Does Strategy& have a senior attrition issue in Australia?

19 December 2022 Consultancy.com.au 4 min. read
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The Australian arm of global strategy consultancy Strategy& has in recent times leaked a wealth of senior leadership experience. Is PwC’s local marketing approach lessening the firm’s allure?

With a heritage dating back more than a century via Booz Allen Hamilton and offspring Booz & Company, the latter rebranded soon after its purchase in 2014, Strategy& is one of the world’s most respected strategy consulting firms.

The firm holds a top ten ranking for strategy consulting on Consultancy.org, yet locally the Strategy& brand remains somewhat hidden in PwC’s shadow, with less prestige than bigger players such as McKinsey & Company, Boston Consulting Group, and Bain & Company (known as the ‘MBB’).

Does Strategy& have an attrition issue in Australia?

Booz & Co. had an Australian headcount of approximately 300 consultants at the time of PwC’s takeover, generating around $80 million in annual revenues way back in 2013.

The question is, does a deficit of brand-building since the merger and a closer local integration with PwC account to some degree for the apparent issues Strategy& has had over the past two years in retaining senior staff, or does the firm just need an intern to update its webpage?

It may be a combination of both, or probably a whole host of other factors, but the firm’s recent leadership attrition rate has become striking. In the latest loss, it was announced last week that former partner Julian Ballard had jumped ship to Monitor Deloitte after spending the last decade at Strategy&. It’s not particularly unusual for Big Four partners to cross to rivals, but of course they have far bigger partnerships than even a leading strategy firm.

Suzanne Lyman, a former Strategy& managing director who joined the Melbourne office in 2014 from Booz & Company in the US, departed earlier this year, and now serves as a partner in McKinsey’s San Francisco office. She remains listed as the firm’s managing director on its webpage, alongside the portraits of many other departed leaders. Put most simply, at least half of the 20 senior leaders featured have left since the start of the year.

They include former partners Ashish Sharma, Damien Angus and Alex Acworth, who joined the respective leadership teams of Oliver Wyman, Bain & Company, and Accenture. Meanwhile, still listed directors Ryan Kelly (Oliver Wyman), Tom Novak (Kearney) Robert Ewin (Nous) and Irmke Bonte (SVA) have also departed for other consultancies over the past six months, after spending between five and fourteen years at the firm. 

That list however dates back to just the start of the year, the last time the page seems to have been updated. The departures with the biggest ramifications for the Australian consulting industry occurred last year, when Anthony James and Peter Burns defected to Accenture, the latter named as the firm’s new CEO not long after. Former Strategy& managing director Ben Gilbertson then joined the pair earlier this year.

Globally, there was talk of friction at the time of Booz & Company’s integration and widely panned Strategy& rebrand, its consultants supposedly seeing themselves as more professionally esteemed.

In the Middle East for example, a Booz & Company stronghold, that sentiment indeed led to a wave of departures. But PwC has since focused on supporting and strengthening the Strategy& brand and rebuilt it into a regional powerhouse. According to Consultancy.org’s latest strategy ranking for the region, Strategy&’s reputation in the region is in fact on par with the MBB.