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Face to face: McArthur, Ritter and Allan, Arcadis

Neil McArthur, Stephan Ritter, and Wael Allan tell James Morgan what Arcadis’ new single operating model means for its customers, both on a global level and in the Middle East.

INTERVIEWS, Projects

Last month, Arcadis consolidated its brand identity with the launch of a single operating model for global markets. Henceforth, the Netherlands-headquartered design and consultancy outfit will operate internationally under one brand.

The move sees the phasing out of legacy brands Langdon & Seah, Hyder Consulting, ARCADISLogos, and EC Harris. The group’s architectural brands, Callison and RTKL, have merged to create CallisonRTKL. The updated brand has been adopted across the 70 countries in which Arcadis operates.

As one might expect, a brand relaunch of this magnitude represents no mean feat. As such, a selection of the firm’s senior management figures embarked on a world tour in a bid to facilitate in-house integration, and to promote awareness amongst the company’s customer base. It was during the Middle East leg of this expedition that I sat down with Arcadis’ CEO, Neil McArthur; member of the Middle East executive board, Stephan Ritter; and CEO Middle East, Wael Allan. The trio were eager to explain the thinking behind the rebrand, and what it means for their clients.

“At the last count, we had 13 brands around the world,” McArthur begins. “With the launch of this single brand, Arcadis is now able to position itself as the leading design and consultancy for natural and built assets globally. It enables us to show that we have the full set of capabilities to serve our clients throughout the lifecycles of their assets. In practical terms, it means that we can present one set of business cards that really delivers on our operating model, which is to be ‘seamlessly global’ in serving our clients, irrespective of who they are and where in the world they are located.”

Allan adds: “Regionally [in the Middle East], the coming together of EC Harris and Hyder Consulting, under the umbrella of Arcadis, really unifies and strengthens our offering to local clients. We’re now able to offer the whole range of services. This move will enable us to use our global expertise to benefit clients the Middle East.”

Impressive though this sounds, I was keen to drill down to what this move will mean for Arcadis’ clients in practical terms. Will the firm’s customers notice the difference?

McArthur responds by pointing out that in the past, clients have traditionally associated his group’s personnel with their respective legacy outfits. He explains: “Despite our best efforts, our employees’ client relationships have tended to be understood within the context of their legacy companies’ capabilities. The launch of one brand for global markets allows us to have the conversation with our clients that we are all Arcadis. We’re not a group of firms; we’re one firm with one operating model, and this model enables us to access capabilities irrespective of where in the world they are required. Put simply, Arcadis can now offer clients a broader set of capabilities for a broader set of needs.”

Encouragingly, the changes that have been implemented as part of Arcadis’ rebranding process run far deeper than name alone. The group has been completely restructured.

“We’ve invested heavily in creating a more global operating model,” explains McArthur. “We now have global sector leaders: 13 executives for our 13 major cities around the world. In addition, we have 18 ‘core value proposition’ leaders, who sit within Arcadis’ global business lines. For example, we have one person who drives and builds our programme management capability globally. This model enables us to access the very best set of capabilities to suit our clients’ needs, irrespective of their location.”

Furthermore, all legacy companies involved in the rebrand have gone through what the Arcadis chiefs call ‘the co-creation process’. A steering committee was established with senior-level representatives from each outfit, and over a six-month period, the company’s new market strategy was devised.

“We opened up the hoods of each company and examined the engines in order to really understand what we were working with,” says McArthur. “By looking at those capabilities, we were able to create more synergies in the marketplace. We then considered how best to operate jointly under our single operating model, and moved into the sphere of organisational design. We went through a very careful selection process to match the right leaders with the right roles.”

The company’s CEO tells Construction Week that the co-creation process was completely unbiased. As he puts it, it was about finding “the best person for the job”. The result of this process, he continues, is a meritocracy comprising personnel from across the group’s legacy companies. What’s more, all historical divisions have been dissolved. Under the new operating model, there is only Arcadis.

This leads me to wonder whether CallisonRTKL is an exception to the rule. Merger aside, I ask McArthur why the architectural outfits have been kept apart from the Arcadis rebrand. His response, in no uncertain terms, is that they have not.

“First point; they have not been kept away from it,” he emphasises. “There is a very strong association. It’s CallisonRTKL; the font and the colouring are the same as Arcadis. Moreover, it clearly spells out ‘CallisonRTKL: A design consultancy of Arcadis’. There’s a very strong brand association.”

Nevertheless, McArthur concedes that Arcadis’ architectural arms have been treated slightly differently. This decision, he explains, was taken in light of their sector-specific capabilities and reputations.

“Architecture is somewhat unique,” says McArthur. “The brands that have merged to become CallisonRTKL have real meaning for their clients. Callison, for example, is undisputed in the world of retail; it is the number-one architectural brand within this sector. Look at any of the top-tier names – Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Cartier, Burberry, Porsche, Tesla – all of these brands are clients of Callison. It’s number one in retail by a clear distance. Similarly, RTKL is a world leader in commercial, mixed-use, healthcare, and workplace developments.

“We wanted to make sure that those brands – brands that are associated as global leaders in their respective sectors – are maintained in the form of CallisonRTKL. They have come together as one combined brand, but within Arcadis,” he adds.

Moving on, I ask whether this single brand identity – when taken within the context of the group’s expanded capabilities – is likely to translate into contracts that would have otherwise been beyond the reach of legacy companies operating unilaterally.

Ritter answers: “If you’re looking to identify the main driver behind the move to a single brand, it really was client driven. Some of our clients were saying: ‘You position yourself as a global company, but really – if I look at how many brands you carry with you – how can you deliver globally?’ From my perspective, this move will result in more global clients.

“Plus, I think having one brand and one way of working will help us – in a more credible way – to take the world-class capabilities that we have to a specific city anywhere on the planet. The feedback that we have received so far from our clients is that Arcadis is now an even more credible global company than it was before,” he tells Construction Week.

Building on Ritter’s response, McArthur provides examples of two already-secured, large-scale contracts that lay beyond the capabilities of individual legacy firms.

“When the tender was initially floated for Doha Metro’s Gold Line in Qatar, Arcadis, EC Harris, and Hyder took separate decisions not to bid. In isolation, we didn’t think we had the full range of capabilities. However, as we were coming together, we realised that we had the joint capabilities to go after this contract. So we did. And we won it.

“Then consider Crossrail 2 in the United Kingdom. Before completion, Hyder was going to bid. Arcadis was not, as it had no engineering capability in the UK. Traditionally, Hyder would have partnered with companies x and y, but it asked Arcadis whether it had tunnelling capability. Our response? Look no further than the Channel Tunnel. Together, we bid as Arcadis Crossrail 2, and we won the feasibility study against world-class competition.

“By bringing together those global capabilities under the single brand, Arcadis, we can win against any competitor in the world,” McArthur asserts.

In the meantime, Arcadis has plenty of high-profile projects with which to busy itself, especially in Saudi Arabia. The company is currently operating in a programme management capacity for Jeddah’s Kingdom Tower, which is set to become the world’s tallest skyscraper upon completion. More broadly, it is working closely with Jeddah Municipality to integrate standards of design and engineering that will enhance quality of life for the city’s residents.

Commenting on the need to strike a balance between landmark and publicly-minded projects, Allan tells Construction Week: “Jeddah is one of the 13 large urban centres on which Arcadis is currently focusing. We’re working with Jeddah Municipality on aspects as simple as types of pavement, roads, mobility, and housing permits. These factors touch the lives of the local population. Whilst Arcadis’ Jeddah Municipality work may not be as iconic as Kingdom Tower, in terms of the impact that it will have on the local community and the public good that it will do, it really is incredible.”

Shifting his attention to Arcadis’ renewed capabilities in the Middle East, Allan says that the brand consolidation has bolstered his team’s offering for regional clients.

He explains: “I think we have a strong capability. We are one of the top design consultancies for natural environment and built assets. In the Middle East, we have 2,200 people, and we are growing. There is a great focus on expanding our programme management offering, as we see good potential in that area. Also, we will bring the architectural and urban planning capabilities of CallisonRTKL to bear on the region.

“But more importantly, what does the new Arcadis mean to our clients? It means great capability and great scale. I think we are now in a better position to serve our Middle Eastern customers on a much larger scale, and with more diverse capabilities.

“Put simply, the move will add value to our clients’ projects, and that really is the key as far as Arcadis is concerned,” Allan concludes.

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