The Big Four have more than 15,000 staff and partners in Russia, and alongside other consultancies, many have pulled operations out of the country in light of the conflict in Ukraine. So, what does this mean for Russian talent caught in the crosshairs?
Many large consultancies will no longer serve any Russian government clients, state-owned enterprises, or sanctioned entities. They will achieve this by separating from their Russian operations, leaving businesses to act independently.
As some of these Russian businesses aren’t bound by western sanctions, consultants can continue to operate on local and international clients. Indeed, local firms could face criminal punishment if they ceased working on clients, as a result of pressure from the international community that are bound by western sanctions. However local businesses and consultants may struggle to operate, without the benefits of being part of an international consultancy – such as accessing resources including IT systems, finance and marketing teams.
There is a growing number of Russian consultants looking to exit the country, who are currently exploring different options. Some consultants in Russia are being offered relocation support by the companies they are in. Goldman Sachs is reportedly moving some of its Russian employees to Dubai, for example. Economists in Russia have likened the “brain drain”, particularly of those in the IT sector, as akin to that experienced in the “dashing 90s”; as the country braces itself for an exodus of talent.
Working on non-Russian clients
Some consultancies want to keep supporting Russian colleagues but are stepping away from any other arrangements with the country. By offering work for non-Russian clients, they are keeping staff employed, but severing other ties.
In a case of “act now, think about the details later”, recent reports suggest that many large organisations are pulling operations out of Russia rapidly, but will face severe consequences later down the line. For other organisations, severing ties quickly is proving difficult – due to ongoing contracts, impact on goods and supply chains. But wherever they stand in current business operations, all consultancies share the same disapproval of Russia’s actions and overall support for Ukraine. Consultancies globally are pouring funds into supporting those affected by the conflict in Ukraine, through matching or multiplying donations driven by their organisations.
Talent in Russia face a challenging outlook, whether they decide to stay or leave. With freelancers and those in the gig economy particularly hit, the future looks uncertain and tumultuous. As consultancies try to sever ties with Russia, it’s on a par with supporting both Ukrainian and Russian colleagues caught in the crosshairs. All the while, balancing an ethical conundrum of business vs people. We’ve seen the best and worst of human nature in the Russia and Ukraine conflict, but as many businesses and employees have thankfully shown through their actions – people always come first.