Leader – That was the year that was – wasn’t it?

While most consultants acknowledge that there are major changes ahead in 1999, they may be shamed in comparison to the changes we saw this year. At the beginning of 1998 Price Waterhouse and Coopers & Lybrand shrugged off criticisms of an impending merger while Ernst & Young and KPMG were also knee deep in marriage talks. At the time KPMG chairman Alan Reid said, “it would be wrong to say that the proposed merger will dramatically reduce competition”. By March, the merger had fallen through and both firms were fully committed to the idea of competition.

In April, Andersen’s George Shaheen mapped out a vision for the consultancy of the future. Quite a coincidence as at the same time Andersen was in the throes of tearing itself away from Arthur Andersen in order to become a separate entity. Four weeks later the industry said a fond farewell to MCA chairman Brian O’Rorke who stepped down as executive director of the Management Consultancies Association. Price Waterhouse and Coopers & Lybrand tied the knot and unveiled a new image. The consultancy with the unfeasibly long name took criticisms of its logo on the chin and threatened to come down like a ton of bricks on anyone who tried to truncate the logo. June was also the month that consultants hit the headlines over the debacle at the Royal Opera House. Coopers & Lybrand was soundly whipped by the Evening Standard and when given the right to reply, failed to sing like a nightgale. By the autumn, Andersen was once again in the news as it tried to pre-empt a customer’s claim that software it purchased 10 years before should have been Y2K compliant. The case continues.

Surely next year will be a little more relaxing? As we tick towards midnight on 31 December 1999, I wouldn’t count on it.

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