• Consulting sector grew 23% in 2022 with a further increase of 13% expected in 2023 as clients turn to management consultants for their expertise in digital technology, AI and business transformation
  • Global clients continue to turn to the UK’s leading sector for expert advice with over £5.6 bn of services exported overall
  • Number of MCA member firms collecting diversity and inclusion data improves while there are advances in the number of female partners (28%) and/or identifying as coming from a non-white background (17%) however, more to be done in a number of areas
  • Increase of 35% of graduates joining the profession as well as 11% more trainees, school-leavers and apprentices as firms increase headcount by 16% to help meet client demand

The consulting sector in the UK is expected to grow this year following record growth of 23% in 2022. The latest research from the Management Consultancies Association (MCA) also revealed an increase in headcount and more graduates, trainees and apprentices joining the profession from across the country. The MCA Annual Industry Report 2023, conducted with the independent research firm Savanta, showed strong growth by MCA member firms as clients turn to management consultants during uncertain times. Industry leaders in the sector also expect this double-digit growth to continue in 2023 with a forecast of 13% increase in services. Overall, the UK total management consultancy fee income for last year was £18.6bn in 2022, compared to £14.4bn in 2021 and £12.5bn in 2020, reflecting the 4.5% growth in 2020 and 18% in 2021. Firms of all sizes experienced an increase led by medium sized firms (26%), followed by large (23%) and small (19%) as both the private and public sector used the services of consultants to help drive digital transformation, transform operations and put in place plans for meeting sustainability targets.

Contributing to this success is the increased use of UK consulting firms by clients from across the globe. The uplift in the exporting of services, first seen during the pandemic, has continued as 31% of UK fee income now comes from overseas, bringing in an extra £1.4bn in consulting services per year. Fee income from Europe has seen a significant increase (15%, up from 6% in 2021) while the majority of income beyond Europe comes from North America (9%) and Asia Pacific (3%). Popular markets include the US, Saudi Arabia and UAE as well as China, Singapore, Canada and Australia. Businesses are not seeing the absence of a UK base or link as a barrier and are turning to the expertise and experience of the sector to help.

Tamzen Isacsson, MCA Chief Executive, said: 

“Over the next few years, we expect our industry to experience double digit growth assisting clients with some of their greatest challenges during a period of significant global disruption from seizing the advantages of working with new technologies, to making real impacts on confronting climate change.

The UK consulting sector is forecast to increase in size by around 13% in 2023 while the number of people we employ has jumped by 16% with 35% more graduates and 11% more school leavers and apprentices joining our industry. Part of that growth is because our profession is widening the services we offer to clients, increasingly in the digital space with more demands placed on us by firms from tackling cybersecurity threats to providing critical support on adopting artificial intelligence. Our responsibility on AI will be helping our clients with the appropriate use of this technology managing data and confidentiality and upholding the highest ethical standards and integrity so that we can help society deploy this emerging and powerful technology.”

Nusrat Ghani MP, Minister for Industry and Investment Security, added

“It is great to see the continued strength and growth of the vibrant UK consulting sector. Growing demand in areas such as digital transformation and sustainability advice is creating thousands of new jobs across the UK, including opportunities for school leavers and young apprentices, advancing the latest technologies and helping grow the economy.”

Consulting in Financial Services and Government and Public Sector remain the largest areas as they have been for many years. Manufacturing (43%), Infrastructure (36%) and Retail and Leisure (28%) sectors saw the largest growth in 2022 and were all sectors that were significantly impacted by the pandemic. Digital and technology consulting and programme and project management continue to be the two largest services for businesses as they look to re-evaluate their strategies, including procurement and plan for the future. Especially pertinent is the impact of AI as rapid technological progress impacts on both clients and consulting firms themselves. This is in addition to the increasing component of sustainability across all service lines as businesses look to achieve their green goals.

This demand from clients has understandably led to a requirement for more staff across firms of all sizes. Overall, there has been a 16% increase in headcount with medium sized firms in particular hiring more employees from across the UK. One in three (35%) of consultancy jobs were created outside London, with the North West and South West having the highest proportion of staff based in regional offices while Manchester, Leeds, Bristol and Edinburgh were the most common locations. Hybrid working continues to evolve with each consultant spending on average two days in the office or two days client site – but there are vast differences across different client sectors.

Due to hybrid-working and as part of this increased headcount, MCA member firms hired 2,809 graduates and 795 trainees, school-leavers and apprentices in 2022, a 35% and 11% increase respectively from 2021.The opening up of the talent pool is positive news and coincides with more experienced professionals also joining the consulting sector after careers in the private sector.

More firms than ever are collecting diversity and inclusion statistics to help ensure that their workforce reflects the clients and society that they serve. Although the overall gender split has been declining, at partner level, there were 28% identifying as women compared to 21% in 2019 showing gradual progress but at least in the right direction. 29% of consultants come from a minority ethnic background while at partner level, 17% identify as coming from a non-white background, an 8% increase since 2021.  There continues to be under representation though on the number of partners and senior leaders identifying as Black African, Caribbean or Black British.

Tamzen Isacsson, MCA Chief Executive, added: 

“It is encouraging to see that more member firms than ever before are tracking their data and analysing their progress on diversity and inclusion however the results show we have more to do. We are making some progress in some areas and in others we are not. As a growing sector, bringing in tens of thousands of people each year into our industry we have a huge opportunity to move the dial now on diversity and inclusion.”

The MCA’s Annual Industry Report 2023 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. Independent market research agency Savanta, partnered with the MCA to collect and analyse industry data for the 2023 report.