These top consulting firms are shaping WEF's Davos agenda

23 January 2019 6 min. read
More news on

Every year, the second half of January sees the global economic and political elite descend en masse on a Swiss ski-resort. The extraordinary annual migration of the world’s wealthiest and most influential individuals marks the commencing of the infamous World Economic Forum (WEF). Analysis of WEF’s exclusive list of 100 strategic partners shows that the management consulting industry is playing an integral role in shaping the agenda and discussions.

Having kicked off on Monday, leaders are convening in the snow-bound Alpine town of Davos, to discuss how to best defend globalisation in an age of increasing hostility toward the encroachment of markets into public life and policy. The 2019 event is the 48th forum since the inaugural conference in 1971, which was attended by nearly 450 executives. The WEF has grown exponentially since then, with a total of 2,500 guests expected to attend this year, including 340 global political leaders.

The agenda of the World Economic Forum is shaped by the research and thought leadership of industry leaders. At the forefront of the event’s thought leaders are 100 strategic partners, an elite group of invitation-only partners selected by the Forum. “They represent 100 leading global companies, each providing essential leadership to support WEF’s mission of improving the state of the world. Only the most recognised corporations with demonstrated track records of good governance and alignment with Forum values are invited to join this group.”

Analysis of the 100 partners shows that one-fifth consist of members of the consulting industry, spanning strategy, management, human capital and technology consultancies.

These top consulting firms are shaping WEF's Davos agenda

A.T. Kearney will be front and centre at Davos 2019 as a long-standing strategic partner at the Forum. In this continuing capacity, it will contribute to the multiple discussions that shape the week-long programme. In addition, the firm’s delegates will host a series of panel sessions and fireside chats with thought leaders in Davos at A.T. Kearney’s very own Glass House, just steps from the Congress Centre. The consultancy has also produced three reports for Davos on the matters of improving the future of production, the use of AI, and the gender pay gap.

The world’s leading strategy firms will also be out in force for this year’s WEF. Fellow strategic partner Boston Consulting Group has sent five of its global leaders as part of its delegation, including CEO Rich Lesser, Chair Hans Paul Burkner, and Christoph Schweizer, Chairman of Central & Eastern Europe and Middle East. Among others, they will deliver insights to attendees on behalf of BCG at the forum;meanwhile, the strategy firm has also produced reports on marketising healthcare, cyber resilience, labour market changes and sustainability.

Fellow MBB strategy consultancy Bain & Company will fulfil a similar role in Davos. Since 2004, Bain has been one of the 100 strategic partners of the World Economic Forum, and this year the firm has co-released a study named ‘The Future of Consumption’ for the occasion, explaining how fast-growing consumer markets in China, India, and the ASEAN region are reshaping the global consumer products landscape.

The Big Four is also represented among the strategic partners list. This will see PwC continue its annual tradition of presenting its Global CEO Survey to the conference in Switzerland. Experts from PwC’s global presences will therefore discuss key issues on the agenda and from this year's CEO survey throughout the event. That includes UK Chair Kevin Ellis, and US Chair Tim Ryan. Deloitte will also be represented at the event, with Global CEO Punit Renjen, Asia Pacific CEO Cindy Hook and new North West Europe chief Richard Houston among those attending the yearly meet-up. EY and KPMG are present with relatively large senior delegations, including their CEO and regional managing partners.

Accenture is also among the 20 consultancies enjoying a strategic partnerships at the event. The firm will be represented by Global CEO Pierre Nanterme, US CEO Julie Sweet, and Group Chief Executive for Products Sander van ‘t Noordende. The digital-focused firm will present a host of new dossiers on innovative technologies and how they can be leveraged to meet global challenges such as food shortages.

Marsh & McLennan Companies is another of the Forum’s long standing partners – the company is the parent of Oliver Wyman, Mercer, NERA Economic Consulting, Marsh and Guy Carpenter. Oliver Wyman has collaborated on a range of initiatives of global importance across industries. This has seen the firm explore an array of topics including cyber-risk, emerging technologies in insurance and risk management, and the balance between financial stability and innovation. CEO Scott McDonald and Global Head of Financial Services Ted Moynihan are among those in Oliver Wyman’s delegation. Marsh typically is one of the first companies to catch the spotlight during the event, releasing its annual Global Risks Report in the run-up to the event.

Other consultancies that can call themselves a strategic partner are Heidrick & Struggles, a global human capital consultancy and leadership development firm; Strategy&, a strategic consultancy which thanks its perks to PwC’s partnership; and Willis Towers Watson, one of the world’s larger HR and insurance services providers. Five of the thought leaders come from the IT consulting segment: Hitachi, IBM, Infosys, TCS and Wipro.

Alongside strategic partners, the WEF further has 200+ other partners. Among this group are a handful of consulting firms, including management consultancies AlixPartners and FTI Consulting, engineering consultancies AECOM and Arup, as well as BCG Digital Ventures (a subsidiary of BCG), technology player Cognizant, human capital services provider Egon Zehnder and real estate advisor JLL.