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  Our management consultancy columnist Mick James this week spoke with BearingPoint’s newly appointed UK managing director, Matt Costello, who believes his firm can thrive in the new world the consulting industry has become.
Consulting-Times E-zine

BearingPoint ready to thrive from its unique position

Not so long ago there was a real danger that consultancy was becoming a “me-too” industry dominated by a small number of big firms who were all gradually converging on the same business model. This wasn’t necessarily good for clients, or consultants, and in retrospect the slightly shambolic realignment of the industry that’s been taking place can only be seen as a good thing. Consulting “DNA” has been spread far and wide, and rather than play the one-size fits all or one-stop-shop game firms are staking out clear and distinctive positions in the value chain. This not only widens client choice, but respects the intelligence of an increasingly sophisticated clientele and their ability to select the right consultants for the right tasks.

It’s a new world, and one in which BearingPoint’s recently appointed UK managing director Matt Costello believes firms like his can thrive.

“Clients have matured,” he says. They’re not fishing for ideas, they know how to structure projects in such a way that consultants can be successful. The table is set for partnership with firms like us.”

“Firms like us” may be a bit of an understatement as BearingPoint has some unique attributes. Initially set up as a successor firm to KPMG Management Consultancy, it also absorbed a large number of partnerships from the old Andersen Business Partnership. This makes it the only former “Big Four” consultancy that didn’t either end up in the world of IT and outsourcing (like Ernst & Young and PwC) or remain with the audit partnership.

In theory, BearingPoint is cut off from whatever synergies these firms enjoy, but Costello relishes the firms “message of independence and not being an outsourcing firm”.

“We not only offer increased performance but sustained performance,” he says. “Other firms bridge the operational strategy with the ability to run the stuff—we do the opposite.”

Business integration is what BearingPoint is all about.

“We pick up where the strategy firms leave off,” he says. “Some firms stop at the technology level but we don’t—the difference between us and the audit firms is we know how to run big technology projects.”

While BearingPoint is not an outsourcing player, it does have centres in India and China, as well as Chile (where it has a major SAP capability) and “nearshore” locations such as Spain and Ireland.

“It’s not easy to build a cost effective resource here in the UK–we try to use our global resources to our advantage” says Costello.

One of the quirks of BearingPoint’s history is that the realignment of the consultancy industry left it with no presence in the British Isles outside Ireland. A while back we reported on the strange case of the global consultancy in start-up mode, which Costello confirms is still the case:

“We’re still in the adolescent stages in the UK,” he says. “That’s one of out unique selling points, that we’re a global firm which still has that entrepreneurial mentality. In the UK we don’t have any limitations—the only limits are the constraints we set ourselves.”

As a result, Costello says, the UK firm is “attracting folks who’ve had it with that heavy infrastructure and politics.”

“At the same time they don’t have to build everything themselves,” he says. “There’s training, there’s global branding, but they also feel they’re part of something that’s building from the ground up. We have some exceptional people, but our strength is also out constraint—we rely on these very scarce resources.”

BearingPoint in the UK has now grown to just under 300 consultants, and will probably add around 60-70 more this year, probably at junior level.

“We believe we have more or less our team in place,” says Costello, “Our strategy has been to go out and get the top level resources, and then to keep the pipe flowing build up our junior consultancy base and build them in our consultancy model. There’s a lot of high-end MBA talent out there with one or two years’ experience looking for a change.”

BearingPoint is on a roll at the moment—Costello says that the UK firm has smashed its first quarter sales targets to the extent that it has already achieved 60% of its goal for the year. But building up the firm as a UK brand is still an ongoing project.

“Brand building is something we work on everyday,” he says. “It can be frustrating, coming from these 100 year old firms like KPMG and Andersen and having to walk in and say this is BearingPoint and this is where we come from. But I think the brand perception is one of intrigue—as the firm has emerged there’s been a strong mixing of the Andersen and KPMG people and the UK is more of a melting pot, with folks from all backgrounds.”

BearingPoint’s strong background in areas like oil and gas, life sciences and supply chain has enabled it to build a strong presence in commercial services in the UK, with financial services as its second biggest market. It has also made a strong start in the public sector, an area where it has a massive presence in the States, and teams are already working on developing solutions for the UK based on this portfolio.

“Where we don’t have scale and leverage we will partner with other firms to do that,” says Costello. For example, the firm works with Honeywell on operational transformation at the production and engineering level, and on the technology front has an exclusive partnership with search engine leaders Google.

While BearingPoint may not be alone in the areas it consults in, Costello believes its positioning makes it unique.

“We can honestly say this space is our space, it’s out core business,” he says. “Our challenge compared to the outsourcing firms is we don’t have that annuity revenue—so we have to think a little bit harder, work a little harder and be a bit bolder. That attracts a certain type of person.”

Related Link
See the latest consulting opportunities at BearingPoint.

All views expressed in this article are those of Mick James and do not necessarily reflect the views of and

Contact Mick with your views or suggestions at: [email protected]
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