Brain workers shrug off the crunch and head for the Gulf

05 October 2007
Paul Laudicina, chairman of the board and managing officer of management consultants AT Kearney, has seen a lot worse than the credit crunch that has made a thousand newspaper headlines in the past two months. 'I do not think it will have a serious impact on the world economy,' he said in Dubai during his first tour of the region since taking over the leadership of the US management consultancy last year.
'But even if it does, the Gulf will be the least affected. It has more than $4 trillion in assets and I do not see the oil price falling sustainably below $60 a barrel for the indefinite future.'

Like other global companies, AT Kearney is shrugging off gloomy forecasts and coming to

the Gulf.

The company, which opened an office in Dubai two years ago, plans to set up operations in Abu Dhabi, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia soon. It is keeping pace with its rivals in the booming global business service advisory sector, worth almost $66,000 million in 2006 and growing by 11 per cent annually, according to Kennedy's Information Services.

James McKinsey invented management consultancy more than 80 years ago and Andrew Kearney, founder of AT Kearney, was his firm's first partner. Management consultancy is now one of the most lucrative service industries and is free from the detailed regulation applied to banking, auditing and the law. A career in consultancy offers an attractive alternative to life in a large corporation.

The work is varied, there is less corporate politics and they have a high degree of autonomy. Then there is the pay. It has been calculated that the present value of getting a job at the Boston Consulting Group is more than $20 million. Unlike conventional corporations, where only a tiny few can hope to become wealthy, it is almost the norm in the big consulting firms.

Compared with their size, management consultancies have had a disproportionate impact on the way that businesses operate. Their influence is steadily growing. Republican Party presidential contender Mitt Romney is a former partner at Bain & Company of Boston.

Happily for the industry, the governments and businesses of the Gulf love management consultants. AT Kearney can tick off a list of assignments, including major projects for the Bahrain government and Dubai Aerospace.

It is a rarity for leading GCC firms, whether government-owned or not, to be without an external consultant working on strategy, project implementation or simply public relations. The long Gulf boom has lifted corporate profits throughout the region and made consultants charging more than $2,000 a day affordable.

Some repeat the old joke that all a management consultant does is borrow your watch to tell you the time. The Gulf's smarter leaders, however, realise that business service advisory firms spend much of what they earn locally.

A consultant getting more than $200,000 a year will rent a luxury apartment or even buy one. They send their children to fee-paying local schools, own several cars, hire personal staff, eat at top restaurants, fly on local airlines and save with

local banks.

In recycling spending in local economies, few do more than skilled white collar workers. Abu Dhabi, Doha, Dubai and Manama are falling over themselves to woo them.

Never in history of the Middle East has so

much business talent come to the region. The

influx of high-earning professionals is one of the reasons why the Gulf property slump, widely forecast since the building boom began five years ago, has not happened.

Despite rents and leasehold property rising by more than 100 per cent in that period, they are still coming to the Gulf.

'There is not a square metre of spare office space in Dubai at present,' said a content Dubai office property developer over Iftar in the second week of Ramadan. 'Prices are being contained but they will not go down.'

But there is more to t

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