While M&A in consulting has taken a hit from the Covid-19-induced downturn, a new report from Boxington Corporate Finance says that deal making activity has recovered over the past months, as the sector emerges as a counter-intuitive beneficiary of the global pandemic.

As Covid-19 arrived, valuations across the consulting sector were particularly hard hit, with investors expecting the sector to be exposed to the pandemic given the service-based nature of consulting work and its reliance on onsite meetings and delivery.

Despite the fears, the sector has proven resilient and its valuations are now well on the road to recovery, with average quoted company share valuations increasing by circa 31% in the past six months to 30th September 2020, and in some cases even surpassing pre-Covid valuations. To come to its finding, Boxington Corporate Finance analysed a cross-section of 20 global listed consulting firms, including Accenture, Booz Allen Hamilton, Capgemini, FTI Consulting, Wavestone and Wipro.

The coronavirus lockdown placed the digital capacity of organisations of all shapes and sizes under a sudden stress test, particularly in sectors such as higher education, where face-to-face contact has always been a prized asset. Coeus Consulting has helped a prestigious London university to up its digital game, in response to the challenges it was presented by social distancing measures in Britain.

Amid the unfolding crisis, Coeus Consulting took up work to help the higher education sector address the massive pressure it came under to accelerate its digital transformation journey. In the otherwise traditional sector, where value has often been placed on face-to-face tuition, social distancing means that higher education has undergone a crash-course in adapting to new methods of value delivery, maintaining its primary clientele while serving its wider role in society.

Coeus Consulting’s work in the sector saw one client ask for help embracing fundamental digital changes, in order to help maintain its leadership position among the world’s elite universities, despite the disruption of the coronavirus.

The London based university’s digital strategy was a document that was created within the central IT function, and had little to no impact on how the various directorates envisioned their digital future and almost no traceability to the wider university strategy. As a result, while siloed initiatives were flourishing, staff, student and researcher survey results were worsening year-on-year regarding digital services.

A group of 12 leading investment consultancies in the UK have banded together to help bolder sustainability practices across the industry. Aon, Barnett Waddingham, Cambridge Associates, Cardano, Hymans Robertson, ISIO, LCP, Mercer, MJ Hudson Allenbridge, Redington, SEI and Willis Towers Watson will collaborate as ESG goals in investment shoot up the agenda of investment professionals.

Over the last decade, environmental, social and governance (ESG) risks have swiftly risen to the top of the investment community’s agenda. One survey from EY previously found that 92% of investors agree that over the long-term, ESG issues such as climate change and executive diversity have quantifiable impacts on businesses. Factoring this into a business plan is proving easier said than done, however, with one example of this being that fewer than one-in-10 pension funds having developed a dedicated resource focused on responsible investment.

The UK Government has once again come under fire for its spending on private consulting contractors, after it emerged the industry had received contracts worth £56 million to help with the national response to the coronavirus. Deloitte, Cambridge Consultants and PwC took the three largest fees, pocketing some £23 million between them.

Despite a recent edition of the respected Global Health Security Index predicting at the turn of the year that the UK was one of the best-positioned nations in the world to handle a pandemic, Government mismanagement of the situation quickly saw Britain spiral into crisis, amid the 2020 Covid-19 outbreak. After a decade of austerity, the National Health Service had been left under-resourced and under-staffed, and hospitals quickly reached bursting point.

Northamptonshire County Council has become the latest local authority to court controversy by issuing a lucrative contract to a private consulting firm, following stringent budget cuts. Earlier in July, the council handed £1.4 million to a team of consultants to draw up a procurement contract for an outsourcer to take on the maintenance of the county’s highways.

In the summer of 2018, Northamptonshire County Council’s Conservative-led administration voted in favour of a massive programme of spending cuts, resulting in widespread job losses, and the crippling of many public services. The government had already sent in commissioners to oversee the cash-strapped council Northamptonshire that spring, after the authority revealed a projected overspend of £21 million for 2017-18 – however, the council was forced to issue a second spending control order to stave off a projected budget shortfall of £60 million-£70 million the next financial year.

Redington, Aon, Lane Clark & Peacock and Mercer have joined a coalition of financial services firms aiming to promote Black talent. The initiative will look to put 25 Black students in contact with financial services companies in order to obtain entry-level roles.

On May 25, 2020, George Floyd died in police custody, sparking outrage and protests in the United States and around the world. The incident reignited conversations around racial inequality and police violence, with individuals and organisations expressing solidarity with the #BlackLivesMatter movement by attending protests in person or voicing their support on social media. As the struggle for equality continues, it has also brought issues surrounding corporate representation to prominence.

Much has been written about the impact of coronavirus on leading consulting firms and the industry as a whole. Now, a new international survey has shed light on how the pandemic is impacting the top-segment of the independent landscape.

Coronavirus has had a profound impact on independent consulting, leaving many with less income and delayed project work, according to survey by Comatch among almost 1000 respondents in 20+ countries. Most respondents came from larger markets, such as Germany, France, the United Kingdom, and US.

The coronavirus pandemic has had pretty significant implications for independents. Roughly 30% of independent consultants said their running and/or planned project was postponed. 12% of respondents said that a running project was cancelled, while 19% said that a planned project was cancelled. Only 22% of those surveyed said that their project work was not impacted.

Ireland’s ten largest consulting firms with an accounting heritage generated more than €2 billion in fees last year, with the Big Four giants making up 86% of all fees.

With revenues of over €550 million, on an all-Ireland basis. PwC is Ireland’s largest professional services group that has its roots in the world of accounting. However, today, PwC generates around two thirds of its business outside of its traditional audit division, in services areas including tax advice, mergers & acquisitions, restructuring, management consulting and digital transformation.

The number two in Ireland’s accountancy and consultancy market is KPMG, followed by Deloitte and EY. Combined, the so-called Big Four earn nearly €1.8 billion in fee income, generated by a workforce of nearly 15,000 accountants, advisors, consultants and digital specialists. All four of the quartet are privately-held, owned by a group of partners that distribute the firm’s ownership and profits.

A new research estimates that around one in five independent consultants and contractors fear having to stop their business amid the fallout of demand caused by the Covid-19 crisis.

The study, conducted by the University of Edinburgh Business School in association and the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE), is based on a survey of over 1,400 highly skilled freelancers in the UK, including 350 independent consultants and contractors.

The researchers found not surprisingly that around three quarters of independent consultants and contractors had lost income in the past months, having seen projects cancelled and new projects delayed.

Consulting firms live and die by their people; ultimately in consulting, clients pay for talented people, ahead of other factors such as a brand and proprietary methodologies. So how can consultancies attract the best talent, and at the other side of the equation ensure that their best people stay on board?

Just as consulting firms might market and pitch to a client, designing and promoting propositions for their clients’ needs, consultancies also have to market and pitch to candidates. “Marketing obviously is a major factor in talent acquisition,” says Richard Longstreet, who runs the Consulting recruitment practice at 3Search, a firm that works for many leading consultancies.

It starts with an attractive website and a careers section, reinforced by a social media presence. There are several ways of using this online presence to make a consultancy a more attractive employer, three of which stand out, says Longstreet.

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