The US consulting market performed well in 2018 (up 8.5% to US$68.5bn) partly thanks to strong growth in the huge financial services consulting market, which expanded 9.8%.

Banking was the standout industry in the financial services sector, helped by a rise in interest rates and a reduction in corporate tax that has eased budget pressures on banks, helping to fund their investment agenda.

Much of the growth in the US consulting market was also driven by the increasing penetration of digital solutions across all sectors. In 2018, digital work accounted for nearly half of all consulting work in the US market compared to around 40% of work the year before. Energy & resources is the sector with the highest proportion of digital work.

This data is published today in New York in a new report, The US Consulting Market in 2019, by Source Global Research, the leading research and strategy firm for the global professional services industry. The report also reveals that M&A activity among banks is becoming a major driver of demand following years of limited activity.

B.J. Richards, Senior Editor at Source Global Research, said:

“With over 5,600 smaller and medium-sized banks in the US, there is huge scope for consolidation, and a number of changes have come together of late to encourage this, including improved profitability, shareholder interest in new ways to boost returns, and the federal government's more favourable attitude toward consolidation.

This is creating opportunities for consulting firms of all stripes, in due diligence, strategy development, and post-merger integration work.”

Strategy firms at the front of the queue for M&A work
The surge in M&A activity combined with work around reshaping the customer interface and developing strategies around new technology helped strategy firms in the US perform strongly in 2018.

Robert Rourke, Managing Director and President of the Americas at L.E.K. Consulting, said: “The M&A market was white-hot. Cheap credit terms and high valuations meant that a lot of good companies were going through a sales process.”

The performance of strategy firms was only surpassed by technology firms, which achieved the best performance in 2018—driven by a strong client interest in new technology, data & analytics, and legacy technology upgrades. Accounting firms (largely the Big Four)—by far the largest group in the US—continue to get even bigger, achieving growth of 9% in 2018, largely thanks to their ability to offer end-to-end support.

The Source report also found that consultants in the US saw growth across all service lines in 2018. Technology remained the fastest-growing service amid continued demand for support with digitisation and upgrading legacy technology.

B.J. Richards at Source Global Research added:

“The US remains arguably the most digitally sophisticated market on the planet in 2019, and the share of consulting work that can be described as digital continues to grow at an impressive pace. While we’re still hearing tales of laggards who are just beginning digital uptake, more common are reports of clients who have already made substantial investments and are now thinking even bigger, moving away from discrete, siloed initiatives and toward wholesale, cross-function digital transformation.”

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