's 2021 in review

31 December 2021 11 min. read
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2021 brought optimism and uncertainty in equal measures, as the pandemic continued to rage, but many businesses also found new ways to work within the ‘new normal.’ As another tumultuous 12 months draws to a close, looks back at the most important news from the consultancy industry over the last year.

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When McKinsey & Company commenced the process to choose its next leader, incumbent Kevin Sneader looked sure to win – but one of the seven other contenders ended up pulling of a shock win weeks later.

Businesses have surprised themselves with the speed and success of their digital initiatives in response to Covid-19, with one report finding that on average, digital offerings leapfrogged seven years of progress in a matter of months.

Global accountancy and consultancy firm EY was found to be UK’s third most valuable brand, worth more than the likes of BBC, HSBC, Land Rover and Vodafone.

The infamously damaging palm oil supply chain is eating itself, with experts from Kearney warning that its skyrocketing demand and unsustainable production practices mean firms should seek to remove it from their supply chains.

Regardless of a chaotic 2020, the number of millionaires around the world rose to 20 million people.

2021 Consulting Industry Review

Remarkable news

Consulting firm Secretariat filed a defamation suit against competing firm HKA, alleging that the UK based defendant published a fabricated review of Secretariat on careers platform Glassdoor.

The Pope reportedly requested the assistance of former Bain & Company consultant Pier Francesco Pinelli for a new reform package.

Former McKinsey & Company partner Puneet Dikshit pleaded guilty to insider trading; having traded in GreenSky options, while advising Goldman Sachs on the bank’s planned purchase of the FinTech.

The Australian wing of global advisory giant KPMG parted ways with several of its Melbourne staff, after it emerged they had allegedly expensed their “boys’ night out” to the firm.

An anti-trust lawsuit scuppered the $30 billion mega-merger of two of the world’s largest insurance consultancies: Willis Towers Watson and Aon.

High impact projects and contracts

Professionals from PA Consulting was selected to partner with the Royal College of Art, to help produce a new design for Britain’s electric vehicle charge points.

Andrew Hosking, Carl Jackson and Andrew Andronikou, managing directors at business advisory firm Quantuma, have been appointed joint administrators of historic football club Derby County.

CGI worked to deliver end-to-end services, software and technical infrastructure for the electronic counting of votes in the London elections.

OC&C Strategy Consultants advised Trustpilot on its $1.5 billion IPO.

BDO replaced KPMG as the auditor of software giant SAP in the UK, Germany and the US – its biggest international audit client to date – as it sought to challenge the Big Four’s accounting market dominance.

Major mergers and acquisitions

Public relations advisory Teneo purchased Deloitte’s restructuring practice for “hundreds of millions of pounds” – months after Deloitte’s global leadership ruled out such a move.

Soon after, it emerged KPMG was making a similar move – offloading its own restructuring arm to HIG Europe for a reported £400 million.

Global consulting firm Capco was acquired by Wipro in a $1.5 billion deal, adding over 5,000 business and technology consultants to its financial services practice.

International investment firm KKR acquired a majority stake in global consultancy ERM, in a $3 billion deal that enabled ERM to accelerate its own M&A campaign.

First Consulting and Viqtor Davis merged with Nordic player Valcon to form an 800-strong consulting firm with offices in six countries.

Rankings & awards

In’s new rankings system, McKinsey & Company, KPMG and Deloitte are judged as the three leading firms for thought leadership.

Research from Great Place to Work found that FTI Consulting, CGI and Verisk were the best consulting-based workplaces for the technology industry.

At a black-tie gala event in London, the Management Consultancies Association revealed the winners of the 2021 MCA Awards – with PwC, IBM Consulting and Deloitte among the firms to pick up multiple prizes.

Career platform LinkedIn found that PwC, Deloitte and EY were among the most attractive employers to UK job seekers.

According to the Times Top 50 Employers for Women list, Accenture, Arup and Atkins were among the best consulting firms for gender diversity in the UK.

Service lines

Strategy consulting played a key role in helping governments adapt to life in the pandemic – Boston Consulting Group for instance was one of several firms to have regularly worked on the UK’s test and trace project.

ESG consulting became increasingly prominent in 2021, with L.E.K. Consulting becoming one of a growing number of firms to launch a new sustainability centre in response to this demand.

Restructuring advisory work remains an essential line of work for the consulting industry amid the pandemic, especially for the energy sector; Alvarez & Marsal showed this when taking on the administration of People’s Energy.

Digital transformation has helped many firms survive in these uncertain times; B2E Consulting Principal Karen Lageyre explained how the consultancy helps its blue chip clients across sectors with such projects.

Supply chain issues persisted throughout the year – something DuPont Sustainable Solutions (DSS) experts encouraged businesses to learn from when mitigating the future effects of climate change.

Important milestones

In the year the firm celebrated its 135th anniversary, Arthur D. Little launched a new brand identity.

McKinsey & Company announced the foundation of a new platform aimed at helping clients across industries transform their sustainability function.

Five years after OC&C Strategy Consultants’ Benelux team left the firm for EY-Parthenon, the company announced it had successfully returned to the region.

Having become independent from KPMG, the firm’s former restructuring wing rebranded as Interpath Advisory.

Challenger consultancy Elixirr rolled out a new model which gives part ownership to members of the organisation.

Key appointments

Professional services firm Kantar appointed Chris Jansen as its new CEO.

Christoph Schweizer was confirmed as the next Chief Executive Officer of Boston Consulting Group.

After a shock in the selection process, McKinsey & Company's senior partners eventually picked Bob Sternfels as their new global leader.

The board of KPMG put forward Jon Holt as its nominee for the role of its new CEO.

Sreeram Visvanathan succeeded Bill Kelleher to become IBM’s Chief Executive Officer in the UK and Ireland.

Top consultancy reports

UK consulting managed to shrug off pandemic pressures to record a solid year of growth in 2020, according to a report from the industry’s representative body the Management Consultancies Association.

study from R&D specialist Ayming warned that businesses who are not innovating further for the economic recovery could soon be left behind – either by competitors or start-ups. 

FTI Consulting research found that 78% of companies now use artificial intelligence and analytics to monitor for scenarios that impact risk and compliance.

Ahead of COP26, a shocking release from Accenture suggested just 5% of Europe’s largest businesses are on course to become net-zero by 2050.

Europe’s wealthiest football clubs missed out on revenue of over €2 billion by end of the 2020/21 season, according to Deloitte’s Sport Business Group.

Interviews with consultants

Hannah Tharp has played an integral role in setting up BJSS Consulting; she outlined its ambitious plans for the coming years.

Digital services firm ROCK spent the pandemic working to transform and expand its company; founder and CEO Rob Dance spoke to about what is next for the fast-growing organisation.

Young consultants Janae Isaacs and Isabell Rosenoegger reflected on what they have picked up from their first year at Efficio and Proxima.

Khrystyna Andronova, a Senior Consultant within Delta Capita’s Structured Products business, talked about her work at the consulting firm and diversity in the financial services technology consulting scene.

Nobody is defined solely by their job, and consultants are no exception to this: BearingPoint Intern Billy Dardis spent the year not only juggling a Master’s Degree with work – but also the hopes of Ireland’s rugby 7s team.