Young management consultants from the UKs leading consultancy firms recently took part in a debate on the future of the consulting industry. The event, titled ‘Consulting 2025’, also celebrated the 10th anniversary of the Young MCA, a network of the Management Consultancies Association (MCA) for those who are in the first five years of their consulting career.

An expert panel answered questions on the topic of ‘Consulting 2025’ from over 200 young consultants and senior industry professionals. The panel consisted of Nadun Muthukumarana (Partner at Deloitte), Madeline Lewis (Director at KPMG), Des O’Connor (ex-Young MCA Chair and consultant at Mott MacDonald) and Lisa Unwin (Founder of She’s Back).

The panel concluded that today’s young consultant would play a crucial role in defining the future of the industry.

Opportunities & Threats

Future advances in technology was recognised by both the panel and the audience to be the biggest opportunity for the consulting industry over the next ten years. Panellists highlighted how technology is being permeated across consulting businesses, both in terms of providing for clients and for internal communications and processes. They also stated that it was up to today’s young consultant to understand the opportunities that new technological trends can bring.  Madeline Lewis in particular highlighted the rise on automation in driving forward business, but also warned of its threats: ‘We are at risk at automating ourselves out of a job by eliminating transactional consulting’.

70% of the audience recognised the rise of technology companies to be a key threat to the consulting industry, while panellists also spoke of the dangers of new trends in contracting methods, a smaller public sector and a higher level of self-sufficiency of clients.

Future Skills

Lisa Unwin stressed that emotional intelligence will continue to remain a defining skill for young consultants. This was also echoed in an audience poll, with 53% selecting soft skills when asked what consulting capabilities will be most crucial in 2025.

However, Nadun Muthukumarana, Partner at Deloitte, warned of the need for future consultants to have a developed technical aptitude: ‘Not enough consultants are being produced with the technical skills to fulfil the demand we see in the market. We are having to look outside the UK to meet the demand’.

Des O’Connor, consultant at Mott MacDonald, also emphasised the importance of young consultants building their own personal brand. ‘It’s not just what you know; it’s also who you know. Building relationships early in your career can really help you later down the line.’

Gender & Diversity

The audience recognised a greater awareness and focus on the issues of gender and diversity in the consulting industry, with the majority rating their company’s own track record in the area as four stars or above.

Nadun Muthukumarana argued that the success in tackling these issues is partly due to an approach which engages the whole of the workforce on the topic instead of just looking at minorities.

Madeline Lewis noted that to see real progress in this area, action needs to come from today’s young leaders in choosing diverse teams.

Work/Life Balance

An audience poll recognised that consultancy can struggle to provide employees with a satisfactory work/life balance, with 60% disagreeing with the statement that ‘consulting provides a good work/life balance’.

Lisa Unwin argued that the work/life balance in consulting hadn’t improved significantly over the last 30 years.  She added that ‘The philosophy has to change because it will drive out great talent and the best won’t flourish’

Nadun Muthukumarana believed that the key to gaining a good work/life balance was to firstly understand what you are comfortable with and then make a direct effort to manage your own time.  Madeline Lewis recommended aligning internal work to client work so as to optimise contribution and balance while Des O’Connor felt gaining the trust of clients was essential.

10 years of growth and achievement

The event also looked backed at the recent growth of the Young MCA, with a presentation from current chair Jer Lau (PwC), and founding chair Sylvain Naltchayan (now of Hay Group). Over the last ten years the network has grown to include over 2,000 consultants. During this time its activities have expanded from traditional skills, insight and networking events to include the publishing of reports and articles, CSR work with businesses and schools, and presentations on consulting as a career at Universities and Business Schools.

Alan Leaman, CEO of the MCA, closed the event by toasting the network’s achievements. He told the Young MCA: “You can play a vital part in shaping the future not just of your own career but of the industry and profession in which we are all proud to work”. He added: “Each generation of Young MCA leaders has developed the vision. The result is the roaring success that you see around you today.”

Former-chairs and other Alumni of the Young MCA also attended the event.

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