Why did WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff decide to rebrand to WSP?
Over the years, WSP has made more than 80 acquisitions; that’s 80 legacy businesses. Following on from WSP’s acquisition of Parsons Brinckerhoff in 2014, we wanted people across the entire organisation to feel unified under a single brand with a shared vision for the future. We also wanted our clients to have clarity on who we are and what we stand for. So that was the main intent. The rebrand was about how WSP represents itself.
To what extent were your employees and clients involved in this process?
Approximately 18 months ago, we embarked on an intensive brand research and development strategy to collect the feedback of clients, prospective customers, and employees (see box-out). We wanted to understand how our stakeholders perceived our brands, and what WSP meant to them.
We received strong feedback, and we used these findings to inform our new brand identity: what we want to be, and how we want to position ourselves in the market. This was a big consideration for the Parsons Brinckerhoff side of the business because that was a long-standing brand with a lot of equity. We wanted to ensure that moving away from the [Parsons Brinckerhoff name] wasn’t the wrong thing to do. The views of those surveyed led us to where we stand today.
Does this conclude the integration of WSP and Parsons Brinckerhoff?
Yes and no. I say that because the main aspects of integration are now some way behind us. WSP’s acquisition of Parsons Brinckerhoff took place two and a half years ago, and we achieved the vast majority of integration targets within a 12-month timeframe. I’m talking about people’s job titles, the structure of the organisation, our market and operational strategies – things like that.
There are some [longer-term] activities that, unfortunately, take a little longer to resolve: things like trade licences, legal entities, and the like. But that’s all in the background. Our clients will not, and should not, see any of that. It’s a really small body of work, and there’s not much left to be done.
What this rebrand does is to draw a nice clean line in the sand for WSP employees, whatever their legacy organisations. Those activities are now behind us and we look forward to a shared future under one name as a single entity.
What were the main challenges involved in this process?
Engaging with our employees and clients was relatively straightforward. People were quite generous with their time, and happy to provide feedback and comments. As a professional services provider, the main challenge was to identify a single culture. We didn’t want to impose the culture of any one of our acquired businesses – nor indeed WSP – across the entire organisation. Over the years, we’ve selected acquisitions for very good reasons: because they are good businesses with great people. It’s important not to lose sight of that.
So our objective was to try to identify the best aspects of each organisation, and blend those characteristics into one business with a single identity and culture. That is a challenge but it isn’t insurmountable, and I think we’ve largely achieved it. Nevertheless, you have to invest a lot of time – more time than many would expect – into dealing with the people involved, and helping them understand why we’re doing some of the things we’re doing.
Now that the rebrand is complete, what are WSP’s strategic priorities for the coming year?
Firstly, we will work to ensure that clients don’t notice any difference in the standard of service provided by WSP. Our customers will continue to receive services that are consistently high quality. That’s not going to change.
WSP will also continue to target, and work with, the best clients in the Middle East. If we focus on having the best people in our business, that should give us the opportunity to work with the best clients on the biggest projects. We’ll focus on regional developments that bring scale and complexity, and on which we feel we can add value.