The ACE Benchmarking study for 2021 – the definitive analysis of the performance of the engineering consultancy firms working in the built environment – has revealed the scars of the pandemic, with revenue growth falling and companies ‘tightening their belts’ in response.
Revenue growth was sharply down for both large companies (1.7%, down from 6.3% in 2019) and SMEs (1.3%, down from 3.4% in 2019). The full report – which can be purchased now from ACE – shows that on many measures COVID-19 had a significant impact on operations. For example, total staff numbers decreased by an average of 4.2% at larger firms, and there were 17.4% fewer staff at SMEs than at the beginning of the reported year.
As a result, overhead and operating expenses dropped – to 17.9% for large consultancies and 19% for SMEs – as companies realised efficiencies in response to the uncertain times.
Commenting on the findings, Laurence Brett, interim CEO at ACE said: “Our analysis clearly shows we have been through a challenging period. Despite this, we must recognise that we have fared well compared to more public-facing areas of the economy. Even with this uncertainty, our sector still registered revenue growth.
“Looking ahead, there is plenty for us to be positive about. Not just in terms of the pandemic in 2022, but through the added clarity that the recent publication of the Construction and Infrastructure Pipeline and Integrated Rail Plan have recently brought us.
“With increased interest in the procuring for value agenda thanks to the publication of the Construction Playbook, as well as the release of the Value Toolkit, our industry is still ideally placed as the delivery partner of choice for Government, creating new opportunities for our members’ to seize.”
The full 67 page Benchmarking Study for 2021 can be purchased now from ACE for £400 + VAT, with ACE members receiving a 20% discount. It explores, profitability, cost control, R&D, productivity, staffing, winning work, Net Zero, EDI and the future of consultancy. Respondents’ market value was equal to £3.8bn, representing approximately 60% of entire sector.