Benefiting from a Scottish Accenture

MANAGEMENT consultancy Accenture’s Edinburgh office, which opened just eight months ago, is going from strength to strength, according to boss Bruce Jennings, who has worked in the city for 15 years.

The new operation, located in the Capital’s sprawling Edinburgh Park, was opened with the aim of creating a financial services hub for the global company in Scotland.

Mr Jennings, who has previously worked for professional services heavyweights Ernst & Young and KPMG, explains that the financial services industry in the Capital is thriving and hints that headcount at the Edinburgh office is set to grow.

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He adds that Accenture is expecting to grow its Scottish business, driven by contracts with Royal Bank of Scotland and HBoS. However, he warns that the sector will also need to keep its eye on the ball so as not to lose out to global competition.

"Strategically, Scotland is more and more important to us and we are looking to build a strong team in Edinburgh," Mr Jennings says, adding that the RBS/NatWest and Bank of Scotland/Halifax mergers have been "fantastic for Scotland in raising its profile as a financial centre".

He thinks that Edinburgh is fortunate to have two massive banks headquartered here and says that while the 1980s and 1990s saw the loss of many Scottish headquartered roles to London and abroad, the presence of those banks gives everyone in the financial services supply chain the opportunity to prove their worth on a global stage.

He describes the Capital’s financial services success as being like "qualifying for the World Cup finals". But he warns that to take future victory for granted would be foolish.

"The level of global competition is intense and financial institutions and service providers will have to be at the top of their game to keep Scotland’s financial services industry thriving and avoid the fate of Glasgow’s shipyards."

For Edinburgh’s financial institutions, failure is not an option, he adds. During the 2004 financial year, Accenture’s UK revenue - including Scotland, for which separate figures are not published - was 1.3 billion, representing a healthy 19 per cent rise in actual currency terms over the previous year.

And when the firm announced its first-quarter results for the new financial year, the UK, and in particular the financial services industry, were named as engines of growth for the group worldwide.

Accenture, which sponsors golfer Tiger Woods and the Royal Shakespeare Company, has its fingers in many pies. It offers management consulting, technology services and outsourcing and has in excess of 100,000 staff in almost 50 countries.

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More than 80 per cent of FTSE 100-listed companies are Accenture clients and the firm’s know-how supports seven out of the top 20 stock exchanges in the world, accounting for more than half of all transactions worldwide.

A recently-announced ten-year 306 million human resources outsourcing deal with BT has also boosted the company’s fortunes.

Mr Jennings says that the expansion of the Edinburgh office "is directly linked to the success of the major Scottish institutions - the better they do the better we will do". He adds: The new RBS world headquarters and a strong competitive response from HBoS will see Scotland have two of the strongest, best-run banks in the world, a throwback to 1967 when our footballers won at Wembley and Celtic and Rangers were in European cup finals."

According to Mr Jennings, Accenture recognises that the financial services sector in Scotland is booming and is a Scottish speciality.

He says that some of the best financial services skills in the world are located north of the Border and that Accenture wants to tap into this expertise and to recruit consultants who understand the industry.

"We have 11 graduates in the Edinburgh office who are working on projects all over the world. The ability to mix global deployment from a Scottish base is a key attraction to recruits as they gain fantastic exposure to global businesses yet retain their Scottish roots returning home to invest their experience back into the Scottish market."

He says now that Accenture has an Edinburgh base it can service its clients more efficiently, as many are either Scottish firms or multi- nationals with local subsidiaries.

However, Accenture is not new to Scotland - it has had a large base in Aberdeen for the past 15 years where it has managed the finance and accounting operations for BP’s North Sea operations. The consulting company also already had many financial services contracts in Edinburgh that were handled by teams from outside the city.

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Mr Jennings says that Accenture’s setting up an Edinburgh office is "a sign of commitment to those clients". Avanade, a joint IT venture between Accenture and software giant Microsoft with clients including EMI, Tesco and the London Stock Exchange, also recently opened an operation in St Andrew Square.

Mr Jennings says that Accenture is more active beyond London than it has ever been and that around 50 per cent of the UK workforce is now based outside London.

One of the things that sets Accenture aside from the competition is that it will go further than just advising, notes Mr Jennings.

"We offer a unique mix of both thinking and doing," he says. "We can advise on business strategy, direction and architecture, but we are not afraid to get our hands dirty in delivering innovative and often complex technology solutions."

Mr Jennings is Scots-born and has lived in Edinburgh for 20 years. He says that he has turned down many offers to work in London but that "the quality of life [in Edinburgh] is great - I enjoy getting home to see my kids most evenings yet am still part of a top quality global organisation that is working on lots of exciting world-class projects".

To really get an idea of the scale of Accenture as a company, consider that every four hours an Accenture system goes live somewhere in the world.

That’s six systems per day, 42 per week and 2184 per year. And as one of the main engines driving this huge corporate machine is expected to be financial services - Edinburgh’s speciality - the city is in prime position to enjoy the ride and count the money that rolls in as a result.