The Way Ahead for Clients of Professional Services Firms
Based partly on discussions with leaders of professional services firms, this chapter reviews what Clients can expect of enlightened firms: consolidation of the sector, market development, competition regulation and technological advances, The impact of globalisation. The growth of digitised content marketing. The impact on Clients of a well-managed firm.
• What is happening in your sector?
• How can you leverage the latest technology?
• Where should you focus your Client and firm development?
The Enlightened Firm
The enlightened firm may exhibit many of the following characteristics:
• Highly engaged people that make a difference to Client relationships.
• High use of mobile technology, providing a rapid response capability.
• Client-friendly processes.
• Paperless business transactions.
• Shared databases with Clients.
• Online secure portals for Clients.
• 24/7 access for Clients.
• Accountancy and law firm partnerships.
• Integrated marketing, business development and PR utilising social media channels.
• Secondments between a firms and its Clients.
• Automated processes, such as auditing, purchasing and tax computations.
• Programmes supporting the wellbeing of employees.
• Services development with Clients.
• Development in emerging economies.
THE CHALLENGES IN ESTABLISHING EFFECTIVE CLIENT MANAGEMENT
'On-going and effective Client management can only be achieved if the Client management teams remain sensitive to the changing pressures being experienced by their Clients, adopting a pro-active approach to Client service. For example, in an economic downturn, Clients' requirements rapidly change. Funding becomes a key concern alongside cost cutting measures to reduce overheads, rapidly followed by the first rounds of redundancies and restructurings, triggering a requirement for debt capital, refinancing and employment advice amongst other things. Anticipating Client requirements is the key to providing effective Client management and exceptional Client service. Sharing knowledge and best practice amongst industry professionals and offering Clients innovative, efficient and pro-active support will deepen relationships and carry them through a difficult period.'
Ashley Nicholls, Founder, The Recruitment Site Limited
As already mentioned in Chapter 13, there is considerable appetite among professional services firms for mergers and acquisitions enabling them to grow their operations. Consolidation is particularly prevalent in larger accounting firms wishing to grow their member networks and mid-sized law firms, especially those aiming to fill regional gaps in coverage of their services.
Occasionally, cross-sector mergers occur. An interesting recent, innovative development was the merger in 2010 between real estate firm Drivers Jonas and business advisers Deloitte. The merger created one of the largest real estate businesses in Europe, with a group of around 700 partners and staff. In what was a new model in the real estate advisory market, the merger has revolutionised how property services are provided and has significantly differentiated the resultant offering from competitors. What is really interesting is the dual impacts created by the merger of two strong brands. For the two firms, the merger enhanced their market power and for their joint Clients launched an enhanced, differentiated offering.
Market Development Impact on Clients in Emerging Markets
Many professional services firms have enlarged their global presence and revenues by attracting and recruiting new members to their networks. Historically these have occurred in the developed economies. More recently, such firms have begun to investigate opportunities in the two groups of emerging economies, known as 'BRIC and 'MINT'. These acronyms were coined by British economist Terence James (Jim) O'Neill, previously Chairman of Goldman Sachs Asset Management. 'BRIC stands for Brazil, Russia, India and China, which were cited by Jim O'Neill around 14 years ago as the fastest growing economies. These slowed from high double-digit growth at the turn of the century to single-digit growth more recently. In 2013 the 'MINT' group - Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey - have been put forward by O'Neill as the next fastest growing group, each with double-digit growth. So it makes sense for the more enlightened firms to seek partnerships and joint ventures in these emerging economies.
Clearly firms have to weigh the opportunities and risks offered by these emerging economies. There is plenty of evidence of corruption and poor human rights in many of these countries; however, all have growing middle-income groups and Clients looking for advice from established firms. Such Clients could become the global Clients of the future.