• Consulting in Saudi Arabia expected to return to double digit growth in 2018 – the first time for three years

• Governments across the GCC increase spending on consultants to prepare for post-oil era.

Consulting work around the National Transformation Program (NTP) has helped Saudi Arabia’s consulting market grow 8.3 per cent to US$1.29billion in 2017 from US$1.19billion[1] the previous year. Growth in Saudi Arabia, the GCC’s largest consulting market, will also continue to pick up speed in 2018, with a double-digit growth rate (+10 per cent) returning for the first time in three years[2].

Across the GCC, the consulting market grew by 7.2 per cent to reach a value of $2.8billion in 2017 from US$2.6billion the previous year. While the growth rate remained below pre-oil-price-crash levels, many consultants indicated that 2017 was their best year for some time across the region. The market for consultants in the UAE also picked up – expanding 7.6 per cent to US$791million.

The public sector – which accounts for nearly a third of the GCC consulting market – grew by 7.3 per cent as governments looked to consultants for support in their public service reform programmes. These figures are published today (15th March 2018) in a new report from Source Global Research, the leading research and strategy firm for the global management consulting industry. The Source report says that Neom is just one of the significant economic diversification projects that creates enormous potential for constructors and consultants alike.

Edward Haigh, a director at Source Global Research, said:

“It’s hard to overstate the importance of Saudi Arabia to the health of the GCC consulting market, and it’s similarly hard to overstate the importance of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. In no other major consulting market does so much rest on one man.

Indeed, the urgency with which MBS appears to be setting out his reform programme has allowed the consulting market to maintain and even increase its momentum.”

Kushal Shah, Partner at Roland Berger, added:

“The number of government programmes supporting the National Transformation Program 2030 is massive. Government entities are under pressure to deliver fast. There are aggressive deadlines, and consultants are helping them to achieve those goals.”

The Source report also found that consulting revenues grew fastest in the healthcare & pharma sector at 11.1 per cent, and this rapid growth is expected to continue in 2018, as Governments across the GCC look for consulting support as they progress with plans to outsource more healthcare facilities. The introduction of new regulations and licencing procedures is also expected to generate more work for consultants.

From a service line perspective, technology was both the largest and the fastest-growing in 2017, as digital started to play a more prominent role. Risk & regulatory was the second-fastest growing service line, with the growing prominence of digital bringing cybersecurity into greater focus and domestic policy reforms disrupting every sector.

The Source report also found that Saudi Arabia’s transformation has brought with it a greater recognition for women in business and allowed them to travel more freely.

Kushal Shah, Partner at Roland Berger explains:

“Change in Saudi Arabia is so visible. In less than a year, I’ve seen a big change. Women clients are shaking hands comfortably with men. The transformation in Saudi Arabia means that female consultants can travel more easily and more comfortably in a more agreeable climate.”

Tom O’Byrne, Director Market Development & Client Services at Towers Watson agrees:

“Women are being recognised as skilled, capable, and relevant, and that has not necessarily been articulated in the way it has been in the last few years.”

The Source report points out that the GCC consulting market remains volatile, and this volatility was particularly prominent in 2017, with consultants and clients suggesting it was the most unpredictable year since the uprisings of 2011. In response to the ongoing volatility in the market, consulting firms worked to diversify their portfolios to take advantage of the growing private sector as those clients adjusted to a rapidly changing market.

Edward Haigh concluded:

“While there is certainly more optimism for 2018, concerns still remain. Pressure on both prices and talent are expected to increase as consulting firms expand the portfolio of services they offer in an effort to compete not just for strategy work, but for implementation work as well.”

For more information on Source reports contact ella-sian.jolley@sourceglobalresearch.com or telephone +44 (0)20 3478 1204 or visit www.sourceglobalresearch.com

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