a number of schemes including fast-track promotions, mentoring and social events. Looking after its staff is a strategy that has paid off and since its launch in 2001, Newton has achieved year-on-year growth of 35%," comments the Chairman of the Judges.

* Awards are handed out every quarter. Moorhouse was an award winner in the latest edition, with the other five consultancies recognised in previous editions held in 2014.


Accenture's push into the creative sector is an identity crisis

18 April 2019

In its latest push into the creative sector, Accenture Interactive acquired New York and London-based ad agency Droga5 earlier this month, adding illustrious clients such as HBO, Amazon and The New York Times to its roster of clients. With the latest in a long line of similar purchases, Accenture Interactive further demonstrated its ambition of becoming the globe’s leading trusted advisor to chief marketing officers. Yet according to Ben Langdon, Chairman of Class35, Accenture’s strategy may be heading in the wrong direction.

A press release on Accenture’s website announcing the acquisition sits next to a quote stating that “brands aren’t built through advertising” – a huge contradiction from a consultancy firm hell-bent on becoming the ‘CMO agency of choice’. It’s not alone of course. The entire consulting industry wants a piece of the creative pie right now. In addition to Accenture Interactive, recent acquisitions by PwC Digital, IBM iX, and Deloitte Digital meant that in 2017, for the first time ever, four of the world’s ten largest creative agencies were consultancies.

So just what it is that Accenture wants to achieve from this? For one thing, it’s clearly trying to be a digital transformation business. A one-stop creative shop rivalling more traditional models, it wants to lure CMOs in with the promise of lower ad spend and a “more impactful customer experience”. At the same time, though, it’s still in thrall to those same slinky, shiny branding and advertising agencies it’s attempting to disrupt. The Droga5 acquisition and that of Karmarama a few years before are both testament to this.

There’s a fundamental problem with this, though. Digital transformation businesses don’t sell to CMOs. These people have enough on their plates trying to transform their own marketing skills in order to keep up with an ever-changing market – they just don’t have the time or the energy to concern themselves with digitally transforming a whole business. If Accenture’s purpose is digital transformation, then going after creative agencies is barking up the wrong tree.Is Accenture's push into the creative sector an identity crisis?

Worlds apart

Perhaps more importantly, these two industries are worlds apart in terms of the way they think. Creative agencies are all about ideas, campaigns and consumers. Digital businesses, on the other hand, are customer-driven – they think in terms such as lifetime value, measurement, and efficiency. Customer-led thinking is an entirely different beast to consumer-led thinking.

The reality is that the arrival of digital and an all-encompassing obsession with technology, measurement and social has led to the death of agencies in a reductive, zero-sum, efficiency-focused battle with brands. Indeed, agencies have become so obsessed with the latest tech fads, they’re beginning to forget how brands work. Worse still, they’re beginning to forget how brands are built. And, by forgetting, they’re destroying their own values.

Killing creativity

All things considered, it really feels to me as though Accenture is a chip leader in a game it doesn’t understand. Expensive acquisitions like these show that they’ve got the big money, but they don’t appear to have any idea what they’re doing with it. Take talent, for example. The best talent in the creative industry right now is out in the market; it’s not tied to any one agency. Both agencies might well be at the top of their game, but why would a consulting firm waste so much money on buying them when they could hire high-quality creative talent on a contingent basis instead?

As their presence in the top 10 creative agencies shows, there is a growing trend in which Accenture, like many of the other big players, are buying up agencies as if they were nothing more than keywords. What they’re really buying, though, is a collection of credentials, clients and IP. Unfortunately, the talent that created those credentials aren’t going to stay at the business, the clients that hired the agency in the first place won’t be interested in buying what is basically just another part of Accenture, and the IP never really existed to begin with.

Droga5, for example, was one of the few agencies that did great brand work the old-fashioned way – undoubtedly something that made it attractive to Accenture in the first place. The irony, though, is that by leading it further away from the way of working that made it so special, the consulting giant will kill its creativity.

“Accenture Interactive has been dazzled by its ambitions to become the CMO agency of record…. But, in flashing its cash, it is spending millions on acquiring nothing of any value.”

If pressed, the recently acquired agency staff at Accenture will tell you just how dysfunctional the new arrangement is. They’re largely unfulfilled. Rarely do they feel their work has any sort of meaning or purpose. What’s more, the different disciplines have found little or no common ground, and find it hard to work together as a cohesive whole. It’s not surprising, then, to see talented people leaving in droves.

Beyond the window dressing 

It’s clear, then, that consulting firms and creative agencies are no easy bedfellows. But in his company’s defence, Accenture Interactive’s Senior Managing Director for North America, Glen Hartman, described its culture as being “far, far away from what a stereotypical consulting firm would look like. Our office and studios look a lot like Droga5’s.”

In demonstrating a belief that office design equates to workplace culture, this statement serves as an illustration of how confused Accenture is right now. It wants to justify its new strategy so badly, it’s started dressing like a creative agency. But if you look beyond the window dressing and see that you and your partners are speaking a different language with a different purpose, selling to different people in a different market, there’s no getting away from the fact that you’re different.

Accenture Interactive has been dazzled by its ambitions to become the CMO agency of record, and it wants to dazzle others with its new direction. But, in flashing its cash, it is spending millions on acquiring nothing of any value.

Related: Space between consulting firms and creative agencies is converging.