How FTI-BOLD helps its staff enjoy ‘the best of both worlds’
The dilemma is a familiar one to many young professionals entering consulting: is it best to build a career within a major international conglomerate, or hone expertise within a small specialist player? Four consultants from FTI-Bold spoke to Consultancy.eu to explain how they have actually enjoyed the best of both scenarios within the firm.
Since its foundation in 2013, BOLD has made its name as a boutique consultancy which values entrepreneurship. That’s why, when the company opted to become part of large international player FTI Consulting, it came as a surprise to many.
FTI is a global network which employs some 6,600 professionals in nearly 30 countries, and generates around $2.5 billion in annual revenue. On paper, becoming part of such a brand seemed antithetical to BOLD’s reputation as a specialist entrepreneur.
However, in the months since the deal, it has emerged that BOLD’s expertise has fitted in well with FTI’s broader offering. Rather than being subsumed by a larger organisation, the firm has been able to forge ahead as a distinct entity; now known as FTI-BOLD – just as innovative and agile as before, but with a wider reach.
This did not come as a surprise BOLD co-founder Gerrit van Munster, who said in the wake of the deal that his firm’s entrepreneurial character was never under threat. He said at the time that the much larger FTI Consulting “always had the same ‘can do’ mentality” in its DNA.
Six months on, Nienke Pronk, Transactions Manager, can wholeheartedly confirm this cultural synergy between FTI Consulting and BOLD, has manifested in this way. Speaking to Consultancy.eu, she explains that FTI-BOLD still has more than enough room for own initiative.
“Entrepreneurship and commitment are qualities that are strongly present within the team and I don’t think that will change anytime soon,” says Pronk, who came on board at BOLD more than a year before the takeover. “We still operate as the same boutique organisation: the lines are short and everyone is always open to a ‘bold’ move or idea.”
Blending entrepreneurialism and experience
Bart Robben joined FTI-BOLD in February 2022, joining as Director Technology Transformations. He has never known the firm in its original form, but it is even clear to him that BOLD has managed to keep its distinctive identity.
“FTI-BOLD originated from entrepreneurship,” Robben adds. “You notice that this is so deeply entrenched in the DNA that it will always be a distinctive part of the culture. Working at an international level and yet also being very involved with a company and the team itself is a really unique mix as far as I’m concerned.”
According to Robben, it’s a distinct mix that is also good news for the agency’s clients. The hybrid approach of boutique entrepreneurialism and the pragmatism of a larger firm cover all the bases. In his role, focusing on technological and digital customer issues, he explains that almost every assignment – whether it concerns a transaction, transformation or turnaround – benefits from this.
“Our distinctiveness lies in the fact that we, together with our colleagues, can link technological change to organisational change in all its facets,” he notes. “Thankfully, technology does not become an end in itself, but remains an intrinsic part of organisational change.”
This is something reinforced by Joost van Hout – another recent arrival with the firm. Not long after Robben’s arrival, Van Hout joined as a Manager of Transformations with FTI-BOLD, and has similarly picked up on the blend of “experience and knowledge” staff share with each other, helping inform new innovative strategies.
“We don’t think in fixed silos, but we encourage collaboration between the different teams,” Van Joost says, “to achieve the best result for our customers on the one hand, and to be able to continue to develop yourself on the other hand.”
Finally, Martijn van den Heuvel came on board just over one year ago, and works as a Director of Turnarounds for FTI-BOLD. He previously worked for large, international firms such as PwC and BDO – so life at a global consulting player like FTI felt familiar to him in a sense. He admits “all players have the principle of ‘work hard, play hard’”, that he knows well from previous employers. But there is an important difference, too.
“The entrepreneurial character of FTI-BOLD and the pragmatic approach to our projects. This ensures short lines, a hands-on mentality and a lot of impact,” Van den Heuvel remarks.
Impact through collaboration
Every consultant wants to make an impact on the industry they specialise in. That is true in any office right across the industry. But, according to Van den Heuvel, that is especially true within FTI-BOLD’s turnarounds team. The assignments the team works on often mean the difference between success or collapse of a company.
“Within FTI there is very deep knowledge in many areas, so that we are still positively surprised every day in all honesty,” he states.
In the past year, for example, Van den Heuvel was involved in various high-profile cases, including the suspension of payments of retail giant Steinhoff International. In that case, a committee with 15 members had to vote on the drafted creditors’ agreement that was to guarantee the continuity of Steinhoff.
He elaborates, “Crucial in this was a trade-off between the potential recovery for creditors under the plan on the one hand and the recovery for creditors under a possible bankruptcy on the other. I was asked to support the four independent members in that assessment. In the end, the agreement was unanimously adopted by all fifteen committee members, which was a huge step in safeguarding the continuity of Steinhoff.”
He currently supports, among other things, a service provider that is facing various financial and operational challenges “which we are tackling step by step”. While the firm has already “achieved a lot” to that end – including a calculated multi-year plan, new agreements with external stakeholders and a clean auditor’s report – he still believes there is much more to be done.
“For example, we are still busy strengthening the balance sheet with the help of a new shareholder. If successful, the company will be able to fully focus on operational improvements after this financial restructuring. In short: a challenging process in which we make a huge impact with FTI-BOLD.”
Transformations and transactions
Pronk meanwhile focuses on the other two T’s that FTI-BOLD supports clients with: transformations and transactions. In previous consultancy roles, her work had been limited mostly to deal advisory – so she has enjoyed the opportunity to diversify.
“After my arrival, I could immediately start on a transformation assignment for a wholesaler. As a business consultant I assisted the CFRO with a wide range of financial and business analyses.”
At the same time, Pronk has found plenty of flexibility when it comes to alternating between transactions and transformations. This has provided a great deal of diversity in the work she has undertaken.
“I supported various financial due diligence projects, assisted a large European mail company with cost and process optimisation challenges and in recent months I have again performed a number of buy-side due diligence assignments for AVerest Capital and Total Specific Hosting, among others.”
Adding to this, Pronk cites the affiliation with FTI Consulting as ensuring that BOLD can win extra challenging and extensive projects. For example, the FTI-BOLD Transformation team already worked together with a British team from FTI Consulting on the assignment for the postal company.
“The FTI network offers plenty of opportunities, which means that I can now do an assignment abroad, even though I have only been working at FTI-BOLD for three months. As an international organisation, we are involved in attractive and increasingly larger assignments,” she says enthusiastically.
Since arriving at the firm, Van Hout has seen first-hand how colleagues from FTI Consulting can complement BOLD’s offerings and expertise. Speaking on time spent with his new colleagues from the consulting firm, he noted that there has already been a great amount of support, to the benefit of clients.
“In collaboration with an English team, we analysed the organisational structure of a large corporate,” Van Hout recalls. “We were able to provide optimisation advice with the help of a tool developed by FTI Consulting. And in the coming months I will be working with FTI colleagues on a project in the Middle East to develop a cash flow forecast model.”
Pronk has greatly enjoyed how FTI-BOLD combines this kind of entrepreneurialism with international clout. She adds that it provides “a really unique mix as far as I’m concerned.”
Robben agrees that the international network of FTI Consulting brings with it deep knowledge in many areas, something that still leaves FTI-BOLD staff “positively surprised every day” – and offers a lot of opportunities, because “we are never shy of real knowledge anymore.” But this appreciation goes both ways, too.
Robben states, “BOLD is praised within FTI Consulting for its strong and expansion-driven culture and despite the fact that we are still only a small organisation within a larger whole, you notice that we receive all the support to further expand this in the Netherlands and Europe.”
The best of both worlds
Celebrating its hybridised heritage, FTI-BOLD recently launched a new recruitment drive. The Why Compromise? campaign encourages young professionals caught between joining international conglomerates and independent boutiques to look at careers with FTI-BOLD.
Illustrating why this might be worth considering, the four professionals told Consultancy.eu that while they are each part of a different team, they all agree that the best of both worlds come together in FTI-BOLD. And in addition to the customers, they also benefit from this themselves, including in the development they go through as a consultant.
“Everyone within FTI-BOLD can determine their own career,” says Van Hout. “I myself have the ambition – in addition to assignments with our existing customers – to do international projects. The FTI network offers plenty of opportunities, which means that I can now do an assignment abroad, even though I have only been working at FTI-BOLD for three months.”
Van den Heuvel adds he particularly likes the fact that the office is involved in projects from start to finish. While there is a perception major players tend to get stuck in an ‘analysis/advice’ without getting their hands dirty, FTI-BOLD distinguishes itself with a third pillar, of ‘execution’.
“I missed the execution at my previous employers,” he explains. “Here, you can make a difference by implementing the prepared plans together with the company. We are not afraid to take responsibility for that. I learn something new every day and FTI-BOLD gives me every opportunity to gain experience in the execution phase of a restructuring.”
As a young professional, meanwhile, Pronk is first and foremost pleased with the variety in assignments she interacts with in transactions and transformations. She gets to analyse companies for financial due diligence on the one hand, while on the other, she can also look behind the scenes in a transformation assignment to understand a firm’s inner-workings. That is something “fun and educational.”
“But what makes FTI-BOLD a really nice place as far as I’m concerned”, Pronk adds immediately, “is mainly the atmosphere and the team.”
“Absolutely”, agrees Robben. “It is truly a privilege to be part of such a strong international organization – with all the great opportunities that come with it – and at the same time to be able to form such an enterprising, close-knit and friendly team.”