Article by Edmun Tadros
Professional Services Editor
Management Consultants will struggle to land new roles until Easter next year, but accounting, tax, audit and cyber experts continue to be sought after by major consulting firms, according to recruiters.
The mixed employment market, caused by a widespread slowdown in public and private sector demand for management consultants, has already led to big four firms Deloitte, EY, KPMG, and PwC as well as Accenture, taking various measures to reduce or defer costs.
So far, only KPMG and Deloitte have made job cuts, but is likely other firms will follow suit if the downturn continues, as expected, into next year.
While the big four are looking to hire for in-demand areas, recruiters note there are fewer pay bumps and sign -on bonuses on offer compared with the bumper COVID-19 and post pandemic period when professionals were suddenly in short supply.
The fall in demand for general advisory services was evident from the start of the year, said Brook Coxon, co-found and director of specialist recruitment business Lemon Talent.
“It normally starts again in February after summer, but it was clear it was going to be slower this year,” said Mr. Coxon, who specialises in placing strategy and operations consultants.
“The news with PwC in May and the Labor government trying to cut down on consulting hasn’t helped, either.”
Big four consulting partners were not expecting demand to pick up again this year.
“They tell me it’s not going to pick up before the end of the year; they don’t think it’ll pick up until Easter.” Mr Coxon said.
Demand for general management consultants, strategy consultants, and operations consultants had all dropped off, he said. But there was still strong demand for risk advisory consultants, thanks in part to ongoing remediation programs at the large banks, and for cybersecurity experts and those verse in financial crime topics like anti-money laundering.
His advice for anyone within the large consulting firms wanting to get out was to consider looking to smaller firms or moving into an industry role.
“You’re unlikely to land a job at one of the bigger consulting firms, but maybe look at one of the smaller firms. Or consider industry or contracting roles if you really want to get out,” he said.
Thomas Patroni practice lead at Sustain Recruit, agreed that auditors were in demand, while there had been a drop-off in demand for technology consultants.
“In my interactios with various firms, it is evident that auditors are presently experiencing a heightened demand, a trend that is particularly pronounced within the big for firms.” Mr Patroni said.
Decreased demand for technology advisers meant salaries in tha area were either steady or going down compared with the COVID-19 and post-pandemic boom across the sector.
“This predicament has led many firms to recalibrate their salary offerings downward compared to the corresponding period last year,” he said.
The shifting market had led to consultants contracting recruiters in their search for an exit plan, said Ilan Leshetz, who specialises in placing strategy and transformation consultants.
“Across the board, consulting firms are not selling as much as they were during COVID and in the good days after COVID, the first six months or so,” said Mr. Leshetz, a partner and co-founder of Oaktree Talent Group.
“The big firms – the big four and Accenture – are heavy cost-base businesses. When people are on the bench, that costs millions. We’ve definitely seen an uptick in approaches from people in the firms.”
The reason for wanting to leave varied by the level of the candidate.
“At the more senior end, it’s contemplating about whether they want to become sales partners but they like delivery. At the junior end, there are specific diving-off points where your market value and opportunities are attractive,” Mr. Leshetz said.
“For example, for a manager at Accenture, there’s an abudnance of opportunities for them to leave at the level and at a price that is attractive to them and reasonable for other employers.”
A manager at Accenture will earn at least $140,000 according to the latest publicly available figures from 2022-23 while a senior manager can expect to earn from $175,000.
But Mr. Leshetz warned that companies are typically picky about hiring from the big four and Accenture.
“There’s such a variability in capability from the big four and Accenture that it’s hard for clients to know who to pick. So they can take longer to decide,” he said.
The candidates need to have both likeability and technical competence. You need the balance.
“They got to be personable, likeable, affable, as well as [have] technical [skills], They also need [to] be regarded internally as top 10 percent in their cohort.”