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Partners in a disruptive world

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Companies turn to advisory and consultancy services for many reasons, including working out thorny issues and accelerating growth and profitability. “Almost every company in every industry can benefit from advisory or consulting services,” SGV & Co., the country’s largest professional services firm, told BusinessWorld in an e-mail.

SGV said that the companies that are more likely to seek the services of advisory or consulting firms are those with significant customer-facing operations, like the ones in retail, banking and telecommunications, and those that are after enhancing their use of digital technologies.

Henry D. Antonio, vice-chairman and head of advisory at KPMG R.G. Manabat & Co. (KPMG RGM&Co.), another prominent advisory and consulting firm in the country, noted in an e-mail that there have been many emerging companies, which the firm defines as having no more than P5 billion in capitalization, looking for their professional advice in the last seven years.

“These new clients are particularly interesting to KPMG because we are able to provide access to professional advice, a network of large multinational corporations through the KPMG network that is otherwise unavailable to the enterprises within the middle market, and lastly because these emerging companies will become part of the clients KPMG will be servicing for the next five or 10 years,” he said.

In the past decades, both advisory and consultancy firms and their clients have had to work extra hard in view of technology-driven trends — digitalization and the sharing economy, to name a few — that have swept the global business environment at a clip fast enough to leave many companies scrambling to adjust.

“The rapid evolution of technology, the increase in mobile usage and consumption, the increasing role of social media in business and personal behavior mean that we operate in an increasingly connected marketplace where most people have access to real-time information and feedback. New platforms, such as those used by the sharing economy, are also prevalent,” said SGV, a member firm of Ernst & Young.

“These disruptions that follow in the wake of megatrends mean that companies need to transform and differentiate the skills of their people, the way they do business, and how they interact with their customers. Naturally, this creates a need for us to also elevate the way we provide advice to our clients, adopting new strategies and processes that address the changing market behaviors,” it added.

The pain point of many local companies, SGV pointed out, is digitalization, particularly handling increasing online transactions, data management and dealing with cybersecurity risks. These companies are also finding ways to improve customer experience, the firm said, since the feedback of average consumers has an effect on the two things most critical to any commercial entity’s survival and success: sales and reputation.

“We help our clients address these issues by providing data-driven market insights and solutions, combined with in-depth understanding of market forces and millennial consumer behavior,” SGV said. “We help our clients develop new efficiencies in the area of customer, supply chain, finance and information technology, help plot out upgrade programs for legacy systems, and bring new technologies and trends to their attention.”

Meanwhile, Mr. Antonio said they found out that most of their clients are more interested in actionable solutions that can be readily implemented. “That is why consultants in general are not just expected to provide good advice but provide actual solutions with measurable results,” he said.

He added: “This is most prevalent in the business consulting side, where there is much emphasis on technological innovations, applications, system integrations, and other solutions that are driven by new and upcoming technology platforms.”

For SGV, keeping up with trends and developments that concern their clients involves leveraging on its affiliation with Ernst & Young to apply new methodologies and systems to the skills development of its people. “Through our access to global experience and knowledge bases, we have an increased ability to source subject matter resources who can help train and develop our people, and who help us jump-start these service offerings for our local clients,” it said.

The firm also said that it can make use of the available knowledge and insights that its global talent pool generates so that it can craft solutions to their clients’ problems over strategy, innovation, customer experience, operations and digital trust.

KPMG RGM&Co. performs its services in accordance with the belief that its relationship with its clients is a continuous learning experience. “We believe this is critical because each client is different and although trends and changes in economic activity may have similar impact on certain industries, the propensity of the clients to withstand and gain from these changes may vary due to their culture, their readiness, and their appetite,” Mr. Antonio said.

“As such, the only way to have a meaningful dialogue with these clients where we can add value is to ensure that not only do we understand the trends and developments in a particular industry, but we can assess how these may affect our client in a very unique way,” he added.

It helps that the firm can tap into the repository of insights that members of KPMG International produce about the various sociopolitical, economic and technological innovations worldwide. “Through KPMG’s network and its investments in various centers of excellence that provide institutional insights on the many pressing global issues, KPMG can provide a broad understanding coupled with local targeting on how issues may affect our clients,” Mr. Antonio said.

In the coming years, SGV believes that the disruptions companies are experiencing will only grow, aided by the adoption of the Internet of Things or IoT, a network of smart devices that facilitate real-time exchange of information, and that new security risks will emerge. “In addition, we anticipate that customer empowerment will continue to increase as new innovations provide consumers with more communication channels and freedom of choice.”

IoT devices and future innovations, on top of the already existing platforms and applications, and the way they are shared, are one of the drivers that Mr. Antonio think will redefine the role of advisory and consultancy services providers. There are two more. One is the demand for quicker and faster solutions. “As advisors, we can no longer relegate implementation and execution, but more and more integrate it into the solutions we offer to our client,” he said.

The other is regulatory compliance. “Specifically for the Philippines, the threat of larger punitive penalties and sanctions for regulatory non-compliance will push companies to find cost-effective solutions to both the reportorial and compliance requirements that are set by different regulations and enforced by the government,” Mr. Antonio said.

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