It is hard to get past the numbers. In the last calendar year fee income at programme manager Turner & Townsend soared 20% from £204M to £244M, and the number of civil and structural staff it employs has surged with it, from 1,996 to 2,303. Turnover for the financial year to 30 April 2012 was up 16% on the previous year to £275M and pretax profits were up from £18.7M to a healthy £23.6M.
“In terms of turnover, profit and staff numbers, we did have a fantastic calendar year,” notes chief executive Vince Clancy. And he expects more of the same this year, aided by his firm’s focus on investing in global reach. Fifty four percent of its turnover in the 2012 financial year was earned abroad, and Clancy says the firm is “well on course” to achieving its stated aspiration of making it 60% by 2015.
“I am still very mindful that many markets are tough but we see opportunities to grow our key hubs around the world,” says Clancy. These hubs are Africa, the Americas, Asia, Australasia, Europe and the Middle East.
Asia is a particular focus for Clancy. He has just returned from Hong Kong where he oversaw the purchase of quantity surveyor and cost consultant HA Brechin & Co. The 100-strong firm specialises in delivering cost and quantity surveying consultancy services to the property and infrastructure sectors and Clancy believes the merger will further open up market opportunities in Asia’s infrastructure sector, increasing Turner & Townsend’s access to larger projects and higher profile clients in Hong Kong.
HA Brechin’s clients include the Hong Kong Airport Authority and the Special Administrative Region’s rail operator MTR. The firm also works with government departments in Hong Kong including the Highways Department.
“In infrastructure we are already doing well in Africa, the Middle East and Europe. I want to push that into Asia,” says Clancy. “This acquisition is an opportunity to do that.”
And while the infrastructure sector remains high on the agenda, it is unquestionably the surging market for minerals that has done Turner & Townsend especially proud.
“Three years ago we positioned ourselves around three sectors - property, infrastructure and natural resources - with a strategy to move towards each group generating one third of our income,” explains Clancy. The firm had always been big in property, but it is this concentration on infrastructure and natural resources that has really paid off: 30% growth by revenue in infrastructure is impressive but this was dwarfed by a 49% growth in natural resources.
“Many markets are tough, but we see opportunities to grow our key hubs around the world”
Vince Clancy, Turner & Townsend
The firm is clearly growing fast, and as a result is the size of the projects it takes on. “The scale of the projects is impressive,” notes Clancy. In fact, over 100 of its projects each generate over £1M fee income per annum. This is driven by the strong global relationships it has developed with global clients including Anglo American, Rolls-Royce, Siemens, BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto, and Xstrata.
“We are doing more and more on a global basis for our clients,” explains Clancy. “A key reason for our success is that most of our projects are for clients on a repeat basis.”
Success breeds success, but it also breeds the need for more and more people to exploit the opportunities Turner & Townsend needs to continue to grow, he notes. “So continuing to grow the capability is important.”
Capability will be grown, he says through acquisitions like HA Brechin and by a heavy investment in recruitment. In the last year the firm welcomed its largest ever graduate intake and Clancy expects total staff numbers by the end of the financial year in April to be up to 3,400 from 2,700 at the start and 3,100 in January.
“We’ve been trying to ramp up our investment in people around the world,” says Clancy, adding that the firm has around 20 recruiters around the world constantly on the look out for talent. These recruiters are supported by a relocations team which makes it easier to transfer people around the world.
There are hot spots. “In all our markets we are bringing people in,” says Clancy. “But the US, Asia and Middle East has been busiest,” he notes.
The demand for people in the US has been driven by significant turnover growth in the Americas - it has increased 50% to £60M aided by the 2011 acquisition of New York-based project management firm Ferzan Robbins & Associates. It now trades as Turner & Townsend Ferzan Robbins and employs 70 people working on projects in the commercial, hospitality, residential and hi-tech sectors.
Elsewhere in the world, gaps in capability are also being met by forming alliances with like-minded firms.
“Part of our strategy will be to develop deep alliance partners,” explains Clancy, referencing two major projects - one in the UK and one in the Middle East - where such alliances have been formed with peer companies.
Ultimately, though, Clancy is happy with the pace of progress. “We are happy with the shape of the business,” he says. “We will look to strengthen, but growth is there to lever off opportunities and we will do it at a pace we are comfortable with.”
Growth is also important as Turner & Townsend fiercely defends its position as one of the few remaining UK-owned consultants. For Clancy, it’s important.
“Growth is there to lever off opportunities and we will do it at a pace we are comfortable with”
Vince Clancy, Turner & Townsend
“We believe our independence and investment in capability provides a compelling case to clients, insulating us from the challenges of the current economic climate,” he states.
“We have achieved these results through our policy of diversification across geographies, services and sectors,” reflects Clancy.
“Our turnover in the last 12 months has reached a record £306M due to strong order books and a growing international client base.”
But he also stresses that the UK remains important too.
“We had a good year in the UK,” he notes. Turner & Townsend is 1,200 strong here and working on some of the biggest infrastructure and property projects around including the £600M revamp of Birmingham New Street station.
“The only problem with the UK is that it is very competitive,” notes Clancy. Fortunately, Clancy is a competitive man.