Rise of professional services sector

Professional consulting services, which the Economic Development Board is nurturing, is a key sector that supports firms here in making critical business decisions. It has good prospects on a global level for people from diverse backgrounds. In the fourth of a seven-part series, Arti Mulchand talks to three people working in the sector.

Pull up an alumni page of the world's largest consulting companies, and it will read like a who's who of the business world.

Alumni from consulting groups such as McKinsey & Company and the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), for instance, occupy top spots in companies like Boeing and General Electric.

In fact, Singapore Post group CEO Wolfgang Baier spent a decade with McKinsey & Company in Europe and Asia, leading the postal and logistics practice as well as operations activities in South-east Asia.

McKinsey is among the "Big 3" strategy houses that have a strong presence in Singapore, alongside Bain & Company and the BCG.

Also here are the "Big 4" accounting houses - Deloitte, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), KPMG and Ernst & Young - and both mid-sized and boutique consulting firms, including Roland Berger, A.T. Kearney and Simon-Kucher & Partners.

Together, they make up Singapore's growing professional services sector, providing strategy, accounting, legal, advertising and human resource consulting to companies spanning health care and consumer to energy and manufacturing.

As such companies seek to explore Asia's growth opportunities while negotiating its unique challenges and complexities, the professional services sector plays a growing role, says Mr Kelvin Wong, assistant managing director at the Economic Development Board (EDB). "Business leaders increasingly seek sophisticated professional services and partners who can advise and help chart their regional strategies."

This demand has helped drive growth within the industry, creating new and exciting job opportunities, with consulting firms turning to both local undergraduates and industry experts with deep subject-matter knowledge to bolster their teams.

With the support of the EDB, many of the larger firms are also creating Singapore-based centres of excellence, where they can cultivate subject-matter expertise in key areas. This broadens the range of job possibilities, says Mr Wong.

Just last month, the three-year-old McKinsey Innovation Campus, a partnership with the EDB that centralises its regional knowledge teams for several areas here, opened its first productivity hub - the McKinsey Productivity Sciences Centre.

It will provide research, benchmarking tools and technology-based solutions to drive productivity in the manufacturing, retail and food sectors.

The BCG has a similar knowledge hub - its Centre for Business Excellence - which includes the BCG Leadership and Talent Enablement Centre, which helps companies plan their leadership and talent pipelines.

The large accounting firms are also developing similar capabilities in centres such as the KPMG Centre of Excellence and the PwC Growth Markets Centre.

Ultimately, this all leads to the creation of well- paying jobs, as well as the opportunity to interact with head honchos from leading global and regional companies and to play a key role in developing their businesses, says Mr Wong. "Consultants are given the opportunity to create and implement solutions that will have lasting impact on the world."

This article was first published on Nov 3, 2014.

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