Deloitte Acquisition Rings in the New Year

The New Year began with a thud as Bersin & Associates was acquired in a deal by Deloitte, the consulting company. Bersin & Associates becomes Bersin by Deloitte. The apparent thinking behind the acquisition is that Deloitte will enhance its portfolio of product offerings for Human Resources clients.

That remains to be seen, but many aspects of this deal will be considered over the next several months: Is it good for Deloitte’s clients? Is it good for the industry? Who really benefits? From my unique perspective as a former Bersin executive and now CEO of one of the few remaining free-standing research/analyst firms, I offer a few thoughts on the Bersin deal:

  • Many Bersin clients and other companies will be supported differently and, most likely, will be provided new pricing structures.
  • Presently, most of the executive team is staying on, which is nothing unusual for acquisitions. There’s no mention of current key employees that helped build the case for this acquisition.
  • Eventually, the Bersin name and brand will go away – probably within the next 18 months while Deloitte tries to tap into the current brand equity of Bersin.
  • Deloitte, by its nature, is focused on very large, tranformational consulting engagements, so the future research that is developed may be more about supporting the consulting that Deloitte wants to do versus what the market needs.
  • Solution providers who worked with Bersin to help market their products and offerings may not be interested in doing work with a competitor-owned, small subsidiary business.
  • Bersin is no longer a freestanding analyst firm. It had a significant footprint in the vendor community; Deloitte has never been a pay-to-play analyst marketing services firm. It will be interesting to see how well the culture of Deloitte can integrate a small analyst firm into its business as a small subsidiary business.
  • Research analysts like their autonomy and enjoy the flexibility to do what they want to do based on the market needs. How they mesh business models will be interesting, and my guess is that Deloitte is thinking of how it can tap into an installed base of clients, and just raise prices. In our experience with these types of deals, the acquired company always has to produce based upon the buyer’s (Deloitte’s) standards.  That can be extraordinarily difficult for a smaller entrepreneurial type of business and usually hinders significant growth.

As we start the New Year off, Brandon Hall Group’s focus will be on continuing to provide the best independent research in the market. We feel this is a time when the people, performance, and development industries need more voices and more thought leadership. We are on the edge of an amazing shift taking place in how businesses become sustainable and thrive – and it won’t be based on old ideas or a narrow look at the industry.  The future will be driven by those who can adapt and change. Our goal is to help organizations do just that.