BEN DE HALDEVANG, Director of PWC's Post Deal services, sent me an email shortly after the publication of Perfect M&As, the Art of Business Integration saying "I very much enjoyed your book; there were some really great ideas in it". Why would a competitor offer a compliment, you might wonder? Put in another way: does my work with companies that are in the process of merging, or integrating a major acquisition, complement the input of the likes of PWC, Deloitte, KPMG, Ernst & Young and Grant Thornton who advise their clients on mergers and acquisitions, or are these and many other large reputed accounting firms in fact my competitors?
I had the opportunity to discuss this with Ben de Haldevang during his recent trip to London, and whilst there clearly is a role for accounting firms in supplying knowledgeable staff to help in setting up the integration, organising and running a Programme Management Office (at least for the start of the integration), providing a “toolbox” to support the integration process, and possibly injecting expert resources to provide consultancy advice on specific matters such as supply chain integration, manufacturing strategy or I.T. integration, the force that manages the integration and drives the profound change the two companies must undergo when they blend can only be perceived as coming from within.
Many companies as well as their private equity owners believe, wrongly, that this internal drive must come from the CEO himself. Of course, the CEO has to be seen as the clear sponsor and instigator of the integration, but that same CEO is also responsible for driving the business, or rather: two businesses until the day they really have blended into one. Whilst the CEO remains accountable for the outcome of the integration, the responsibility for planning, coordinating and driving the multitude of activities associated with the integration of a moderately complex business, or a company that spans a number of locations, needs to be delegated to another person: the Integration Director. More often than not, nobody fitting that profile and repeated experience of M&A integration can be found in the company, and the role will therefore be filled by an external candidate, usually on a contract basis as this is a finite assignment (unless the company is a serial acquirer pursuing an aggressive M&A growth strategy).
What matters is that this Integration Director is perceived as being “one of the team”, rather than an external “advisor”: someone who is there to actually do the work rather than tell others what to do; someone who will roll up his sleeves and interface with people at all levels of the organisation, not just the Board and Executive team. Someone who will be instrumental in shaping the hearts and minds of the people in the company, and who will allow the rest of the Executive to focus mainly on running the daily business and keeping performance on track whilst the integration process progresses. That Integration Director will also know how to get the best value out of the functional specialist consultants that may be involved in the integration as well as the PMO team, many of whom will have been supplied by the accounting or consultancy firms.
So even though many accounting firms may feel they can accompany the integration process from beginning to end, Ben de Haldevang is right : a Post M&A Integration specialist works for his client and on behalf of that client, coordinating and collaborating with the other external resources that may be involved in the integration project, but certainly not in competition with them.