x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Bain ready to ride high this year

Bain & Company expects to grow staff numbers in the Middle East during the year ahead as the consulting industry battles against 'consultant fatigue' and clients become more discriminating.

Luc Luyten, a managing partner at Bain and Company in the Middle East, says,
Luc Luyten, a managing partner at Bain and Company in the Middle East, says, "we grew in this region roughly at twice the speed of what I was used to". Antonie Robertson / The National

Bain & Company expects to grow staff numbers in the Middle East during the year ahead as the consulting industry battles against "consultant fatigue" and clients become more discriminating.

The global management consultancy, which counts the 2012 US presidential candidate Mitt Romney as an alumnus, is strengthening its presence in the Middle East with new hires.

But it comes as other firms scale back operations in the region and warn of an ennui among local companies when faced with the consultant's array of jargon-laden PowerPoint slides.

Those firms that were able to demonstrate real value to local companies would be able to prosper even as the industry consolidates, said Luc Luyten, the managing partner of Bain & Company in the Middle East, who is also a member of the advisory board at CVC Capital Partners, the private equity firm.

"This isn't a rape and pillage kind of market. It's a market where you stay and behave like any other developed market," he said.

Mr Luyten said he believes Bain & Company's strategy of highlighting the demonstrable benefits of its work should help it ride out the storm in the consultancy sector.

KPMG said last month that big accounting firms and consultancies were facing cost pressures in the Middle East as a result of an oversaturated market, and that it was scaling back some departments.

Mr Luyten estimates the premium consulting end of the market in which it operates as having a total size of about US$500 million (Dh1.83 billion) to $700m per year, and is growing at a steady rate of about 5 per cent.

"As clients become more discriminating and are more sophisticated in this purchasing process, quite frankly the poorer and the less-equipped consultancy firms will be pushed out," Mr Luyten said.

"You'll see the same degree of consolidation as you see in developed markets, and that should play in our favour."

The firm intends to continue hiring even as others retrench.

"We're growing," he said. "We grew in this region roughly at twice the speed at what I was used to ... We've hired for growth and we've hired for churn."

The firm's Dubai office has grown to 100 staff within six years - equivalent in size to its Amsterdam and Brussels office, which took almost two decades to reach that size.

Bain has hired about 20 to 25 consultants every year, and expects to hire around the same number this year.

The firm had to ensure for its clients that use of a consultancy firm does not become a "crutch" that a company feels dependent upon, Mr Luyten said.

"Consultancy fatigue arises when clients feel that they don't receive value for money," he said.

"Our business is all about reputation," he added. "A person could rip you off once, but never again."

 

ghunter@thenational.ae