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What We Do

The word consulting has become something of a catch-all phrase in today’s business landscape. Almost every industry and every firm has their own idea of what it is to be a consultant. For this reason, and to better understand the ecosystem in which we operate, it is perhaps worthwhile explaining the different conceptions of consulting that exist today, and to clarify exactly how Monocle positions itself in this environment.


The first conception, or perhaps misconception, of consulting involves the idea of contract work. Contractors – often calling themselves consultants – hire out their services by the hour and forego the security of a full-time employment contract to pursue remuneration for their work on an ad hoc basis. But the time-based remuneration structure of contracting carries with it a potentially significant conflict of interest, in that the successful completion of a project is not necessarily in the best interests of the contractor. At Monocle, we do not believe that consultants merely sell their time. Consultants solve problems.


The second understanding of consulting stems from the business model exercised by multinational audit firms, which often run large advisory divisions alongside their main auditing function. These audit-centric consultants work across a broad range of industries and their success often relies on two factors: the perceived power of their brand and these audit firms’ sheer size. Yet, the scope of their services can often be constrained by their audit-focused mindset. At Monocle, we are not auditors, and this allows us the freedom and flexibility to implement change wherever and however it is needed.


A third type of consulting involves the work performed by large systems integration firms. These firms focus specifically on integrating new system infrastructure into a client organisation. These multinational IT-centric firms often partner with large software companies to ensure the successful implementation of complex application software into client system architectures. At Monocle, our consultants are experts in many software applications, but we are not an IT implementation company, we are business subject matter experts.


The fourth kind of consulting practiced today is general management and strategy consulting. These consulting firms believe – at their core – that the conduct of management and the strategic objectives of large organisations can be altered through the intervention of strategy consulting. Such consultants usually deliver a management or strategy plan as an end product, whilst the actual physical change to be executed is often left for the client organisation to implement themselves. At Monocle, we engage in management and strategy consulting but importantly, we also deliver tangible system-level solutions to solve our clients’ unique business challenges.


In the context of these various definitions of consulting, it is important for us as Monocle to amplify the fact that we are different in a number of ways. We do not sell time and we do not sell products. We are not contractors, we are not an IT firm, nor are we auditors. We are an independent management consulting firm with deep technical skills and subject matter knowledge, focused on the financial services industry. At Monocle, we are consultants pure and simple.


What We Do

For many, the image of a consultant is entangled with the idea of a free-roaming agent, employed by a company or acting alone, selling their products or services to any willing buyer. Such work is very important in many companies and in many contexts, often yielding good returns in the form of commissions and sales target bonuses, as the harder you sell, the more you earn, and the quicker you get recognition. It is a concept used by thousands of companies which rely on pushing their product to as many buyers as possible – often unconcerned whether it will ever solve their problem.


In the purest sense, this is not the work of a consultant. In the financial services industry, there are indeed many management consulting firms and large system integration firms that remunerate their consultants based on their sales performance and the revenue they generate, but we at Monocle do not believe in such a paradigm. At Monocle, our consultants are not salespeople. In fact, we do not want our people to sell. Talented consultants should not have to compromise their image of themselves by doing something that is not truly consulting. At Monocle, we are consultants, pure and simple.


We recognise that we live in a commercial world, and that we need to be properly remunerated for our work, but we do not believe that our consultants should take direct responsibility for this part of our business. Sales and work proposition at Monocle takes place through very particular channels – only the most senior directors are responsible for sourcing future projects and creating new business, thereby alleviating any sales target pressure on consultants. Not only are our consultants not expected to sell, they are not actually allowed to approach clients to garner work.


It would be highly concerning if a doctor were to give every patient a certain pill, because the doctor stood to profit personally from the sale of that medication. In the same way, our consultants cannot be expected to sell a pre-packaged product to our clients. A consultant, like a doctor, consults with a client to identify areas of concern, to diagnose the problem and to treat the ailment. By eliminating the need for our consultants to sell, we ensure the client’s challenge is at the very centre of our business.


Some may then ask, “But how do you know if your consultants are being efficient, if there are no individual revenue indicators?” To this we say, as a consulting firm in the purest sense, we are focused on implementing tailor-made projects built from the ground up, to the specification of our clients to meet their unique business challenges. Ultimately, then, the efficiency of our consultants is measured in a far more nuanced and three-dimensional manner than a simple win-or-lose revenue target. Such a crude measure of value is at its core sales-centric rather than client-centric.


The success of a consultant at Monocle therefore has nothing to do with achieving a sales target, but everything to do with the successful completion of projects and the extent to which these solutions ultimately add value to our clients’ businesses.


What We Do

We are not an audit firm. It is not common to define oneself by saying what one is not, but in a world where the distinction between auditing and consulting has become somewhat blurred, this is an important point to make. The conflation of the two has occurred because most consulting work conducted in advanced economies worldwide is actually performed by people who work for firms that, at their core, are audit or assurance firms.


It is a requirement in South Africa that all banks undergo both a statutory audit and a regulatory audit to ensure that the multitude of reports submitted to the South African Reserve Bank – in accordance with the Banks Act – are accurate and true. This work is performed by audit and assurance firms, and it is extremely important. It provides the general public, as well as shareholders, investors and other stakeholders in both publicly-traded companies and private firms, some sense of security and assurance that the facts being presented to them are reliable. This work is absolutely critical, not only to the confidence that investors and other stakeholders have in any particular company, but to the confidence they have in the very idea of the free market system itself. Without these checks and balances, the idea of the liberal free market system would rapidly become substantially eroded.


In general, however, these assurance activities only account for about half the revenue generated by auditing firms, with the other half generated through separate departments that offer advisory services. Audit firms are, thus, also the dominant providers of consulting services to the financial services industry, although to enhance the independence of their auditing activities, these firms cannot simultaneously provide auditing and advisory services to the same bank.


From the outset, we at Monocle made a deliberate decision not to venture into the world of auditing. We do not do assurance work of any kind. We are consultants pure and simple.


The decision to specialise in consulting has provided the advantage of flexibility in our work. Because we are not restricted from working with any client, we have the freedom to propose work anywhere, and at any time, as well as the ability to pursue any work that we believe will add value to the fields in which we have expertise. As a result, our consultants engage with a wide range of customers and are exposed to problems that are generally change-orientated, rather than of a business-as-usual nature.


The work we do is pure consulting. We endeavour to radically change and advance the manner in which our clients operate, whilst providing our employees with vital experience through the wealth of intellectual property and corporate memory we have developed through years of international and local project experience. There is essentially only one thing we are restricted from doing: we cannot mark anyone else’s homework. But this is how we prefer it, for it ensures our focus remains fixed on our true area of expertise: the business of innovative problem-solving.


What We Do

At Monocle, our consultants are trained experts in various software and programming languages, such as Microsoft Access, SQL, Excel, VBA and Power BI. In fact, the skills development which is provided to all consultants at Monocle has a strong focus on teaching hard technical skills, delivered through our in-house training programme. In this sense, we invest in our people to make sure they have every tool available at their disposal to do the best work possible for our clients – no matter how technical the task at hand. But even though we are strongly focused on equipping our consultants with these technical skills – in order for them to be effective agents of change and to give our clients a commercial edge in an extremely competitive market – we do not consider ourselves to be an IT company.


Whilst a key part of our business is helping our clients to implement systems and processes – often of a digital nature and involving the automation of many of the inefficient manual processes still in place in these organisations – we do not in any way or form sell IT products or install hardware or software. There is no doubt that the many different software applications our consultants use are critical to their roles, but these applications are merely the tools required as the most useful means to analyse, build and improve upon the systems existing at our clients.


In the rapidly evolving world of technology, there has been an exponential increase in the amount of data available to organisations of all sizes and industries, and perhaps even more so in the financial services space. To effectively analyse and garner insights from this rushing flood of data, and to ultimately create added value for shareholders, we believe our consultants need to be proficient in the best-of-breed software and applications that allow them to be at the cutting-edge of data and business analysis.


This intricate system and software knowledge is doubly important in the world of banking and insurance, as the large financial institutions with which we consult are beholden to deeply complex compliance and regulatory requirements. To assist in the goal of becoming compliant with these ever-changing regulations, as well as in extracting as much value as possible from the markets, it is essential for our consultants to understand both the technical as well as the business landscape of our clients. Not only do we understand the unique landscape of complex products and markets in which our clients operate, we are also able to translate and execute our clients’ regulatory and business requirements into the precise code-level specifications needed to build the state-of-the-art systems that can achieve these objectives.


At Monocle, we pride ourselves on the specialised nature of our consulting work. What we do is to consult with our clients to design and deliver fit-for-purpose, full-lifecycle solutions, by analysing and translating business and regulatory challenges into tangible IT- and data-driven specifications.


What We Do

When you choose to work for a company, it is useful to see the decision as a significant life choice, rather than merely as a job choice.  Work is, after all, where you spend the majority of your time and often where you invest most of your effort.


In the past, professionals may have been advised to always put the company’s objectives above their own to secure their professional positions. But, a new generation of employees is proposing an entirely different understanding of the employment relationship, unashamed of their desire to achieve something greater than financial prosperity through their work. In the modern world of work, if a company wishes to attract and retain a talented and ambitious workforce, it is crucial that it articulates a clear value proposition that balances the objectives of the business with the desires of its employees to learn, to grow and to do work that is meaningful.


At Monocle, we are deeply invested in the growth of our employees, both as professionals and as people. We believe that there is a minimum set of skills, experiences, insights and, in fact, epiphanies that a person should encounter in their working life. We believe that it is not enough to simply train our employees with the skills necessary to meet the requirements of their immediate job specification. We believe, in fact, that it is our duty to enhance the human experience of our employees overall.


We have therefore constructed a unique five-year personal development plan for each and every consultant in our firm, which is tracked continuously on an individual consultant level. This comprehensive programme integrates all aspects of a person’s development through four key dimensions.


Firstly, our employees receive training in a wide range of hard skills that are underpinned by internationally-recognised certifications. This includes not only Microsoft Excel and Access training, but also certification in VBA, SQL, a range of BI tools and programming. Secondly, our consultants are provided on-site experience in world-class banks and other financial institutions, working on a range of critical issues in the areas of finance, risk, treasury and compliance. Thirdly, we focus great attention on the development of extensive subject matter knowledge, with extensive formal training delivered by senior executives at Monocle, some of the most experienced consultants in the industry.


Fourthly, we teach our consultants the art of engagement, both with colleagues and clients, and more generally with the world. This is achieved through training in soft skills – including communication, negotiation and collaboration skills – and ongoing executive mentorship. Perhaps most uniquely, we also place a strong emphasis on developing critical thinking skills. Through this special dimension of our development programme we challenge our employees to view the world and themselves in a different way – to calmly distance themselves from emotional preconceptions and the archetypes that make us, as human beings, less than we could potentially be. We believe that by challenging our preconceptions of the world, and of ourselves, we can become more fulfilled and enlightened in our work.


Monocle’s approach to career development is an holistic one. We motivate our employees to believe they can achieve anything. And it is this confidence, backed by training, expertise and strong consistent mentorship that ensures that we remain the best consultants in the business.


What We Do

When choosing to work for a company, there are many aspects to consider. One of the lesser-mentioned, but highly important, of these is the attitude the company takes towards the social element of work. Humans are, after all, social beings. So, when we think of our work, we think not only of the objects that occupy our physical space or the tasks that fill our day, but also of the culture that exists in a company.


There are many people who believe that work is an isolated component of their lives, and that activities such as sport and engagements that lead to friendships should be kept strictly separate from what they do professionally. At Monocle, we seek to integrate all these aspects and ensure that our employees are well-rounded individuals, capable of making meaningful contributions to both our business, and to society as a whole. We believe in working hard and producing exceptional results. But we also believe in becoming better humans through avenues that are not directly related to our work – in exercising the body, in enjoying life and in forming meaningful connections with people.


It is through these connections with like-minded individuals that a sense of belonging is forged within our company. And at Monocle, we ensure that there are ample opportunities to build these bonds. We believe strongly in the power of sport to bring people together and sponsor several teams that compete in both amateur leagues and major events, such as cycling events and triathlons. We host monthly gatherings, which bring our consultants – often spread across several different client sites – under one roof to take stock of the company’s progress, to meet people outside of their direct work teams, and to catch up with friends. We also hold annual events – such as our Family Day – which enable our employees to interact outside of work in a relaxed environment.


We believe that a sense of connection is crucial for increasing motivation and dedication among our employees and it is for this reason that we have placed such a great emphasis on developing a strong company culture. We choose to be a company at which work and the endeavour of being human are indelibly intertwined. As such, we value the social and sporting events and interactions that naturally spawn from our ever-changing culture. Each and every one of our employees contributes to our company culture and each of them has the opportunity to change that culture in a positive way by including their personal aspirations in the make-up of what we collectively call our firm.


We are passionate about our work, but we also believe that this is not just about work.