Lara Poloni to lead Aecom's integrated design and consulting business

12 October 2020 3 min. read
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Aecom, a Los Angeles-based global infrastructure consulting firm, has announced the integration of its design & consulting services (DCS) business into one global organization. The integrated DCS business will be led by Lara Poloni, who became the firm’s president earlier this year.

The unified DCS business will result in a simplified operating structure and drive greater connectivity and collaboration across the global enterprise, which has approximately 56,000 employees and $13.6 billion in annual revenue.

“Our greatest opportunity is to fully capitalize on the expertise that is inherent across our organization by thinking and acting as one global company – and in order to do that, we need to be structured as one,” said Troy Rudd, Aecom’s chief executive officer. Rudd was named CEO in June, having previously served as the firm’s CFO since 2015.

DCS leader Lara Poloni has been with Aecom since 1994 and previously served as chief executive of the EMEA region and chief executive of Australia and New Zealand.

Lara Poloni, President, Aecom

“I am excited for the opportunity to lead our global design business and to execute a strategy that will foster a culture of collaboration and better connect the technical excellence of our professionals,” said Ms. Poloni. “Through one global organization, we will drive even greater innovation and ensure we deliver for our clients by bringing the full strength of our expertise to bear on our projects.”

Steve Morriss, group president of the DCS Americas business, will be stepping down as a result of the operating structure “simplification.”

Activist shareholder Starboard Value (a New York-based hedge fund) has for the last two years been pressuring Aecom management to improve margins and increase shareholder value.

As a result, the firm has been moving to streamline its business and focus on more stable design and engineering consulting work as opposed to riskier, lower-margin construction contracts.

The firm in January completed the sale of its management services business to two private equity firms for a sum of $2.4 billion. The government-focused business delivered revenues of $3.69 billion in 2018, and had 25,000 employees in 28 countries.

Instead of managing government facilities or building bridges at a fixed-cost, Aecom – like most other consulting firms – wants to focus on glitzier, high-margin, digital-tinged consulting contracts.

An example of this is Aecom’s announcement in September that it will be providing design services for transport and utilities in Neom – a smart cities project in northwest Saudi Arabia. “In order to accelerate the delivery of this transformative project, our global team will be using the latest innovations to deliver a 100% digital design,” Bill Price, program director at Aecom, said. “Digital tools will play a vital role in the collaborative approach and stakeholder engagement, with quickly produced visualizations that are built from live design data that is geospatial accurate, enabling and unlocking the power of a data-driven design.”