Considered a top strategy firm by clients prepared to pay boutique prices, Gemini Consulting is right up there with the McKinseys, Bains and Boston Consulting Groups of this world.
Indeed, according to Steve Beck, the company’s managing director, northern region with responsibility for the UK, Scandinavia, Benelux, South Africa and Singapore, the success is clearly quantifiable: “The most client and market-driven way to measure whether you are in the top bracket is to ask: are you working with business leaders at boardroom level on the most important, difficult and intractable issues? We are.”
With a consultancy staff of just 1,800 worldwide and 270 in the UK, the company has managed to amass revenues running into billions of francs.
Gemini Consulting was originally born of a merger between two American consultancy firms in 1991, but it was quickly amalgamated into the then Cap Gemini Sogeti, a French IT firm (see Firm Foundations). When, in May 1996, this parent company became simply Cap Gemini and floated on the French stock exchange, it consolidated all its operating companies and ceased publishing individual figures. Nevertheless, the revenues were published and the company posted an impressive FF14.8bn – an increase of 31 percent on 1995. The sum was significantly bolstered by the inclusion of seven months of Gemini Consulting’s revenue – indeed, Gemini’s contribution alone accounted for 14 percent of the group’s year-on-year increase.
Once floated on the stock exchange, Gemini Consulting began working even more closely with the IT arm of the group on larger strategy and implementation projects. Between 30 and 40 percent of its consultancy work is now done in conjunction with Cap Gemini to fulfil client expectation of a global “end-to-end” service (from advice to project implementation). For 1997, Gemini’s worldwide revenues were around the FF3.5bn mark; the group achieved global revenues of FF20.2bn. In fully integrating the two firms the group has been able to offer a seamless IT and consulting operation.
Indeed, Gemini Consulting believes that the service it offers its clients firmly places it in a class of its own. Given its business culture and pedigree, such confidence is well founded.
The two American companies which formed the core of Gemini Consulting were United Research, an operational improvement and reengineering firm, and the MAC Group, a management advisory centre, which grew out of Harvard Business School in the early ’60s. MAC Group’s primary focus was the financial sector and Gemini has continued to draw on and expand that strength.
In fact, the consulting firm considers itself an authority in the field of private banking and asset management – certainly leading-edge when it comes to global transactions management. While its presence is perhaps
overshadowed by the IT might of its 30,000-strong parent organisation, Cap Gemini, the MAC Group has nevertheless handled some of the most delicate and high-profile mergers in the finance industry. It worked on the Lloyds and Abbey Life merger in the early ’90s. Also, directly following its own merger, Gemini Consulting masterminded that of Allied Irish Life and TSB Northern Ireland. This was considered a particularly delicate project because TSB comprised 70 percent Protestant staff and AIL was predominantly Catholic. Gemini maintains that the project was successful because its people had the right skills.
Gemini was also responsible for the supervision and management of the much-publicised transformation of the Co-operative Bank. Under Gemini’s guidance, the bank evolved from an unprofitable organisation into a forward-thinking business with a new value proposition, concentrating on ethical investment, revolutionary ideas about stakeholder investment, client segments, and new market channels.
The project, which radically shifted the bank from its outmoded processes to focus on the stakeholder, was an undoubted success and pulled the business out of the red and into the black.
“The bank was the first institution to come up with the notion of a stakeholder company and there is quite a passion for it there,” says Howard Radley, vice president at Gemini Consulting, in charge of the firm’s financial practice. “Stakeholder strategy is about what the bank can contribute to the staff, their families, the local community, society – and we got it right down to the tellers,” he says.
The experience of devising its own global structure, combined with solid cultural values, makes Gemini Consulting the powerhouse it is today.
Not long after the company was formed, it restructured its practice and built up global teams. Soon after this, in 1994, it completed the first phase of its own restructuring and began reengineering the then 25,000-strong Cap Gemini Sogeti Group. It globalised the teams, and then more recently, in 1997 it strengthened its GMTs by setting up four regional centres.
Indeed, Beck believes that without its people and its value system, the firm could not affect hundreds and sometimes thousands of clients, nor could it effect decisions about working practices that are taken at board level on a day-to-day basis.
What differentiates Gemini from its top strategy-bracket competitors is its flexible, energising approach to strategic change within organisations, says Beck. He points out that top strategy firms may profess to change the organisational structure and core processes within a company, but they often neglect the very thing that sustains that change: teaching people throughout organisations the behaviours that sustain change.
“What has remained consistent is Gemini’s culture and the people in it, which is what affects the way we work with our clients,” says Beck. Indeed, the very touchstone of Gemini’s culture is “when people matter, results count”. And, by way of the people it employs, Gemini hopes to transplant those values into every organisation it consults.
Given that the bedrock of any business relationship is about building trust, Gemini tries to establish during the recruitment process exactly what people’s values are and how well they are going to work in a team.
As Beck explains: “You have to be credible, but also intimate, that means you must have a track record, knowledge and the expertise to get underneath some of the emotional and political barriers to change, rather than just the purely rational.”
Straightforward analytical and numerical skills are still a top requirement, but intellect is no longer measured along the old-school consultancy lines of “we employ smarter people than you”. Gemini requires more from its consultants, and the emphasis is on emotional intellect.
“Every firm has smart people. If you go to any strategy department, they have ex-Gemini, ex-Booz Allen and ex-Baan consultants,” says Radley.
“In a change programme where the main issues are never resolved it’s because the proper emotional and political issues are not addressed, issues like: why should I change? Why should I be treated like this? What’s in it for me personally?”
Teamworking and helping its people to develop an understanding of the negotiation process is an essential component of Gemini’s training programmes.
“When delivering global transaction services, 25 per cent of the problem is building a business case and understanding the technology, but 75 per cent of the problem is building trust into relationships,” Radley says.
The company’s definitive belief in excellence and best practice means 360 degree assessments and appraisals. On top of which, there’s Gemini’s own virtual university, where its consultants can cram up on the latest industry trends and concepts in consulting. This includes Gemini’s latest offering in customer value management.
Although there are have been some modifications, according to Beck the consulting firm’s most significant change is that its projects are 100 per cent larger than they were a few years ago. In terms of its ethos, its culture is still firmly planted in its origins at the MAC Group and the Harvard Business School.
Beck says: “Gemini is ultimately about changing peoples’ attitudes about their behaviours, about their work, how they manage people and the way they manage the business. It is consistent with the past, but the scale and impact on people is much, much wider. Our ethos is driven by respect for individuals in our client organisation, whether they are chief executives, board members or on the shopfloor.”
Gemini Consulting grew out of the merger, in 1991, of two American consultancy firms: United Research, a reengineering firm, and the MAC Group, a management advisory centre which had emerged from the Harvard Business School in the early 1960s. Gemini Consulting boasted a combined revenue of US$240m and a staff of 800 worldwide. At the same time, the newly-merged company was also amalgamated into what was then Cap Gemini Sogeti, the French IT firm set up in 1967 by Serge Kampf.
Two years after the merger, in an effort to improve its market mobility, Gemini decided to reorganise its industry and service lines and so created global market teams (GMTs).
By 1994 the firm was operating on a truly global scale and had narrowed down its industry offerings into eight GMTs: finance practice; travel and transport; manufacturing; life sciences; energy; consumer, retail and distribution; and chemicals practices were all managed globally rather than geographically.
The company also divided its service lines into four distinct disciplines: information management; leadership, mobilisation and renewal; operations; and strategy. With small teams of specialists concentrating on each service line, the company aimed to create a central resource from which it could draw for its global projects. Gemini Consulting became fully integrated into the Cap Gemini Group when the latter was floated on the French stock exchange in 1996.
Pat Elder is CEO of Gemini Consulting. He joined the company in 1989, became head of Gemini’s Northern Region in 1995, before being promoted to CEO in June 1997.
Steve Beck is managing director of Gemini Consulting’s Northern Region.
Beck started working for the MAC Group in the US in 1981. He left to follow a career in academia, but started freelancing for the group when it opened an office in London. In 1988 he rejoined full-time. Formerly he headed Gemini’s financial services practice in the UK, Scandinavia and South Africa.
Gemini Consulting, 1 Knightsbridge, London SW1X 7LX. Tel: 0171 340 3000.
Fax: 0171 340 3400. Web site address: www.gemcon.com
Gemini Consulting: financial details
In 1997, Gemini’s worldwide revenues amounted to FF3.5bn. The Cap Gemini Group had global revenues of FF20.2bn.