EY acquisition bolsters strategy consulting offering in Asia Pacific

11 May 2020 Consultancy.asia 3 min. read
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Professional services firm Ernst & Young has pulled off a major coup in the Asia Pacific strategy consulting segment by bringing in elite Australian boutique Port Jackson Partners.

One of Australia’s most regarded strategy consulting firms, Port Jackson Partners, is set to join professional services giant Ernst & Young – significantly boosting its EY Parthenon strategy consulting offering in Australia and the Asia Pacific. Port Jackson Partners’ managing partner Byron Pirola, who joined the firm from McKinsey shortly after its founding in 1991, will continue on at the helm of what is to be known as EY Port Jackson Partners.

Established in Sydney by former McKinsey leaders Terrey Arcus and Fred Hilmer almost three decades ago and attracting top strategy talent, Port Jackson Partners has grown over the years to become one of the nation’s most elite consultancies in advising the highest corridors of power – even extending its influence to China, Singapore and the US from its sole Sydney office. The firm’s 13 partners will also continue on along with a team of around 40.

EY Parthenon presently has five partners in Australia. Pirola, who was last year named by the Australian Financial Review alongside Skipp Williamson of Partners in Performance and prominent senior leaders from KPMG and Deloitte as among the five most powerful consultants in Australia, told the publication that the cultural fit was the decisive factor in joining EY, with Port Jackson Partners having apparently rebuffed at least two other big name suitors.

EY acquisition bolsters strategy consulting offering in Asia Pacific

“We’ve come to understand EY is working thoughtfully and intelligently towards achieving the goal of building a distinct tier 1 strategy advisory house that is within their broader firm but distinct from it,” Pirola stated – the broader sentiment around greater independence backed by a condition of purchase (for an undisclosed sum, but estimated to be upwards of A$50 million) which will see EY Port Jackson Partners remain operationally separate for at least the time being.

EY established its current strategy consulting entity with the purchase of The Parthenon Group in 2014, after Roland Berger backed out of a deal at the twelfth hour. Since rebranded as EY-Parthenon, the firm has built itself up in part through the acquisition of boutique strategy firms, including swooping on the entire operations of OC&C Strategy Consultants in the Benelux, Germany and France. The latest deal is said to have been around eight months in the making.

“As anyone who knows us would expect, we thought about what EY was proposing, we analysed it and we debated it over many months,” Pirola told the Australian Financial Review, adding, in terms of the boutique consultancy’s motivation to join a bigger player; “It’s the combination of wanting to increasingly serve our leading clients as they become more internationally orientated and to offer our people deeper international experiences beyond short-term secondments.”

In respect to Asia, EY Parthenon presently operates out of the Big Four’s offices in China, Singapore, Japan, and Korea, but has perhaps less of an established presence in the region as compared to Europe and the US and remains slightly down the strategy pecking order. The firm has also itself suffered from poaching in Asia, notably with the defection of a number of education practice leaders to L.E.K. Consulting as the latter built out its own education practice.