ne of my final ‘public’ appearances last year was hosting a webinar with the participants of ACE’s benchmarking project. The study is the definitive analysis of the performance of the engineering consultancy firms working in the built environment.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, given this was our first benchmarking study since 2019, the picture painted reveals the scars of the pandemic. Revenue growth was sharply down compared to two years prior – for both SMEs and large companies – and profit margins and headcount have also sadly shrunk. However, with the shift to home working following enforced lockdowns and members seeking to realise efficiencies, we have also seen overheads as a proportion of net-revenue falling.
We still have much to be thankful for – at least in comparison to other more public facing industries which have borne the brunt of the pandemic – with members still winning bids for new projects and still reaching out to new clients.
There is also plenty for us to look forward to. The publication of the Construction and Infrastructure Pipeline and Integrated Rail Plan have brought more certainty. Furthermore, the recently released Construction Playbook and Value Toolkit have reinforced the desire for smarter procurement practices and longer-term partnerships focused on value. These are areas where ACE members can naturally excel and help to reinforce our credentials as Government’s delivery partner of choice.
We still have much to be thankful for – at least in comparison to other more public facing industries which have borne the brunt of the pandemic – with members still winning bids for new projects and still reaching out to new clients. Laurence Brett
So, plenty for us to remain optimistic about as I reach the end of my term leading ACE. I know that the board, staff and members are looking forward to welcoming Stephen Marcos Jones at the end of the month who brings with him a wealth of experience with a decade in senior leadership roles representing the UK’s energy sector on the global stage.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the staff for their support and commitment to members and I look forward to engaging with ACE as a representative of a member firm. Having witnessed first-hand how ACE supports its members and represents them by speaking with one voice to policymakers, I am more certain than ever of its critical role as we – hopefully – start to emerge from the recent challenging circumstances we have all faced.
This blog is adapted from Laurence's final column in the forthcoming January/February issue of Infrastructure Intelligence.
Laurence Brett is interim CEO at the Association for Consultancy and Engineering (ACE).