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26 April, 2021 - 14:20 By Tony Quested

PA Consulting basks in record-breaking year

Innovation hothouse PA Consulting has reported a record breaking financial performance for the year to December 2020.

It has also added expertise to its senior teams and won glowing plaudits from a huge number of satisfied customers. And all despite the sobering backdrop of the Covid pandemic.

PA, which has an operation in Melbourn near Cambridge, generated fee income of £559 million, with 12 per cent YOY growth, recruited a record 36 new partners into the firm, acquired two US firms to expand its design and technology capability and achieved an outstanding client satisfaction score, with 96 per cent saying they would recommend PA.

It is an all-round remarkable performance, especially as the company introduced Ken Toombs as CEO to replace Alan Middleton who had held the role for 13 years. And, as we previously reported, in December PA unveiled Wall Street-quoted Jacobs as its new investor, bringing a successful five-year investment period with The Carlyle Group to a close. 

Adjusted EBITDA more than doubled over the period of Carlyle’s investment, which saw compound annual revenue growth of 12 per cent since 2016. The Jacobs transaction valued PA at £1.825 billion – reflecting the strength of PA’s offer and market position.  

PA says its proudest achievement in 2020 was the success of the UK Ventilator Challenge, in answer to the call from the UK Government at the start of the coronavirus pandemic. 

PA’s engineers, scientists and government experts brought together the public and private sectors’ skills and oversaw a detailed plan to design, approve, test and manufacture lifesaving ventilators at speed. The result was that everyone in the UK who needed a ventilator got one.

The US acquisitions were Astro Studios, a San Francisco-based company bringing world-class experience of creating new brands and user-centred designs; and Cooper Perkins, a company with co-headquarters in Boston and San Francisco bringing exceptional technology development and engineering skills to PA’s offering.

PA also accelerated its efforts to shape a more inclusive firm and to create a culture that supports diversity in all its forms. PA’s employee networks – BAME, Mental Health and Wellbeing, PRIDE, and Women – led the charge celebrating diversity and raising awareness of important issues. 

PA offered Race Allyship training to everyone in PA, and the board committed to increasing black representation in the leadership of the firm, building an enlightened team where black colleagues can thrive and partnering with like-minded organisations to deliver societal reform that benefits black lives. 

For PA’s client PulPac, which is replacing single-use plastics with a breakthrough dry moulded fibre technology, finding different ways to empower people to innovate was vital to continuing the development of its sustainable alternative to plastic packaging through the pandemic. 

Rather than let travel restrictions halt this world-changing work, PA enabled teams in Sweden and the UK to keep collaborating through digital capabilities, including replicating PulPac’s cutting-edge technology at PA’s Global Innovation and Technology Centre in Cambridge UK. 

PA also advised organisations of all sizes and sectors on how to be more sustainable by applying circular business models. Companies ranging from SMEs to big global players have adopted the approach outlined in PA’s Circular Business Model Design Guide, as a blueprint to help shape business models that create, deliver and capture value in ways that also benefit society and the environment.

PA helped Californian utility company San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E) become more adaptable through an artificial intelligence-based system called iPredict. 

The system forecasts likely power outages days, or even weeks, in advance, enabling SDG&E to adapt and plan repairs - saving money and creating a more reliable and robust network.

PA-led Argenti Care Technology Partnership (Argenti), and Hampshire County Council, launched the first-ever collaborative robots - or cobots - in the UK care sector in 2020. 

PA’s experts were keen to explore how cobots could help with the physical demands, such as lifting and moving an individual, faced by care sector staff. Following successful trials of the cobots in February, the technology was scaled up and adapted in response to the COVID-19 crisis, which put increased demands on an already under pressure workforce. 

As economies recover from COVID-19 and customer demands change, leaders are seeking to understand what the future will hold. To this end, PA developed a FutureWorlds™ scenario planning methodology to help leaders anticipate the future and set their strategic direction. 

The effectiveness of such foresight work was demonstrated when PA partnered with The Economist to survey 200 business leaders, examining their responses to the 2008 financial crisis. Those who made scenario planning a priority had a total shareholder return of nine percentage points higher than those who didn’t.

PA worked with Guide Beauty, a makeup company reinventing makeup application following its founder’s Parkinson’s disease diagnosis. Professional makeup artist and educator, Terri Bryant, realised that redesigning makeup applicators could help her and millions of others suffering from limited mobility. The team helped her design and develop award-winning, ergonomic tools for everyone.

Ken Toombs says: “The challenges of 2020 confronted organisations with their kryptonite: uncertainty. Yet, they also made them tap into their superpower: ingenuity. We’ve been bringing ingenuity to life with organisations worldwide, helping them reinvent what they do and how they do it.

“Our strong financial performance in this extraordinary year is down to the phenomenal efforts of our people who, despite the challenges, delivered great work to a high standard with 96 per cent of our clients saying they would recommend us. 

“Not only have we maintained our exacting standards in our work, we’ve also been growing our firm to ensure we can meet our clients’ needs; welcoming a record number of new partners, acquiring two award-winning teams, and embarking on a relationship with a new investor. 

“As we look to the future, the private-equity style investment by Jacobs only further strengthens our unique end-to-end offering and ability to help our clients achieve enduring results.”

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