Consulting sector ready to restore the UK economy to growth

  • Management consultancy continued to grow at 7% in the last 12 months with the sector worth an estimated £11.3 bn in the UK, according to new figures released by the MCA
  • Large jump in number of female consultants working across the industry now 49% up from 40% a year ago as firms continue to push on with their diversity programmes
  • The number of people with BAME backgrounds working in consulting increased from 20% to 22% in 2019 while a quarter of consultants (24%) have social mobility characteristics, up from 18% in 2018
  • The number of trainees, apprenticeships and school leavers joining the profession has nearly doubled as firms expand and diversify their pool of talent

The UK consulting sector has experienced another year of growth according to the latest independent survey conducted by Savanta and, despite the impact of COVID-19 on businesses across the UK, consulting companies have stabilised their pipeline of projects and some firms are experiencing growth according to the Management Consultancies Association. While the impact on firms and activity varied depending on size of firm, sector specialisms, portfolio of clients and the stage in the cycle of project work, consultants have been supporting clients both in the private and public sector during these challenging times assisting with crisis planning, supplier risk management, digital business delivery models and scenario planning. Support has ranged from working with the NHS on virtual appointments, building infrastructure for new hospitals and assessing the impact of social distancing on patient treatment to moving whole call centres remotely for insurance firms and banks. Firms are expecting to see increased demand as organisations reassess their business models in the next 6 to 12 months with an increased focus on digital transformation, analytics, infrastructure and risk management across all sectors.

Despite the recent economic uncertainty over the past couple of years the UK’s consultancy sector remains one of the largest in the world and the MCA Annual Report 2020 estimates it is now worth £11.3 billion to the UK economy, up 7% on the previous year. MCA Member firms are leading businesses on the organisation and cultural change journey around digital transformation and harnessing the best of new technologies. Clients are investing more heavily than ever in new technologies whether it’s advanced analytics and machine learning; AI and virtual reality or assistance with cloud adoption. The consulting industry is at the forefront of driving technology change and transformation for businesses and Digital and Technology consulting activity (25%) continues to lead service line fee income distribution followed by Programme and Project Management (19%).

Tamzen Isacsson, Chief Executive, MCA, said:

“The consulting industry is resilient, and this is shown in the strength of growth rates in recent years, proving that we have strong foundations upon which to help build the revival of the UK economy. Consulting in industries dramatically impacted by lockdown such as aviation, travel and leisure has inevitably been paused but demand is still strong in other areas and firms have been heavily involved in a range of critical projects helping both the private and public sector during this crisis. Digital transformation, strengthening supply chains and cost reduction are all key priorities for businesses right now and the role our industry will play in rebuilding the economy will be more pivotal than ever.”

The report also revealed that members of the MCA support over 37,000 jobs across the UK with an estimated 74,000 working in the sector as a whole. There has been an increase in the number of graduates entering the profession, from 1,214 in 2018 to 2,216 in 2019, of which 1,568 were hired by large firms. Apprenticeships also play an increasingly important part in recruiting top young talent across the consulting sector with 1,188 trainees, apprentices and school leavers recruited by MCA members in 2019, double the number from the previous year.

CA Member Firms have been making huge efforts on diversity and inclusion with positive results being seen. The number of people with BAME backgrounds working in consulting increased from 20% to 22% in 2019 while the number of women consultants employed by the sector is now 49% up from 40% in 2018. A quarter of consultants (24%) have social mobility characteristics, up from 18% in 2018. However, as in 2018, the percentage of BAME employees at partner-level remains at 8%, suggesting that more progress needs to be made in ensuring that diversity and inclusion feeds through to the most senior positions in consultancy firms and opportunities for progression and development are accessible to all.

As a result of COVID-19, many firms are reassessing their travel needs and the office space required which will have an impact on the sector’s carbon footprint going forward. This follows a multitude of programmes already in place to improve sustainability. The MCA Annual Industry Report revealed that the vast majority of MCA members have reduced their plastic use (87%), implemented non-financial performance goals such as office recycling (76%) and introduced healthy workplace schemes such as cycle to work and fitness clubs (82%). Firms have achieved this through a range of projects including providing all staff with reusable water bottles and coffee cups, whilst some have even banned all plastic from their offices.

Tamzen Isacsson, Chief Executive, MCA, said:

“The proportion of women, people from BAME communities and from socially different backgrounds working in our sector continues to grow and member firms have adopted a number of initiatives to ensure that this positive trend continues. We continue to offer opportunities to a diverse range of talent, with the number of trainees and apprentices, school leavers and graduates taken on in 2019 roughly double that of 2018. Our industry knows we will only best serve our clients if we reflect society and we urge firms to continue the momentum and strive to ensure a diversity of talent is represented at all levels in the consulting industry.”

The MCA’s Annual Industry Report 2019 provides an unrivalled assessment of the performance of the leading consulting firms in the UK which are part of the trade body the Management Consultancies Association. The report examines fee income data provided by member firms over recent years to identify the size, diversity, and growth trajectory of consulting activity of MCA members, as well as the wider consulting industry. Market research agency Savanta, partnered with the MCA to collect and analyse industry data for the 2020 report.


Media Contact:

Caroline Florence ( 0207 645 7959)

Notes to Editors

The Management Consultancies Association (MCA):

The MCA is the representative body for the UK’s leading management consulting firms. For over 60 years, the MCA has been the voice of the consulting industry, promoting the value of consulting to business, the public sector, media commentators and the general public. The MCA’s mission is to promote the value of management consultancy for the economy and society as a whole. The MCA’s member companies comprise over 50% of the UK consulting industry work with over 90 of the top FTSE 100 companies and almost all parts of the public sector. The UK consulting industry is amongst the best in the world and a vital part of the business landscape. Click to see the full list of current MCA members see link.

Compliance with the MCA’s tough entry criteria and adherence to the principles of Consulting Excellence means that MCA member companies are widely acknowledged to provide high quality services to their clients. Many of their achievements are recognised in the annual MCA Awards.

The report findings are based on data collected from the MCA membership, and supported by expert commentary provided by leading consultants.


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