I’ve probably bored you before with my theories on the psychogeography of consultancy but it goes something like this: strategists in the West End or Mayfair, information technologists to the north, process guys in mid-town or the South Bank. Crude I know but it has stood me in good stead down the years. The question now is, where should the figurehead of the industry, the Management Consultancies Association, locate itself.
For a long time the answer was “Brian’s house” – Brian O’Rorke being the formidable executive director of the MCA for most of the 1990s, who not only owned the lease on but lived in its compact but bijou offices in Belgravia. While I have to confess to being mildly disappointed on my first visit to such a grandly named association that it wasn’t a gigantic marbled and atriumed confection in Berkeley Square, those were fun times. Back then it was possible to gather the entire leadership of the UK consultancy industry around Brian’s dining table, which would frequently happen, accompanied by plates of sausages and mustard and some nice claret. As long I was suitably scrubbed up I was allowed to attend and Brian would occasionally try to mentor me into taking a similar punt on other leasehold buildings in the area.
But Brian had a vision for the MCA to grow its membership beyond a select elite which meant that it would inevitably outgrow its home. When he stepped down as executive director the location was quickly seen as untenable for this and two other reasons.
Firstly, the only bit of the consultancy industry it put the MCA in close proximity with were the strategists, who sadly see the bulk of the management consultancy industry in rather the same light that the Big Four see turf accountants. Also it was a bit difficult to run a professional association with the former director drifting around the place in his slippers.
So the MCA began its own Drang Nach Osten, first to an office above the McDonalds in Whitehall and then to rather more exciting offices overlooking Trafalgar Square. Having watched Boris Johnson welcome the Olympics to London from the boardroom I can confirm that this had the best view of any London office that I have ever been in, but it has recently become clear that, not only would the MCA once again outgrow the building but its position was not ideal. Firstly, despite being the literal centre of London (the point from which all distances are measured) the Charing Cross area can be strangely difficult to get to and from. And while there are advantages to being near the seat of power, this can have its downsides:
“There’s a myth that the MCA is overfocused on the public sector, and the location helped people to think that,” says the MCA’s current chief executive Alan Leaman. “It’s important that we have a dialogue with government departments but we serve the whole economy – there’s a bigger world out there.”
The MCA’s new location, in the fifth floor of a building in Cornhill, just opposite the Bank of England, puts it near the centre of a different source of power, and with easier access to the new district growing further east in Canary Wharf. The street would formerly have been the home of city artisans – cutlers and goldsmiths and latterly opticians – but increasingly now it houses a wide range of professional services firms. “It’s important that we are really plugged to that sector, which management consultancy is seen as a major part of,” says Leaman.
On a more practical level, the new offices are more suitable for an institute which has been growing in size and influence for over two decades now:
“It’s more fit for purpose for the team,” says Leaman. “We’ve also really upgraded our boardroom facilities and meeting facilities for members: they are all top class now and at a great location.”
I’m guessing the MCA is in the City for the long-term, although extrapolating its eastward trajectory has it arriving in Hackney some time in the 2030s and appearing in France – possibly with a detour to Boris Johnson’s Thames Estuary airport – in time for the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt. May this never happen.
By the time you read this I will have attended the MCA’s Annual Awards: if you’re desperate to know who this year’s top consultants are, head to the MCA website and you can read all about it here next week.
All views expressed in this article are those of Mick James and do not necessarily reflect the views of Top-Consultant.com and Consultant-News.com.
Contact Mick with your views or suggestions at: [email protected].