Australian power consulting list released with only one consultant

28 September 2023 3 min. read
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The AFR’s annual list of the country’s most powerful consultants has landed – with a twist; only one consultant makes an appearance. The remaining spots have been taken by those reshaping the industry.

Having already significantly disrupted the local consulting sector through its recent reporting on the PwC government tax leaks scandal, the Australian Financial Review has now turned to trolling the industry via its latest annual list of the country’s top five most powerful consultants – or in this instance, the most influential figures presently shaping the sector.

Notably, Accenture boss Peter Burns is the only actual consultant on this year’s power list.

Australian power consulting list released with only one consultant

Perhaps stung by the inclusion of axed PwC CEO Tom Seymour on last year’s list – alongside Burns, Deloitte chief Adam Powick, KPMG people & inclusion national managing partner Dorothy Hisgrove, and Boston Consulting Group pair Miguel Carrasco and Patrick Forth – the publication has this year subtly changed its list from ‘Australia’s most powerful consultants’ to “The most powerful people in the consulting sector”.

Thus, finance department secretary Jenny Wilkinson takes top spot, for ‘shadow’ suspending PwC from any further work in the wake of the tax affair and so then effectively forcing its hand in the firm’s public sector practice fire-sale to Allegro. That $1 offload has led to the formation of pure-play Scyne Advisory, and here, its first non-executive director and former Federal Court judge Andrew Greenwood has been given the fifth billing on the list.

Greenwood, who offered himself up for the role as probity, conflict and ethics subcommittee chair, has been tasked with vetting Scyne’s inaugural cohort of partners – numbering in excess of 120, along with approximately 1,500 staff – to ensure none of the PwC stain sticks to the new entity as it attempts to convince government figures of its own governance measures. If successful, Sycne could forever upend the foundations of the local consulting market.

Continuing the theme, the second and third spots went to Labor senator Deborah O’Neill and Greens’ counterpart Barbara Pocock, PwC’s chief public prosecutors, who are also busy pursuing the firm’s Big Four rivals and the consulting sector at large. Both have been relentless during a string of recent senate hearings, shining a brighter light on the industry’s inner-workings than ever before, and have so far expressed little patience for Scyne.

Admittedly a member of last year’s list (with his brief predecessor Tara Brady featuring in top spot the year prior), the AFR might not be entirely done with its trolling by selecting former PwC partner Peter Burns at number four as its only consultant on the 2023 starting line-up. Burns left his lead financial services role at Strategy& in 2021, and barely the six months later was appointed CEO of Accenture in Australia and New Zealand.

While noting his $2.5 million annual salary, the publication also gave other valid reasons for Burns being the only returnee to this year’s list, including having driven revenue up by 29 percent to almost $3 billion in the previous financial period, and possibly surpassing that growth figure in the most recent one. Also, the AFR contends that Burns is the only consulting boss not made to look foolish by O’Neill and Pocock during the recent public hearings.