European CEOs grasp opportunity to discuss future of consultancy

ACE chief executive Hannah Vickers summing up this year's European CEO Conference.

It’s not often that CEOs and other construction industry leaders from across Europe have the chance to come together to discuss and debate the challenges faced in delivering the infrastructure that society needs. The European CEO Conference, organised by the UK Association for Consultancy and Engineering and the European consulting engineering federation, EFCA, offers one such opportunity and over two days in London, industry leaders gathered to discuss how best to deliver for society.

The conference has been running for almost a decade and over that time high-profile industry leaders from across Europe have shared their experiences and views on the challenges they face as a result of business, political and societal developments impacting on the world of infrastructure and those who plan, build, deliver and use it.

This year’s event in London, along with its accompanying dinner, saw consultancy and engineering firms addressing some of the major challenges and opportunities that they face as businesses. Issues like the effect of political change on infrastructure – something that the industry rarely discusses – were given a thorough airing, with delegates really getting to grips with how the decisions of politicians, and indeed political movements, impact on the construction sector.

Climate change and the challenge of achieving net zero was a key theme of the conference, with speaker after speaker and contributors from the floor debating the role of the infrastructure sector in solving perhaps the biggest single issue facing global society. It’s an issue that is impacting politics around the world and consequently the way in which construction projects are procured and delivered.

The conference also examined how construction and consultancy services would be delivered in the future in the face of digital disruption and societal change. Delegates heard that much of what is currently delivered by the hour is likely to be delivered as a service, with outcome-based billing likely to become more and more widespread. Firms will need to adapt now to deal with these challenges and the one thing that is certain is that increasing change, especially in the digital sphere, will shape the way that firms operate.

Results from ACE’s annual benchmarking exercise were announced during a final conference session. This annual survey measures company KPIs across a number of areas including profitability and growth, controlling costs, productivity, staffing and winning work. The survey also lists the top threats to business highlighted by European CEOs. These were many and varied but the key threats were as follows.

  • Competition for talent
  • Economic issues
  • Elections/politics/Brexit
  • Pricing pressures and increased competitiveness
  • Project funding
  • Project delays
  • Energy prices and foreign exchange risks
  • Insurance costs 

Closing the conference, ACE chief executive Hannah Vickers said she was pleased that the event had seen some open and frank discussion from clients on the future and this showed that the industry was capable of coming together to address the challenge of change. “I hope that the last two days have given you food for thought and that the discussions we’ve had will inform what we all do going forward and also shape future CEO conferences as we move into 2020 and the tenth anniversary of these events.”  

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