Interview: Vardy Jones, managing director of consultant Rendel on life after High Point

French consultancy Ingérop bought the civil and structural engineering division of historic consultant High Point Rendel in May this year to form the new Rendel Limited business.

Vardy Jones, Rendel managing director

Antony Oliver spoke to managing director Vardy Jones about the challenge and opportunities of providing engineering services in the bridges, geotechnical, highways, maritime and tunnelling infrastructure sectors across the globe.

The Rendel business was bought from HPR in May this year by French consultancy Ingérop. What impact has that had on the firm?

The acquisition of Rendel by the Ingérop Group has enabled Rendel to sharpen its focus onto its historic core services of specialist civil and structural engineering, delivering high quality services within bridges, highways, ports & maritime and immersed tube tunnels and geotechnical market sectors. 

In addition, the new structure enables Rendel to have access to engineering, environmental, planning and financial resources for large scale infrastructure projects, but with a broader range of skills and resources.

Whereas Rendel has enjoyed a dominant position within our core sectors, the geographical spread and financial backing of Ingérop will enable us to enter new markets.

What are your core activities and sectors today and how do you see this changing?

Our core services are and will remain as follows:

•Feasibility studies

•Condition surveys, structural inspections and monitoring

•Tender design

•Ground investigation specifications and interpretation

•Detailed design

•Value engineering

•Design and interface management

•Erection engineering and temporary works design

•Independent checking

•Construction audit

•Construction supervision

•Expert services

These services are delivered to a broad range of transport infrastructure sectors including highways, bridges, tunnels, and ports & maritime. In addition, we deliver on industrial process, power generation and geotechnical projects.

You currently have around 60 staff based in the UK and around the world. What are your plans for growth? 

The core Rendel team is approximately 60 staff, although we now have access to the expertise of around 1600 Ingérop employees, 200 of which are located outside of France – mainly in Europe, South America, North Africa and Southern Africa.

The Rendel team will grow organically in a controlled and considered fashion, to meet the requirements of future projects and it is our plan to recruit mid/senior level employees to allow for succession planning for future years.

How does having a larger French parent help you?

Being part of a larger group undoubtedly gives Rendel access to greater financial capacity and broader technical expertise upon which we intend to create a robust, long term bedrock of projects and works to enable growth and expansion. 

The majority of your clients are overseas contractors – why is this business model attractive? 

We offer services which add value (through technical expertise) to contractors’ business.  We work in partnership with contractor’s internal teams to find solutions to their projects.  We aim only to offer services when and where we can deliver. We are not looking to provide one stop shop services, but to work in partnership with our contractor clients, only providing services where we can add value.  

We look to work with the contractors internal technical resources to develop the best solutions.  This means we do not have to or want to carry large amount of resources but to focus on key technical resource and expertise.  Clearly this is attractive to our clients as this allows them to participate on developing the technical solutions which are most ideally suited to their plant and expertise, focussing on how to build quicker and more efficiently – this can only be done in collaboration with the contractor working with their internal resources.  We heavily rely on repeat business from our contractor clients.  

Rendel has a specialist focus on international contracts and has completed assignments in over 60 countries, across 6 continents in the last decade. In addition, we have experience of working in over 130 countries around the globe.

By having a core team with essential engineering skills based in London, and strong relationships with local partners across the world, we are able to respond swiftly and flexibly to opportunities that arrive on overseas projects.  With this global and local knowledge and resource we are not confined to specific locations but are able to react quickly to the requirements of our clients irrespective of the location of the project.

What can the UK market learn from your experience of working with overseas contracting and consulting organisations?

In order to create cost effective solutions the contractor has to lead and be involved in the design solutions supported by the technical expertise of the consultant.  Leaving the consultant to carry out designs in isolation from the contractor does not unlock cost effective solutions.  The key to this lies in focussing on what can be built efficiently, reducing construction time rather than focussing solely on the design solutions and raw quantities.

In international markets, relationships are key to successfully winning and delivering projects.  We have a robust history of close alliances with local consultancy firms in many of our strongest geographical regions and we make it our business to develop these relationships.   

Who are your competitors?

As one of the world’s most respected and knowledge consultancy firms with a global portfolio of some of the world’s largest and most prestigious bridge and marine projects, we enjoy a fairly unique position in the global market.  We have extremely strong relationships with our local partners within the regions we operate and have worked with many very high profile clients either as part of the professional team or within joint ventures and consortiums.  

Our competitors vary depending on the sector and the type of service we are supplying. They range from similar sized consultancies for bespoke works packages (for example in the geotechnical and bridges sectors) to the large multinational consultancies in sectors such as immersed tube tunnels.

Many of the engineering practices, which might be considered our competitors, have actually worked closely with us on large and complex schemes. In our experience, the right consultancy is selected for the project most suitable for them so we focus more on developing the skills of our high qualified, multi-disciplinary professional staff and building relationships with the other consultancies.  

Which areas of the world do you see greatest growth in activity coming from?

Africa and Eastern Europe are receiving significant finance streams at present and are exhibiting growth potential with less competition.  The Middle East has some of the world’s largest infrastructure projects in the pipeline but the levels of competition there are much higher.

Do you see your business growing in the UK?

Whilst continuing to service our UK clients utilising our specialist knowledge of geotechnical, highways, ports & maritime and bridges, Rendel will continue to focus on new opportunities in our international markets.  With the backing of Ingérop and their reach into new geographic regions, we see this as a natural continuance of our core business model.  We see that some of the specialist skill set of Ingérop (High Speed Rail, Nuclear, specialist complex buildings) will enable Rendel to bring these skill sets to UK and will enable Rendel to grow in sectors of the UK market which have previously been inaccessible.  

What are the greatest challenges in your business right now and how are you managing them?

At Rendel we have always relied on the vast experience, knowledge and wisdom of our key employees and we are extremely proud of the number of consultancies, some of whom we have worked with since the 1950s.  Whilst the value of these individuals is beyond measure, we recognise that succession planning is required to ensure that their skills are passed onto a mid/senior level of employee.  With this in mind, Rendel will be continuing with the HPR training scheme with the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) and intends to continue recruiting and training Graduate Engineers through this scheme.

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Good luck Vardy - you deserve future success!