The CIPD has defended its £3m acquisition of Bridge Partnership following criticism from some in the HR community that the deal is anti-competitive.
The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development said it bought Bridge – which specialises in strategy and leadership and organisational development – to build its links with business leaders and senior HR professionals.
Bridge has close ties with CIPD chief Jackie Orme, having worked with her during her previous role at PepsiCo. The firm was brought in by Orme last year to work on the institute’s ‘Next Generation HR’ research project. One of its directors, Lee Sears, has been on secondment to the CIPD as a “strategic adviser”.
One post on Personnel Today‘s community site HR Space said: “I am very disturbed by this. Bridge are direct competitors to many CIPD members working in change and leadership consulting. It means that I am faced with paying to be an active supporter and Fellow of a professional body that is competing with me.”
Another blogger said: “I don’t believe this would happen in the accounting profession due to a massive conflict of interest. There is a fine line for a professional standards body to be offering mainline consultancy services.”
Other forum posts questioned why there was no tender process or consultation with members. Concerns were also raised about whether long-term decisions on policy or standards would be influenced by a need to sell services in the short-term.
A CIPD spokesman said a shortlist of potential targets was drawn up after detailed research on members’ professional requirements, and insisted the acquisition would add value for them.
“Bridge is one of a number of small consultancies operating and poses no special competitive threat to members. All profits from the commercial side are ploughed back into member services and benefits,” he said.
The Bridge deal is another chapter in a turbulent year for the CIPD. It follows widespread criticism of Orme’s decision to take a performance bonus despite a staff-wide pay and reward freeze, tens of redundancies earlier this year, and the closure of its final salary pension scheme.