The UK management consulting sector expanded at its second fastest rate in a decade last year, as companies and government departments sought help with their Brexit planning.
Total fees across the UK consulting industry rose by 7 per cent to £10.6bn in 2018, according to the Management Consultancies Association (MCA) annual report. The growth puts the sector at odds with many other areas of the economy, which stalled last year.
UK consulting also received a boost from helping clients with the move to digital services — work that accounted for 28 per cent of the market.
“The UK’s protracted exit from the EU and accompanying economic anxiety has led many businesses and government departments to call on the expertise of consultants to help plan for different scenarios,” said Tamzen Isacsson, chief executive of the MCA. “The government has had to do huge amounts of planning and it’s been an unprecedented workload.”
The MCA’s report examines fee income data from member firms, which account for more than half of the industry.
Fee income from public sector consulting has increased by 12 per cent since 2016 — the year of the Brexit referendum — according to the report, and now makes up more than a fifth of income generated by professionals in the sector.
The government has recently called meetings with consultancy professionals warning them to prepare their clients “like never before” for the October Brexit deadline, according to a consultancy specialist who attended one such meeting.
Meanwhile, consulting work in the construction sector has increased by 190 per cent since 2016, driven in particular by high value infrastructure projects such as HS2, according to the report.
Twenty per cent of UK consultancy income came from abroad, as the weakened pound made professional services more attractive to overseas buyers.
The MCA forecasts that 2019 would be another strong year for consultancy, which employs an estimated 60,000 people in the UK, with growth of 7-8 per cent.
“It’s been a good year for the consulting industry here in the UK,” said Marco Amitrano, head of consulting at PwC. “Client needs are mostly driven by disruption and related digital transformation which stem from customers changing what they want to buy, who they’re buying from or how they’re buying it.”
However, Mrs Isacsson also noted that some consulting firms had seen a drop in demand for services because of insecurity about their financial status in the medium and long term.