Brexit is yet to do significant damage to the hardy consultants in this year’s top 150 tables. But those near the top are making careful preparation for an economic storm
If anyone thought that 2018 was the year that the construction industry would really start to feel the pinch from Brexit, then nobody seems to have told the sector’s biggest consultants. Building’s annual survey of the Top 150 architects, engineers, surveyors and project managers finds much of the sector – if not quite all – in fairly rude health. Well over two-thirds of firms have grown overall staff numbers, with average headcount growth exceeding 7%. And 93% report having raised staff salaries in the past year, with three-quarters saying they plan to increase staff numbers in the year ahead.
And yet, the survey also reveals signs of the political uncertainty starting to take its toll. While relatively few – one in six – admit to a negative economic outlook for the year ahead, confidence is lower than last year. Likewise, while margins are still way ahead of where they were in the recession, they are showing the first signs of tightening, with fewer businesses reporting comfortable 8%-plus returns.
“We don’t see things changing at the moment and we’re going into 2019 ready to face Brexit head on”
Andrew Henderson, Ramboll
James Clark, founding partner of 115-strong London-based QS Core Five, says: “We’ve just had our best year to date. But the market is at that point where it’s on the cusp of turning.” With Brexit looming in March next year, it appears many consultants are asking what they can do to prepare their businesses for both the opportunities and the threats that this once-in-a-lifetime political schism will present.
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