EY has acquired Seren, a 60-strong digital design consultancy based in Silicon Roundabout, in the first acquisition of its kind for the firm’s UK advisory practice.
The deal, which EY chairman Steve Varley described as a “flagship transaction”, marks the latest phase in EY’s development as a provider of advisory services outside of traditional and mature audit and tax markets.
EY plans to treble its global strategy consulting practice to over 2,500 professionals by 2020, and has acquired consultancy boutiques Intergc, Parthenon and Bedrock, a service design boutique in North America.
Ben Langdon will continue as chief executive of EY-Seren and as an EY partner in the UK. Catriona Campbell and Terry Heath, the co-founders of the business, will continue as senior advisers to EY in the UK and the EY-Seren team.
“We’re already achieving considerable organic growth in the UK advisory business – it grew 15% last year – but we are also committed to looking for opportunities for inorganic growth, especially when we find firms with cutting-edge innovation and a really strong talent pool,” said Varley.
The Big Four audit firms have been steadily rebuilding their consulting arms since exiting the business in the wake of Sarbanes-Oxley in 2002, which restricted the provision of non-audit services by auditors. EY, PwC and KPMG all divested their consulting arms, while Deloitte remained in the business.
Rivals KPMG acquired mid-tier management consultancy Boxwood in June, while PwC formed a strategic alliance with cyber security business Talium. In 2013, Deloitte bought US strategy consultants Monitor, while PwC snapped up international consultancy business Booz & Co.
Growth in consultancy among the Big Four is outpacing their traditional tax and audit services, while the firms are also outperforming management consultants.
Management Consultancies Association (MCA) members, which include the Big Four’s consultancy arms, posted £5.2bn in fees during the last year, up 8.4% on the previous period. The Big Four’s consultancies grew by 10.75%.
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