Can a new business model save investment banking?


Published on

  • Be the first to comment

  • Be the first to like this

No Downloads
Total views
On SlideShare
From Embeds
Number of Embeds
Embeds 0
No embeds

No notes for slide

Can a new business model save investment banking?

  1. 1. This article originally appeared in the June 2009 issue of The journal of high-performance business Special Report: Dealing with the Downturn Capital Markets Can a new business model save investment banking? By Robert P. Gach and James R. Sproule Transparency, liquidity and increased oversight will be prominent features of the new capital markets landscape. The key to growth in this industry: customer-focused financial-product innovation that helps clients identify and manage risk.
  2. 2. The axiom is as simple as it is sobering: The current global economic downturn began with the sudden widening of credit spreads in August 2007, which precipitated a crisis that soon engulfed financial markets around the world. Until strength and stability return to those markets, there can be no sustained recovery. The damage to the banking system has been staggering. As of the beginning of March 2009, banks worldwide had announced losses of $840 billion. Total damages could run as high as $1.4 trillion. Capital markets and investment banking play a key role in the global financial system and the overall economy. They are an important source of the financing critical to the health of the economy, as well as the ultimate arbiters of where value is being created. This article focuses on that sector by exploring the five areas where the future shape of the capital markets will be determined. 1. Revenues Revenues are being hit by the flight from complexity and a slowing economy. But new products will emerge that deliver transparency and reduce risk or offer the possibility of significant outperformance. No amount of cost cutting or margin research has calculated that sales and enhancement can compensate for trading accounted for 75 percent of steeply falling revenues in this sector. investment banking revenues during Yet robust revenues are essential to the recent boom years. At the same everything from innovation to the time, traditional corporate advisory extraordinary returns that financial work fell to 20 percent of revenues services have been able to generate (although advisory revenues rose to over past decades. 40 percent of total revenues in 2008, in light of losses in the credit markets). At least in the longer term, Accenture remains optimistic. We believe Before the credit crunch, the finan- that the demand for traditional cial markets may well have reached financial products such as equities a high point in terms of both margin and bonds will continue its historic and volume. But for management, this trend of running up to 3 percent may not prove to be as controversial ahead of the supply. This demand a notion as might be imagined. is driven by both global demograph- ics and the clear need to save for As investment banks are absorbed retirement. Savings in 2008 alone into larger, traditionally more totaled $5.8 trillion globally, and conservative retail banking opera- the trend will continue to support tions, their ultimate parent orga- revenue growth as well as the nizations may be less willing to creation of a host of new financial take on risk or pay out commensu- products and services. rate reward. In fact, some banks’ managements may prefer lower Given their size, maintaining sales but possibly more stable earnings. and trading revenues is crucial For an industry accustomed to 2 Outlook 2009 for investment banks’ overall rapid change and high profits, this Number 2 performance. Indeed, Accenture would be a radical shift indeed.
  3. 3. Scope for recovery to an eventual rebound. Where Does this mean that a chastened a financial product’s underlying industry will abandon the complex, principle or added value is less high-margin products—entire new apparent—as is the case in a num- classes of securitized and monetized ber of complex and illiquid over- assets—that fueled the money-spin- the-counter instruments, such as ning trading operations before the credit default swaps—demand and, credit crisis? hence, revenues have fallen and will not soon recover. In analyzing what caused the house of complex financial products Successful, profitable financial to collapse, two factors stand out: products will be those that address The potential for illiquidity should liquidity concerns, have transpar- have been more carefully consid- ent ultimate liability and still offer ered; and calculating liabilities an attractive risk-to-return ratio. for products was nearly impossible These are most likely to be based when those products had to move on cross-product complexity, the through multiple iterations to linking together of highly liquid ultimately determine a valuation. financial instruments. Some banks’ manage- But Accenture believes that The high degree of liquidity would labeling all complex products as mean that each piece could be ments may prefer “excessively risky” is too sweeping priced separately. At the same time, lower but possibly a judgment. Although there have been clear failures across a wide these products would tie the pieces together in such a way that they more stable earnings. range of new financial instruments, would offer investors attractive there is scope for recovery; it all returns for risks undertaken. What depends on the product in question. margins these products will com- mand remains to be seen. But if For products like collateralized complexity is to be profitable again, debt obligations, the principle of it must be more transparent, more diversification remains sound and liquid and utilize a wide range of relevant, and this alone points financial products. 2. Risk and liquidity Risk parameters have expanded to include liquidity. Efforts to increase liquidity and transparency will mean more on-exchange trading as well as new capital structures. At the same time, changes in accounting rules could promote the development of new structures that are capable of accepting illiquidity risks. Although liquidity has always slid into recession has led to a been vital to financial markets, collapse in liquidity. the lack of it was seldom seen as a financial risk by investors and This collapse has already had bankers—until the credit crisis. a significant impact on bank A combination of banks losing balance sheets and will have a faith in counterparties that were similar impact on future bank assumed to be financially sound revenues and profits. Exact per- 3 Outlook 2009 and a more general uncertainty centages naturally vary, but with Number 2 about future losses as the economy some investment banks generating
  4. 4. The Great Collapse Investment banking revenues rose significantly from the first quarter of 2005 through the second quarter of 2007, driven in particular by higher debt trading revenues. These revenues stalled in the third quarter of 2007 and then plummeted in the fourth quarter of 2007 as trading losses were accumulated and declared in year-end accounts. Investment banking revenues, 2005–2008, $ millions $60,000 Debt trading Equity trading 50,000 Debt capital markets Equity capital markets 40,000 Corporate advisory 30,000 20,000 10,000 0 -10,000 -20,000 -30,000 -40,000 -50,000 1Q 2Q 3Q 4Q 1Q 2Q 3Q 4Q 1Q 2Q 3Q 4Q 1Q 2Q 3Q 4Q 2005 2006 2007 2008 Source: Accenture research up to 50 percent of trading revenue markets firms may simply become from proprietary positions, it is less willing to accept risk than they clear that illiquidity can quickly were in the past. impair assets necessarily held on a balance sheet as a natural part Transferring risk of business operations. Where risks are known, informed judgments can be made about the As a result, some more conserva- wisdom of particular investments. tive retail bank managements and The greatest danger comes, of shareholders, even regulators, may course, where risks are unknown. seek to scale back investment bank- Therefore, assuming that risks ing operations that take significant can be identified and assessed, an proprietary positions. Clearly, there equally likely approach for other is a need for better reporting and firms will be to transfer risk to new pricing transparency, as well as kinds of entities or to standalone 4 Outlook 2009 for risk assessment and liquidity divisions within more traditional Number 2 support. Ultimately, some capital existing institutions.
  5. 5. It is notable that funds simply write These moves will be further enhanced down the value of their investments by the exchanges themselves, which rather than recapitalize their balance will encourage liquidity providers to sheets. In a world where illiquidity enter the market. risks are evaluated and these evalu- ations become an integral part of Once something approaching the calculations aimed at delivering normalcy returns to the markets, outperformance, it may well be that so too will the desire for outper- fund-like structures become the formance. When this happens, most appropriate home for potentially banks are likely to move away from illiquid financial products. structures where illiquidity and attendant capital requirements are Concerns over liquidity are also an issue, and create new corporate going to have an impact on the once structures better able to cope with high-margin business of complex, significant market fluctuations. custom-made derivatives. Banks are going to be increasingly unwilling In accommodating new illiquidity to create illiquid over-the-counter risks, banks and funds will be able to financial products in light of investor take advantage of new opportunities reluctance to buy such products. This and a new route to outperformance. does not necessarily mean complex But the need for better transpar- derivatives will disappear, but their ency and reporting will be absolute. use will increasingly shift to financial The premium on illiquid products is institutions that can better accom- certainly likely to rise, giving higher modate illiquidity risk. potential returns to investors who are less constrained by immediate capital For financial markets, the need for de- requirements. Hedge funds could be monstrable transparency and liquidity one of the principal investors to take is likely to lead to greater standardiza- on this risk as they look to maintain tion and, thus, on-exchange trading. returns in a world of lower leverage. 3. Capital requirements The rising cost of capital is likely to hit financial institutions’ returns, and lending dependent on a deposit base is not going to be sufficient to fund long-term growth. While arguments will certainly con- to market” products held on their tinue about the origins of the credit trading books, resulting in valua- crisis, there is no doubt about its tions significantly lower than those chief impact on the banking sector: implied by discounted future cash Substantial write-downs of assets flow models. This undervaluation have left banks around the world in has amplified pressures on banks’ need of significant recapitalization. capital reserves and has led to calls to recognize only realized Part of the debate over bank solvency losses and gains. has focused on the application of fair-value accounting to complex Proposed reforms include shifting financial instruments, something a portion of trading-book assets to that becomes particularly compli- the banks’ own accounts, essentially 5 Outlook 2009 cated in illiquid markets. Prevailing reverting to cost accounting and using Number 2 rules have forced banks to “mark the acquisition price and discounted
  6. 6. A wealth of ideas Banks and hedge funds drove the development and trading of innovative financial products over the past decade with the total value traded rising to $1.4 trillion in 2008. Growth of financial products, $ billions $160,000 Exchange-traded derivatives 140,000 Foreign exchange (OTC) Credit default swaps (OTC) 120,000 Equity derivatives (OTC) 100,000 80,000 60,000 40,000 20,000 0 June 04 Jan 05 June 05 Jan 06 June 06 Jan 07 June 07 Jan 08 Source: BIS; Accenture research future cash flows to determine an in- cost of debt means leverage levels strument’s value. Although this would will fall, and banks will find it ease solvency pressure, it would also difficult to maintain their historic mean less transparency for investors. return on assets. A reduction in leverage from 95 percent of capital There is no clear and simple solution to 66 percent, for example, could to this problem. But whatever the reduce average ROE from approxi- final outcome, capital adequacy mately 15 percent to 10 percent. will in all likelihood be the driving force in determining how firms and Although there may be little risk funds accommodate risks. of regulators stipulating leverage levels, more cautious integrated- Revisiting leverage bank shareholders will undoubtedly Banks traditionally have had three demand a curtailing of the appetite principal sources of capital. for the sort of high-risk business models traditionally favored by In the past, equity played a relatively investment banks. Where govern- minor role on banks’ overall balance ments have become shareholders, sheets—although this may well be the appetite for risk is likely to be changing with the injection of sub- even lower. stantial government capital. Retail deposits have once again 6 Outlook 2009 While banks will undoubtedly become a key source of funding, Number 2 continue to use leverage, the higher especially as a number of commercial
  7. 7. banks absorb formerly independent For the moment, banks rightly investment banking operations remain focused on working through and as former investment banks their current losses and assessing refashion themselves as bank hold- the length and depth of the global ing companies. recession. In the medium term, how- ever, banks will be unable to raise Once established, a retail de- sufficient capital to accommodate posit base is a relatively low-cost future economic expansion unless source of financing and tends to they utilize the capital markets. be reasonably static. However, accumulating deposits is a slow Banks, therefore, face two challenges. and expensive process, and the They need to reassure potential most obvious way to attract more investors that in the future, they deposits—paying higher rates of will not face the same risks that interest—increases banks’ cost led to the present crisis. And they of funding. In the medium term, must find ways, without resorting to growing an industry on a stable excessive leverage, to give investors (even stagnant) depositor base is an attractive return for the risks going to prove difficult. they are undertaking. 4. Innovation There will continue to be a premium on financial-product innovation. But innovation will shift increasingly to the buy side. High fees will be dependent on demonstrable performance. During the past decade, there higher costs of doing their own has been a notable shift in power research, a reduction in the number in the financial markets to the of brokers they could work with buy side, the end-consumer of and significant competition from most financial products. With this low-cost index funds. shift, sell-side investment banks no longer provide free research, The capital markets will nonetheless control access to corporate clients, continue to see rapid innovation. determine what financial products But precisely where innovation will will be made available or, in many occur—and what sort of risks and cases, even provide liquidity. This rewards will be involved—shall be gradual change in the balance of subject to a good deal of change in power across financial markets has the future. been accompanied by an equally important shift in the source of What is certain is that product innovation. innovation will be more focused on customer needs, such as liquid- Much of the recent innovation in ity and transparency, than it financial markets has been driven has in the recent past. This cus- by hedge funds. This does not tomer-focused innovation will mean, however, that fund manag- ultimately include process inno- ers are not feeling a good deal of vation and other ways to help pressure. Not only have their port- clients better understand and as- folios been decimated; even before sess risk, including risk associated 7 Outlook 2009 the crisis, they were grappling with products that have already Number 2 with a number of challenges—the been developed.
  8. 8. Adding value highly evolved version of precisely The search for returns will force the same thing. high-cost active fund managers, particularly at hedge funds, to Innovation may well require flexible look where few others have gone capital structures. For products with before. This will drive managers an inherently high risk, it may well to increase their funds’ presence be that corporate entities that can in areas such as less liquid, small accommodate illiquidity are more company stocks and to continue appropriate. These entities could be their expansion into private eq- captives of larger integrated banks uity. Fees will become more closely or completely independent. tied to performance, which will reinforce the need for innova- As long as uncertainty grips the tion. Firms that can build on this markets, large amounts of money will innovation—by adding value or remain in cash or cash-equivalent allowing value to be effectively instruments. Once this money reenters added by others—are going to be the market, there will be more than the industry’s high performers of enough of it chasing top fund manag- the future. ers for them to maintain generous fee structures. As for the growing sentiment that hedge funds are something of an The rewards are potentially endangered species, this is certainly substantial. But more than ever a possibility. But if they do disappear, before, they will fall to those who they will be replaced by actively can deliver innovative instruments managed, leveraged funds with broad that offer a reasonable balance of mandates—in other words, a more risk and reward. 5. Regulation Effective regulation will need to take a global, coordinated, flexible and holistic view of risk across all instruments and segments of the market. The crisis in the financial markets ing concerns over moral hazard and has exposed two conflicting truths: a culture of excessive risk taking; Any regulatory scheme that does an increasingly interrelated and not seek to harmonize rules on an complex global financial system; international scale is likely to be and the lack of consistency across ineffective. But only a national markets. government is going to have suf- ficient money and political clout Clearly, reaching broadly based to effectively underwrite a system agreement on what such a system in trouble. will look like and how it will func- tion is going to be a slow and dif- What is needed today is a coordinat- ficult process. ed and structured global regulatory framework that actively identifies Emphasis on oversight and manages shocks throughout the Regulatory regimes will continue financial system. Moreover, any to foster competition and support such global approach must strive a technologically enabled market 8 Outlook 2009 to resolve a number of difficult and, infrastructure. But there will be Number 2 at times, conflicting issues—includ- a new emphasis on repairing gaps
  9. 9. Cash strapped The global liquidity index, which is based on nine different measures of liquidity that are then aggregated by the Bank of England, shows the total collapse of liquidity in the global financial system beginning with a severe contraction starting in August 2007. Global liquidity index 1.5 1.0 Standard deviation from the mean 0.5 0 -0.5 -1.0 -1.5 -2.0 -2.5 92 92 93 93 94 94 95 95 96 96 97 97 98 98 99 99 00 00 01 01 02 02 03 03 04 04 05 05 06 06 07 07 08 08 Jan June Jan June Jan June Jan June Jan June Jan June Jan June Jan June Jan June Jan June Jan June Jan June Jan June Jan June Jan June Jan June Jan June Source: Bank of England in oversight. There has long been We believe regulators need to an appreciation that international address five issues. regulation is both necessary and should have some sort of risk • Accounting rules. Fair-value, assessment at its heart. What is historic-value and mark-to- now also being appreciated is that model systems all have advan- regulation cannot separate financ- tages. Looking at where each ing into various constituent parts. system might be best employed and by whom has to be a press- The Basel II accords basically ing priority as banks rebuild addressed commercial bank capital their businesses. Strict guid- adequacy with little consideration ance as to when each set of rules for what was going on in the wider should be employed may be debt capital market. While the necessary, but a greater degree system is an improvement on of flexibility certainly looks to what preceded it, Basel II has put be desirable. rating agencies at the core of its risk assessments. Risk weighting • Capital adequacy. Rules for is undoubtedly to be welcomed, many complex financial instru- but there are serious questions ments need to be reviewed. about the ratings themselves as Transparency must be central to well as about whether the agencies any solution, which obviously 9 Outlook 2009 were appropriately responsive to places a premium on the under- Number 2 the credit crisis as it developed. standing of such instruments.
  10. 10. • Emerging markets. Countries such • Regulatory scope. Principles-based as India and China are already regulation will continue. However, major players in the global capital regulators are going to take a markets. If these countries are to much broader, more dynamic and be financed rapidly, with minimum interactive view of their role. risk to investors and at minimum cost to local companies, new capital • Transparency and liquidity. adequacy regimes will need to be Both must be improved, although created to draw them into new how this will be achieved in full international agreements. remains to be seen. Looking to the future Deriving a definitive forecast from lending and terms of lending. The real winners will these trends is not our intention. Historically, allowing political Rather, it is crucial to understand that priorities to direct bank lending be those who have each of the five factors listed above has seldom been successful. For will be important—no matter which the moment, there remains broad been brave enough scenario we consider most likely. agreement that even where a gov- to use this downturn ernment has invested considerable Two important variables will deter- sums of taxpayer money, banks to acquire new market mine the shape of financial markets should be run at arm’s length from share at steeply in the immediate future: how the politicians. However, this general economy recovers and how those agreement has not entirely muted discounted prices. markets are regulated. These two calls for using the financial factors are obviously intertwined. system for largely political ends. Overzealous financial regulation could hinder an economic recovery, The danger is that as recession for example, just as a quick econom- progresses, political priorities ic recovery could cool the current overcome the best of government enthusiasm for tougher regulation. intentions to refrain from unduly influencing banking operations. Looking ahead, Accenture envi- sions three plausible scenarios for • Businesses or activities deemed capital markets, each with its own “too risky” by regulators are challenges. either discouraged or disallowed. By stipulating what sorts of prod- 1. Deep regulatory engagement ucts are allowed, or by closely Governments around the world circumscribing products, regula- have invested unprecedented sums tors will discourage the kind of of taxpayer money in their banks, financial innovation and product just when recession is biting deeply creation that sustained margins into the global economy. In the first and, at least in part, returns over scenario, in an attempt to protect the past decade. Yields would fall these investments as well as to shield in the broader financial markets as electorates from the worst ravages of demand drives up prices, and any the economic downturn, governments, economic recovery would be slowed through their regulators, take a highly by a lack of dynamic capital. active role in banking operations. • Regulators seek to influence, Under this scenario: if not set, executive compensa- tion. The question of whether pre- 10 Outlook 2009 • Regulators determine, or help vailing executive compensation Number 2 to guide, broad levels of bank schemes in the capital markets
  11. 11. Risky business Leverage ratios at banks rose over the past decade and then began to spike in late 2007 as share prices fell. The five banks that had the highest leverage ratios since 2000 peaked at a ratio of 2,300 percent total debt-to-market capitalization. Selected banks’ leverage ratios 2,500% Top 5 Average leverage 2,000 1,500 1,000 500 0 Jan 2000 Jan 2001 Jan 2002 Jan 2003 Jan 2004 Jan 2005 Jan 2006 Jan 2007 Jan 2008 Jan 2009 Source: Bloomberg; Accenture research encourage disproportionate risk services. Wide-ranging regulation is a matter of considerable debate. would largely be dictated to the in- For the moment, in those cases dustry, which could become a seri- where no public money has been ous burden. For example, regulatory sought for a bailout, there is little compliance costs could rise consid- regulators are proposing to do. erably. As a consequence, competi- tion would be reduced across capital But where there has been a markets as entrepreneurial firms government injection of public would be discouraged from entering funds, there will undoubtedly be markets due to high initial costs some danger of the regulation of and lower potential returns. executive compensation. This may lead to a flight of talent to lightly 2. Ragged recovery regulated funds, where far higher This scenario, which we consider compensation (for taking far the most likely, foresees a normal higher risk) can be earned away recovery in due course. A ragged from the glare of public oversight. recovery is, in many ways, proof Whatever the outcome, executive that life is fair. Those financial compensation will remain a highly institutions that were most exces- incendiary political issue as long as sive in their risk taking in the past taxpayer money is involved. would be punished. The survivors would be those that had been con- • Regulatory compliance becomes servative in their lending, effective 11 Outlook 2009 a major expense and an effective in their risk management, or large Number 2 barrier to entry into financial enough to withstand losses.
  12. 12. However, the real winners would ing basis. The cost of regulation be those who have been brave under this arrangement would rise enough to use this downturn and may, in the process, curtail new to acquire new market share at entrants into the market. But this steeply discounted prices. will have only a marginal effect on overall competition. A renewed emphasis on transpar- ency and liquidity is a certainty 3. Rapid recovery and will be a feature of all three Unlikely as this now might seem, scenarios. But in a ragged recovery, the potential for the global econo- once the financial markets begin to my to recover more rapidly than is recover, so too will the desire for being forecast must be considered. Innovation is likely to outperformance. For banks that have For the capital markets, the most had difficulty coping with illiquid important feature of this scenario shift to products that financial products on their balance would be a rapid return of those transparently meet sheets, the solution is not to aban- underlying factors that drove the don innovation but to move product business during the past few years: a specific need and innovation and complexity to new demand for financial products and organizational structures that can the push into emerging markets. to emerging-markets cope with the changing marketplace. financial products Considerable amounts of investor The potential for financial product capital have been withdrawn from where sustained innovation is no more likely to fade markets over the course of 2007 and outperformance is than human ingenuity. In a ragged 2008. In a rapid recovery, this money recovery, complex and potentially would quickly reenter markets. This realistically possible. illiquid products are going to be would not only automatically repair manufactured, sold and held by enti- many balance sheets and boost pen- ties that can cope with illiquidity. sion funds, it would also provide Furthermore, innovation is likely to capital for a renewed expansion. shift from complex products to prod- ucts that transparently meet a specific While there would be a new need and emerging-markets financial regulatory regime, the expanding products where sustained outperfor- recovery would reduce the political mance is realistically possible. pressure to use intrusive or draco- nian measures to punish bankers. As for regulation, under this scenario: Under this scenario: • Regulators take a supervisory • Regulators take a supervisory and and directing role only in those directing role only in those banks firms they have rescued. they have rescued. • New dynamic risk measures are • New dynamic risk measures are utilized by both investors and utilized by both investors and regulators. regulators. • It is accepted that mistakes have • Pressure for new regulations is been made by both firms and lessened and international agree- regulators, and that the concerned ment becomes more difficult. parties work together on the next generation of regulation. None of our scenarios foresees product complexity as it existed Regulation would seek to be prin- pre-crisis. However, a rapid recovery ciples-based and flexible enough to would quickly create demand for respond to changing circumstances new products. This would lead within the wider market. This will to both a complexity of products 12 Outlook 2009 push regulators and the regulated drawn from across silos and a Number 2 to work cooperatively on an ongo-
  13. 13. renewed interest in products from ous imperative to act, becomes emerging markets. even more difficult to agree upon. This scenario would also take The danger of this scenario is the pressure off politicians to that the lessons of the past few act for the sake of acting, with years are not absorbed, and that in the result that there would be rela- the medium term, the imbalances tively little regulatory change over that have led to the present dif- the next few years. This would ficulties will simply reemerge. And be particularly true for compre- presumably, this is a path no one hensive international regulation, in the capital markets wants to which, in the absence of an obvi- go down again. During the past seven years, financial markets were so buoyant that even capital markets firms with poorly conceived, undifferentiated strategies could prosper. But it is now clear that the business model that prevailed until the summer of 2007 was not sustainable. And any firm that seeks to resuscitate that model is bound to fail. But turning their backs on the past is not enough. High performers in capital markets will be those who understand not only how the world has changed but also how, with the right market positioning, distinctive capabilities and performance anatomy, they can take advantage of those changes. About the authors Outlook is published by Accenture. Robert P. Gach is the New York-based global managing director of Accenture Capital © 2009 Accenture. Markets, responsible for the overall strategy of the industry group. Mr. Gach has spent All rights reserved. his entire career serving the financial services sector, working with leaders in the global banking and capital markets industries in North America, Asia and Europe. The views and opinions in this article His experience includes mergers and acquisitions, business strategy development, should not be viewed as professional advice with respect to your business. and architecture development and implementation. Prior to his current role, Mr. Gach served as managing director of Accenture Financial Services in Asia Pacific, during Accenture, its logo, and which time he was part of the team that secured Accenture’s entry into the People’s High Performance Delivered Republic of China. are trademarks of Accenture. The use herein of trademarks that may be owned by others is not an assertion James R. Sproule, a senior manager in Accenture Research, heads Global Capital Markets of ownership of such trademarks by Accenture nor intended to imply an Research. Mr. Sproule has more than 15 years of experience as an economist in finan- association between Accenture and the cial services. His work as a researcher and forecaster has entailed scenario planning, lawful owners of such trademarks. sensitivity analysis and competitor profiling. He has also focused on valuations and investment opportunities within the European small-and-midsize-companies sector. For more information about Accenture, A former communications officer in the Royal Navy, Mr. Sproule is based in London. please visit