Demand for crisis business consultancy rose 103% in last year

  • Demand for ‘crisis’ business consultants in the UK surged by 103% during pandemic – the quickest rise in two years, according to a new report from global recruiter, Robert Walters. 

    As businesses froze headcount, utilised furlough and made redundancies - over 16,000 specialist senior consultants were hired to step in on a fixed-term contract to help aid recovery and transition during the pandemic, with some charging as much as £2,000 per day.

    Robert Walters' research also suggests that a third of board-level consultancy projects in the past year have been around organisational restructuring and crisis management.

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    When looking at levels in 2021 – hiring for interim professionals has increased by 50% compared to the same period last year. According to the report, 59% of consultants expect to find their next interim assignment within three months – twice as quickly as they usually would have pre-pandemic.

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    Daniel O’Leary, Business Director of Interim Management Recruitment at Robert Walters, comments: “At first we saw a drop in interim hiring as Covid-19 shook up the recruitment landscape, with the knee-jerk reaction of businesses being to justify costs, resulting in hiring freezes and letting go of contract resource.

    “However, in the wake of the initial impact of the virus, businesses have sought to strategise plans for recovery - with interim managers a cost-effective solution to help businesses bounce back much faster than permanent hires. As a result, the interim management market quickly picked up speed, with hiring in Q4 to early Q1 2021 surpassing levels we have seen for the past few years.”


    Scientists: Accounting for just 6% of consultancy roles in the past year, the scramble to find a vaccine and understand the virus’ long-term effects have pushed the demand for senior interim scientists up by 17.4%.

    Technology: Representing almost a quarter of all senior contract hires during the pandemic, professionals within the sector have been able to showcase their resilience and seamless adaptability to remote working – with the need for management positions in this field is up 9.7% compared to 2019.

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    Legal: Only accounting for 3% of UK vacancies, Covid-19 has seen legal interim vacancies spike by 12%. Interim corporate lawyers have been bought in rapidly to assist businesses during this volatile period – with those having experience of mergers and acquisitions, administration & liquidation, contract negotiations being the most in demand. Experience around compliance continues to be in demand ahead of Brexit-related preparations.

    Accounting & Finance: Whilst the accounting and finance interim market has dropped by 8% in the past year, it is still one of the professions that has fared better than others. With businesses faced with a decline in trade; specialist finance skills such as cash management, forecasting, and scenario planning, have been invaluable to enable firms to remain financially stable.
    Craig Howells – Senior Contract Finance Specialist at Walters People comments:

    “The interim accounting and finance market has held strong as firms seek to rationalise costs and maintain financial integrity during this time. This has led to an increase in interim finance talent across a number of areas. For example, companies have looked to bring in senior qualified accountants to perform cost analyses, identify opportunities to recover and/or grow revenue and recover debt.

    “Additionally, we saw a number of Interim Payroll Manager positions were created since March 2020 as this department has faced a surge in activity due to the government furlough scheme and increased employee turnover.”


    When looking through an industry lens, interim hiring for management positions in fields related to online and digital working, supply chain and logistics, and legal fared well within industries that experienced the most demand during the pandemic.

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    Telecoms: Put under increased pressure to build its cybersecurity capability, along with delivering remote-working solutions, the telecoms industry had a 48% surge in hires at the senior contract level - with a 76% increase in interim tech roles specifically.

    Technology: The technology sector has experienced buoyant growth, illustrated by interim vacancies growing by 37% across the board – and most notably for positions within procurement and supply chain (+190%), legal management (+126%), and general tech (+58%).

    Pharma: The rise in interim management roles for pharma, (+21.6%) as well as healthcare (+9.7%), is comprised by the number of firms in these sectors looking to hire scientists.

    Financial Services: The data shows a see-saw split between insurance and banking, with the former recording an 8.2% increase in interim positions, in contrast senior contract roles in banking declined by 12.5%. The UK’s biggest insurers are stocking up on actuaries - with 39.5% more interim recruitment processes now open than a year earlier. The need for other insurance specialist roles — such as in underwriting, claims and risk — by contrast, has fallen by 23%.


    HMRC’s introduction of the new off-payroll changes (IR35) will no doubt have an impact on the interim industry - with companies likely to take a more considered and cautious approach to assigning projects to external professionals.

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    Richard Harris, Chief Legal Officer at Robert Walters Group, concluded: “In the short term there is going to be a little bit of a nuclear winter around contractors and interim managers with the initial transition to new IR35 accountability model - but naturally this will relax as companies begin to see that it’s possible to be a legitimate limited company contractor.

    “As a result, the interim and senior contractor market will naturally open up again - similar to the public sector where we’ll see the shutters come down and then an easing up.”

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    Source: Written from press release

    About the author

    Niamh is a Sync NI writer with a previous background of working in FinTech and financial crime. She has a special interest in sports and emerging technologies. To connect with Niamh, feel free to send her an email or connect on Twitter.

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