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C5 Alliance and BDO in Jersey have combined to create a powerful Channel Islands consultancy

February 20, 2019

The acquisition of Channel Island technology business C5 Alliance by BDO in Jersey earlier this year created a powerful unified firm spanning consultancy, strategy, digital technology and managed services. It was a bold and unprecedented move by BDO in Jersey to complement its legacy accountancy firm services with a broad technological capability. Following BDO’s earlier acquisitions of Sator Regulatory Consulting, the regulatory consulting specialist, and Greenlight, the change management specialist, the acquisition of C5 Alliance provides BDO with the comprehensive skillset required to meet the needs of sophisticated clients competing in an increasingly complex business environment dominated by fast-paced technological, fiscal and regulatory change. It also supports the Channel Islands wider ambition to become a digital centre of excellence. 

Scott Nursten, Chief Technology Officer at BDO in Jersey, and Antony Allen, Chief Operating Officer, C5 Alliance, explain how they are integrating the two businesses and talk about BDO’s vision for the future of the combined organisation.

What made C5 such a good fit for BDO? 

AA: Both parties were talking the same language and had a similar approach to client engagement, as long-term partners and trusted advisers, which provides much greater value than a purely transactional relationship. Both organisations had achieved exciting growth through previous acquisitions and were attracted to the continued growth model that the larger group would allow. For C5 it has also opened up an international network and our local presence now has a global outlook. For example, we’re talking to the BDO firms in the United States and Canada and attending the global partner conference in Toronto; these two firms have been through a similar journey which we can learn from and in addition we have new opportunities to work with them to service some specific global client requirements. We were entrepreneurial and BDO were innovative, they brought that with them as well as business acumen; for our staff it was a compelling employment value proposition. 

SN: C5 has an inspirational management group leading a first-class team of technologists and business professionals, who we already knew from working on shared client relationships. C5 attracts, trains and develops the best talent and works hard to support some of the most innovative and forward-thinking businesses operating in the Channel Islands and globally. Because of this, we knew right from the early discussions that C5 would be an invaluable addition to BDO’s existing business. Whilst our heritages are different, we share a consistent culture and values and a true belief that ‘success means more together’. This concept of ‘shared success’ is relevant for us both in the context of the development of our own people, but also in terms of how we engage with and support clients. 

You work in many complex, technical areas. What can you do for clients? 

AA: C5 has historically offered both managed and professional technology services; but following the acquisition by BDO we are now delivering on our exciting vision, the underlying rationale for building this unified group. At the core of this is vision is what we describe as “Advise, Build, Run” – our new mantra focused on our clients’ needs and future strategy. Through our advisory teams we can provide strategic insight to design business process and solutions, this combines seamlessly with C5’s professional and managed services technology teams who deliver and build the solution, and ensure it runs smoothly.  

SN: There is a lot of hype that surrounds technology which is easy to get caught up in.  Blockchain, artificial intelligence, augmented reality, quantum computing and the ubiquitous autonomous vehicle all vie for our attention. But really how do you know which technology is going to succeed in the future? There are many factors which influence technology strategy planning and reflecting on past trends helps make sense of current ‘hype’. For us, technology is simply a part of solving issues for our clients and realising business benefit. We’re focused on creating functional technology strategies, with solving the business issues of the day at their core.

It’s notoriously challenging to integrate two large organisations, each with their own culture and ethos. Following the acquisition how has C5 organised itself to meet future client requirements? 

AA: BDO in Jersey is a large organisation, employing nearly 300 people in the Channel Islands. Within C5 Alliance, there has been a number of key hires and promotions to ensure a strong senior leadership team led by our highly experienced and recently-appointed CEO, Scott Workman. Our continued growth is illustrated by our recent acquisition of ALX Training, a digital learning company – which enhances our offering to clients even more; we really are providing a complete end-to-end solution.  

SN: Technology has had an evolving role in business.  IT departments are the backbone of businesses’ digital infrastructure, playing an essential role in driving technological innovation. However, IT strategy has traditionally been viewed as separate to business strategy.  A decade ago, IT systems were thought of as the cost of doing business in a digital world, however, the world has moved on and the role of the Chief Technology Officer, Chief Information Officer and Chief Information Security Officer has become an increasingly important part of the business fabric. By combining the strategic advisory services that our BDO colleagues deliver with the professional and managed technology services that C5 delivers, we’re positioning BDO-C5 to be the ‘go to’ provider for technology strategy and platforms in the future.  

What is the single most important tech issue that should be exercising the minds of CI business leaders? 

AA: The impact of artificial intelligence is a hot topic – what will it mean in terms of staff and costs? Will businesses be left behind and disadvantaged or will there be even more data for organisations to process and understand? There is the potential for so much more interpretation to occur seamlessly but it will be resource-intensive to apply the analytics necessary to define future strategies. This is why data is a core practice area within BDO-C5. When handled correctly, data can become quite predictive and therefore helpful for strategic planning and decision making. We have the expertise to framework client data to achieve valuable insights – without careful planning and specialist input, a lot of money can be spent without any business benefit. What makes this work exciting is the ability to make fundamental differences for people and business.  

SN: I echo the sentiment that ‘data is the new oil’, hence us spearheading our new technology strategy with our data practice. There is a rationale for dedicated data services; when used effectively, data has the potential to drive greater value than any other area of IT. We can take clients on a journey to help them get increased value from data – our data solutions provide a mature set of services enabling clients to move away from focusing effort on just producing reports, to actually delivering insight into the future of their businesses, ultimately leading to performance and innovation.  

I firmly believe that the key to our clients extracting the most value from technology over the next 5-10 years comes from focusing on the trifecta of data, cloud deployment and cyber security; accordingly, we are focusing on each of these three practice areas as core elements of our technology strategy. 

For more information about the BDO-C5 offering, please contact: enquiries@c5alliance.com