Accenture has once again topped the FT’s prestigious list of the UK’s Leading Management Consultants, coming top of the marketing, branding & pricing services segment, amid news that internal automating software advances are now being rolled out to clients. But its extension in the marketing space has also raised eyebrows.

It is the second year the table, which is based on recommendations by clients and peers, has been compiled and Accenture headed the overall ranking of gold medals across all 29 categories assessed.

Ratings ranged from bronze for “recommended” to silver for “frequently recommended” through to gold for “very frequently recommended”.

Accenture was awarded 18 gold medals, followed by KPMG with 16.

The results, for the most part, look similar to last year’s. The universal consultants – Deloitte, EY, KPMG, PwC, McKinsey, Bain, Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and Accenture – gained medals in at least 23 of the 29 categories measured. Only Deloitte, KPMG and McKinsey scored gold, silver or bronze in all 29.

A survey published earlier this year by the Management Consultancies Association – whose members make up 60% of the £10 billion UK sector – revealed just how embedded consultancies are across all sectors in the UK, with 84% of businesses polled by the MCA saying they hired consultants.

The FT rankings follow a controversial year for some of the biggest consulting firms over accusations of conflicts of interest. In December, the Competition and Markets Authority proposed the legal separation of audit and non-audit services.

Accenture has not been immune. Accenture Interactive announced it would launch a Programmatic Services practice in May last year, and it has also acquired Adaptly, an ad tech firm based in New York, which specialises in data-driven campaigns across online channels, including Facebook and Google.

According to the Accenture statement at the time, Adaptly’s digital media services will support Accenture Interactive’s “ability to activate, optimise and measure media cross-platform” and help advertisers “drive superior business outcomes”.

The deal was seen as a clear sign of Accenture’s determination to expand into digital advertising, a strategy that the 4A’s has strongly criticised, believing the company could be presented with serious conflicts of interest because of its separate auditing arm.

Also last year, Accenture formed what it described as a “strategic alliance” with the computer-vision start-up Malong Technologies, in a move underlining its faith in the commercial application of AI, and that marked its first investment in China. Malong’s core technology is called ProductAI – an image-recognition and auto-tagging system with retail applications.

Meanwhile, Accenture has announced it plans to sell SynOps, the automation software that helped it shed 40,000 roles internally, Bloomberg reports. The platform, developed over five years, makes suggestions about streamlining and the automation of processes such as finance, accounting, marketing and procurement.

The company said all those whose jobs had become obsolete would be retrained for other roles.

Sourced from Financial Times, 4A's, Bloomberg; additional content by WARC staff