What to expect from Consulting in Ireland

Ireland has a long history of exporting talent to the world, with some of its brightest minds seeking opportunity and experiences in pastures new. But with the Irish economy booming, and unemployment at a post-crash low, combined with increasing uncertainty as a result of factors such as Brexit, many people, Irish and non-Irish alike, are coming to Ireland in record numbers.

Having spent a decade recruiting in the management consultancy sector around the world, Owen Thomas looks at the nuances of the Irish consulting market, for those considering opportunities here.

Firstly, and not unsurprisingly the Irish consulting sector isn’t as big as other geographies, generating approximately $787m of a $250bn global market. The UK market, for example, is roughly ten times the size of the Irish sector. As a result, there are fewer consultancies operating in Ireland. Undoubtedly the usual global suspects, Accenture, EY, Deloitte, KPMG, PwC, IBM and Grant Thornton hold the majority of market share. Of the pure play strategy consultancies, only McKinsey have a physical office in Ireland.

In sharp contrast with other countries, there are very few mid-sized or boutique consultancies operating here, and those that do are very much on the radar for acquisition by larger entities e.g. BDO recently bolstered their consulting service line through a merger with Eaton Square. ”The makeup of the Irish consulting market offers real opportunity. Even the Big 6 consultancies here have consulting practices of a few hundred rather than a few thousand consultants. There is real opportunity for people to be able to shape both the direction of their own careers & the practice”.

Furthermore, consultancies from the UK in particular, will win engagements here but deliver those projects with resources who travel to Ireland for the working week. Whether the impact of Brexit will lead to those firms setting up operations here remains to be seen but it is certainly a possibility.

This poses an interesting proposition for those looking at consulting opportunities in Ireland. Over the past decade, common themes emerge when speaking to professionals of all grades in the larger consultancies worldwide as to why they are looking to move. One is that they simply feel swamped by the scale of those organisations and fear becoming a number on a resourcers spreadsheet, rather than an individual with a voice within the organisation. Here the makeup of the Irish consulting market offers real opportunity. Even the Big 6 consultancies here have consulting practices of a few hundred rather than a few thousand consultants. There is real opportunity for people to be able to shape both the direction of their own careers and the practice. In doing so they will find the opportunity for advanced career progression based on merit rather than the somewhat formulaic approach to career development you can experience in rigid pyramid structures of more developed markets.

Another common reason for people looking to move is they have grown weary of the itinerant nature of consulting, spending substantial periods of time away from home on client engagements. Again, Ireland offers a change in this regard. Undoubtedly the consulting market is centered on Dublin and the surrounding areas. Whilst there are small pockets of consulting capabilities in areas such as Cork and Limerick, consultants by and large are going to find themselves deployed on engagements close to the capital. Instances of travel tend to be engagements, whereby people are delivering a work stream tied to a larger programme or shorter strategic deployments, either way, consultants won’t be spending substantial periods of time away from home.

The good news is as the Irish economy continues its post-crash recovery, there is strong demand for consulting skills across all service lines and industries, and you can find an excellent market snapshot here. Similarly, there is an upturn in the growth of internal consulting functions in industry which also provide opportunities for consultants coming back to the market. This is a reaction to, an indicator of, just how strong the change agenda is in the country.

A noticeable difference in the market here compared to some of the bigger territories is reflected in the structure of consulting practices. There is a distinctly less matrixed structure here in Ireland which again affords employees chance to have a great say in their careers. Whilst Financial Services remains its own distinct vertical, most firms tend to operate as sector agnostic service lines. This allows consultants to gain much broader industry experience particularly at grades below Director level.

Individuals coming to Ireland with experience in management consultancy will find themselves in high demand in from both advisory houses and industry players alike. As the market is still developing here people who already have the consulting tool kit are highly sought after. That said there are some factors to consider. In line with the rest of the professional services market in Ireland, salaries in Irish consultancies are slightly lower than some of their global counterparts (for further comparison please take a look at our Irish salary survey). Whilst firms will offer attractive salaries, for those individuals moving at grades where business development is a focus (i.e. Senior Manager and above) if you don’t have a well-developed network here in Ireland then expect this to be factored in to salary negotiations.

Ultimately there is an abundance of career opportunities for consultants looking to make Ireland their home, and with a strong transformative agenda looking set to remain as the Irish and global economies continue to grow, the market appears set to be a buoyant one for the foreseeable future.

Donal Whelan avatar
Managing Director
+353 1 661 0444