The GCC consulting market passed $3bn in revenues for the first time in 2018 - growing at an impressive 9.1% - largely driven by an uptick in demand in Saudi Arabia (up 12.1% to US$1.4bn in 2018).
In addition to the strong demand for consulting support for Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 initiative, clients in the UAE continue to generate good levels of demand for consulting services.
This data is published in a new report by Source Global Research, the leading research and strategy firm for the global professional services industry. Source says that this positive picture is set to continue in 2019. With the economic diversification agenda expected to remain, and digitisation work to increase, the GCC region is expected to record its first year of double-digit growth for five years.
The report also found that healthcare & pharma was the fastest growing sector for consultants, closely followed by the services sector. Risk & regulatory work was the fastest growing service line amid a raft of regulatory changes and a growing emphasis on corporate risk.
Zoë Stumpf, Head of Market Trends at Source Global Research, said:
“Though the news in the GCC consulting market is overwhelmingly positive, there are a number of headwinds with the potential to impact growth. For instance, the impact that recent international censure has had on foreign investments and the fluctuating price of oil are sources of concern for some consultants.
Firms are also challenged by the fact that this remains a difficult market to serve. While clients are becoming more specific and value-driven in what they want from consulting partners, many firms remain frustrated at the difficulties of getting paid on time, especially in Saudi Arabia.”
The Source report also found that while GCC clients have been somewhat slow to embrace digital, consulting firms are working hard to make the most of new technologies within their own businesses. Firms are pursuing digital transformation to generate efficiencies, provide better technology-based solutions, and develop use cases that will convince clients that they need to take the digital plunge.
While there is undoubtedly more digital work on offer now than there was a year ago for the GCC’s consultants, progress has been slower than expected. However, digital forms a core part of much of the diversification activity across the GCC, and governments across the region are looking to digitise services, with initiatives at various stages of maturity.
Rafael Lemaitre, a Partner at Sia Partners added:
“The UAE is a sophisticated market for digital transformation, artificial intelligence, or Industry 4.0. We are beginning to have these conversations with the government. We will probably see these services in Dubai first and then across the region.”
The Source report also reveals that Type A firms, which are dominated by the Big Four accountancy/advisory firms, continued to be the GCC’s biggest earners (US$1bn in revenues in 2018). These firms also saw the strongest growth, as their global reach and ability to bring in top talent from across their international operations helped them to maintain their hold on over a third of the GCC’s consulting revenues.
Zoë Stumpf from Source added:
“2019 should prove to be another good year for Type A firms. While ongoing convergence will see growing competition from the big technology and strategy firms, and smaller local firms continue to carve out their own niche in the market, we still expect Type A firms to see the strongest growth and remain at the top of the market.”
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