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Shortage of Brexit consultants will hit business hard - Source

skills gap

A "woeful" shortage of Brexit consultants will cripple British business in the lead-up to leaving the EU, according to new research.

  • Big Four firms have the most Brexit experts--but are unlikely to meet the demand
  • Without consultants, UK companies will struggle to adapt to post-Brexit world

The report from Source Global Research, the leading research and strategy firm for the global management consulting industry, found that less than 1% of the consultants (just 328) from the top 20 UK firms by revenue are dedicated Brexit specialists.

The report says that with the March 29th 2019 departure date fast approaching, the Brexit contingency planning to date will have to quickly shift gear as clients kick off a variety of projects aimed at making necessary changes--to location, restructuring supply chains and operations, managing talent issues, or dealing with relationships with customers.

However, while consulting firms could benefit from this flood of work, Source's research shows that these firms are just as unprepared as clients are to respond to the huge impact on businesses--whatever the final Brexit deal will be.

Fiona Czerniawska, director of Source Global Research, said: "The shortage of Brexit specialists is not just an issue for those consulting firms in danger of missing out on an opportunity; the bigger issue is for UK businesses in general. Most large organisations only have the resources needed to deal with their existing workload, and therefore rely on consultants to deal with the unexpected. Without consultants with the right expertise to support them, there is a real danger that UK companies will struggle to address the complex and wide-ranging challenges of Brexit."

Source's research also reveals that the vast majority (85%) of Brexit specialists in the UK's consulting industry work at accounting firms--a category that includes the Big Four. This is partly because these firms have undertaken recruitment drives to bolster expertise in critical areas such as regulatory compliance and international trade. Of the Big Four, Source found that EY and KPMG are most strongly positioned for Brexit-related work, with the largest proportion of Brexit specialists.

However, while the Big Four firms are set to benefit most from Brexit because of their cross-disciplinary expertise and strong presence in financial services, Source's report warns that even they will not be able to meet the expected volume of demand--particularly from the financial services sector.

Elsewhere, the volume of consulting work arising from manufacturing clients is expected to be considerable, but there are fewer than 20 manufacturing Brexit specialists in the UK, and other sectors appear to have no Brexit specialists whatsoever focused on their specific issues.

Fiona Czerniawska added: "Despite doing relatively more than other types of firms, accounting firms could be working harder to develop dedicated Brexit specialists who understand not only this topic but how it interacts with other issues clients are facing. Doing so will increase the chances of firms getting a seat at the table when senior executive conversations about how to respond to the impact of Brexit are going on, which will place them front of mind for future initiatives.

"Such an opportunity is too big to miss. The critical success factor here is being able to advise clients on the impact of Brexit in the broader context of their industry and providing unique insights."

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