UK consulting market has doubled in size since 2018

09 July 2024 Consultancy.uk 3 min. read
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The Management Consultancies Association has released updated figures, showing the UK consulting market has almost doubled in size since 2018. The annual revenues of the sector hit £20 billion for the first time in 2023, according to the organisation’s definition of the market.

Each year, the Management Consultancies Association (MCA) assesses the health of the UK market, based on the performance of its member firms. While the management consulting industry’s representative body saw growth in the sector flow to just 4.5% in 2020, the years since the pandemic have seen it record rapid growth across the firms it surveys.

But uncertainty and economic tumult historically cause clients to turn to consultants for help navigating difficult times. And so it was that by 2022, the MCA asserts the market boomed by 23%. And while that shrank back to 11% in the last year, the MCA’s Annual Industry Report 2024 contends that the UK’s consulting market brought in £20.4 billion in revenues – a record high.

The MCA’s revised annual growth figures for the UK consulting market

Tamzen Isacsson, CEO of the MCA, commented, “During this taxing period of change and uncertainty, consultants are called upon as trusted advisers and sector specialists, offering experience and expertise, especially in tech, cyber security and net zero. Our sector is a great British success story generating increased productivity and efficiency for UK based businesses and proudly exporting record services overseas.”

To that end, the MCA’s latest figures suggest that the market has enjoyed meteoric growth over the last six years. Since 2018, it has almost doubled in size from £11.27 billion in revenues. Meanwhile, the MCA’s updated growth figures give a more detailed picture of how large the market was in the intervening years.

That rosy picture may be changing now, though. Amid rising prices and a stagnant economy, many clients are reducing their spending on external advisors – including the public sector, which is the consulting industry’s second largest client-segment.

The UK’s estimating consulting industry revenues according to the MCA’s revised growth figures (£billion)

In the last year, the MCA found that the sector’s growth rate decreased by 52%. While previous research from the MCA estimated that growth would slow again, to 9%, many of the largest firms now weighing up lay-offs, and numerous reports are suggesting that the sector is in for a lean year. Were that to lead to the same outcomes as 2023, and the slowing of growth matched in 2024, the consulting sector would see growth of just 5.7%. Consultancy.uk estimates that would see revenues hit around £21.6 billion – and while that would still be a positive, it would represent the sector’s worst performance since the pandemic.

Independent market research agency Savanta partnered with the MCA to collect and analyse industry data for the 2024 report, helping to provide an official assessment of the performance of the leading consulting firms in the UK which are part of the trade body. However, the exact size of the UK consulting market remains a bone of contention across multiple assessments.

As the MCA’s estimations are based on the performance of its member firms, it is often a more conservative estimate than delivered by Source Global Research, for example, which focuses on all management consulting firms that earn above a certain threshold. And other broader studies suggest even larger figures, as they have wider definitions in terms of income and the nature of ‘consulting’.