Declaration of independence

With the consulting market hotting up it is only natural that the Big Four
accounting firms are beginning to re-emerge and open their files on the
‘advisory’ work they are carrying out alongside their usual remit of tax,
audit and insolvency.

However, one mid-tier accounting firm has already been operating in the
business consulting and strategy space for more than two years and is planning
to build on its early successes.

That business is RSM Robson Rhodes, and one of the three founders (in May
2003) of its consulting division, which has grown from scratch to 70 staff, is
Malcolm McKenzie, a partner at the London-based firm.

Back in late 2002, McKenzie, alongside Eric Benedict and Donald Morris,
wanted to break away from large multiple services players and form a consultancy
that offered, promoted and integrated ‘truly independent, professional
board-level advice around strategy and change’.

‘At the time I was at the strategy group at Cap and I’d come to the
realisation that this philosophy of putting board-level consulting alongside
technology companies just didn’t work’,  says McKenzie.

‘There was an opportunity in the market for truly independent professional
advice around strategy and change, so I got together with two colleagues who had
also been partners at Ernst & Young in the 1990s and set the wheels in

The trio entered into discussions with RSM Robson Rhodes, which wanted,
according to McKenzie, ‘to complement financial advice with business and
board-level strategy advice.

‘RSM Robson Rhodes had been growing the financial advisory business very
successfully for a number of years and wanted a strategy consulting element, so
we got talking to each other and decided it would be a great fit.’

Drawn-out contracts prevented McKenzie and his colleagues from leaving
Capgemini until March 2003 but they had already sown the seeds for the strategy
side of RSM Robson Rhodes to grow and deliver customer value.

All three partners are well versed in strategy and change work and have years
of experience in building strategy teams and developing projects. McKenzie,
formerly responsible for the strategy practice at Capgemini and previously
strategy consulting partner at Ernst & Young before the two firms merged
(they subsequently split), took much of what he had learned into the new

‘Within E&Y I had played a major part of building a number of key teams.
Both Eric and I built up from scratch a strategy capability in E&Y which
went by the infamous name of SAS ­ Strategic Advisory Services ­ to around 70
people which was very successful in the late 1990s.

‘One of the most valuable things I got out of it was the Gemini Consulting
side, which was very strong on change. Gemini had truly joint teams working with
clients to build change capability and also some approaches on how you get a
client to that tipping point from just talking about things on PowerPoint to
making a business decision.’

In just over two years the business has made great strides both in terms of
its own figures and those of its clients. It has worked with numerous private
and public sector clients, and won a gold award from the Management
Consultancies Association for its business strategy work on a project at P&
O Ferries.

After a business review it advised P&O on how to operate more flexibly
and cost-effectively; when the ferry company announced the review to the City,
its shares rose by 5%.

RSM Robson Rhodes’ accounting and tax figures have been steadily increasing
with audit seeing a 16% change last year, but it is the firm’s consulting
division that has experienced the biggest change. In 2003/04 its revenues hit
£2.53m, in 2004/05
£6.26m, and in 2005/06 it projects around £10m ­ a figure McKenzie is keen to
build on.

‘I think the issue of how boards can be more effective is key to how we are
building on the business and a question we can firmly answer when advising any
client we’re dealing with.’

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