Focused on our Ambitions

Message from our President and CEO Alexandre L'Heureux, featured in the 2019 Annual Report

At the onset of 2019, we shared our 2019-2021 Global Strategic Plan, setting our ambitions across our four foundational pillars, in view of becoming the premier professional consultancy in our industry by the end of this cycle. Throughout the past year, we continued to shape the communities in which we operate, while delivering on our commitments to bring value to our clients, our people, and our shareholders. I am pleased with our overall 2019 performance, which provides us with the solid basis necessary for our continued growth. 

Focused on our Clients

For this global strategic cycle, bringing the “best of WSP” to our clients is at the centre of everything we do. This translates into better understanding our clients’ needs, so that not only can we deliver exceptional value to them, but also become their partner of choice. 

To understand our clients better, we have expanded our key account programs for both our global private sector clients and public sector clients. Currently, all of our global sectors have “Diamond Client” programs in place with an emphasis on client management, engagement and opportunity identification, further solidifying the role we have to play as our clients’ strategic partner. 

The value we bring to our clients is anchored in our ability to help them face current challenges as well as the ones to come. This resonates stronger than ever before, as the world we know is changing at an unprecedented rate. Through our Future Ready program, the advice we offer our clients allows them to see the future more clearly through key trends in climate change, society, technology and resources, which further reinforces our commitment to providing innovative solutions designed to lead the transition to a low-carbon, resilient and prosperous economy. In 2019, the Future Ready program was operationalized in the United States, Sweden, Norway, Finland and Denmark. These markets will officially implement the program in 2020, bringing us closer to our 2021 ambition to have the program executed globally.

Alexandre L'Heureux, President and CEO | WSP

Technology is not only shaping our clients’ needs, but also how our people work together to deliver our services. To create an increasingly compelling value proposition for our clients, we are constantly thinking about how we can better collaborate to leverage the depth and breadth of our capabilities across the organization. In 2019, we worked with our experts to enhance our knowledge sharing and collaboration platform to enable our professionals to consistently bring our best expertise to bear across all our projects. Our new and improved Practice Area Networks platform was successfully launched across the organization at the beginning of 2020, ensuring that our technical excellence is not limited by geographic location, mobility or time.

These types of initiatives are just a few ways our client focus has helped us drive organic growth, cross-selling opportunities, and increased client satisfaction.

 

Focused on our People & Culture

Our people and our reputation are synonymous. It is through our professionals’ exceptional work and unwavering dedication to the clients and communities they serve that we can have a profound impact on the world around us. Unsurprisingly, providing an environment for our people to deliver on their full potential is at the core of our People & Culture strategy. One of the ways to provide this environment is through the right leadership, and I am confident that our Global Leadership Team will guide our people with passion and deliver on our strategic ambitions.

On our journey to becoming the premier consultancy in our industry, we need to attract and retain the best people. Equality, balanced workforce, women in STEM and workplace flexibility are just a few of the themes that have cascaded throughout the organization this past year. Diversity matters, and we are proud of our industry leadership over the globe and the culture we are promoting where everyone has an equal role to play.

To advance our key priorities in 2019, we have continued to develop our people by delivering training and development programs. For example, we continued to push forward our Global Project Management Academy, a six-month program of tailored project management training. Project management is the one common element across all our functions and it binds the many operational disciplines together, which is why it is important to invest in our project managers and drive our talents to the next level. This also supports our Operational Excellence pillar, as investing in our project management capability will not only allow us to manage our resources in an efficient manner, but to operate effectively to achieve the highest standards of client service and project delivery.

 

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Focused on our Operational Excellence

In 2019, we continued to focus our efforts on reducing and removing the health and safety (H&S) risks associated with our activities. Various initiatives were carried out regionally and globally to ensure that H&S remained front of mind for employees by means of visible safety leadership, regular communications and training, resulting in fewer employees being exposed to harm in our business on our journey to Zero Harm.

Our reputation depends on our ability to be outstanding professionals, acting with honesty, integrity, and transparency in our daily dealings with colleagues, clients, and other business partners. During the past year, our Ethics & Compliance team helped sustain a continuous spotlight on ethics, by working to embed principled decision-making into key processes and initiatives. To deepen the discussion on ethical  risks  with senior leadership, as well as on ethics as the foundation of all sustainability initiatives, our ethics roadshows continued on a larger scale in 2019, involving 16 offices across Europe, Latin America, Africa, Asia, Australia and the Middle East. For 2020, additional roadshows are underway and planned throughout the year.

At WSP, we take our responsibility for sustainable leadership very seriously, not only in the advice we provide to our clients but also in our own operations. As part of our Global Strategic Plan, we announced our objective for a 25% reduction in absolute, market-based greenhouse gas emissions across our global operations from 2018 to 2030, with an interim reduction target of 5% by 2021. This is a serious commitment, and in 2019, we set up an internal Task Force to achieve these reduction targets, comprised of key regional and global leadership. Last April, we joined the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC), committing to set in motion changes to our business operations, corresponding to the UNGC’s Ten Principles. Challenging the status quo is part of who we are as an organization, and recently we did just that by becoming the first professional services firm in the Americas to formally link sustainability-linked terms and financing through a syndicated credit facility.

Financial performance

This past year we were faced with various turbulent political and market realities. However, the strength of our operating model, coupled with our ability to be agile and responsive, allowed us to achieve solid financial performance for 2019, while delivering significant return to our shareholders. Highlights include 14.4% growth in our net revenues, which stood at $6.9 billion for the year. In line with our 2019 outlook, consolidated organic growth in net revenues stood at 3.5%, spanning across all reportable segments. In addition to our backlog of $8.1 billion, representing 10.6 months of revenues, we reported an adjusted EBITDA of $1 billion and adjusted EBITDA margin of 15.1%, reaching the high end of the 2019 guidance provided.

In terms of other metrics, we were pleased to report that days sales outstanding (DSO) continued to decrease and reached 74 days at the end of 2019, a two-day improvement compared to 2018. Our free cash flow for the year came in at $441.6 million or 154% of net earnings, beyond our cash flow conversion target of 100% of net earnings.

In tandem with our strong balance sheet, these results place us on solid footing for 2020, and favourably position us to meet our 2019-2021 Global Strategic Plan financial ambitions. 

 

Focused on our Expertise

This past year, our teams have continued to challenge the status quo to transform the built environment through innovative forward-thinking advice and unparalleled expertise. Whether we are designing the next iconic building in Dubai or providing strategic insights on a complex large-scale rail project providing access to Britain’s busiest airport, our experts are committed to finding solutions that help our clients and communities thrive in an ever-changing world.

The amazing projects we have been awarded and delivered this past year allowed us to grow our business across the globe. This growth has also been nurtured by our ability to seize various opportunities for our clients, and our capacity to cross-sell our expertise translates into improved project delivery and higher margins. 

Growth has always been part of our narrative, whether organic or acquisitive. Our growth strategy has never been about being the biggest, but rather about how we can create additional value for our clients, people and shareholders, through an increasingly resilient and balanced platform. In 2019, we strengthened our existing capabilities and expanded into new geographic regions with eight acquisitions, adding approximately 2,000 new colleagues to our organization. More specifically, 1,470 of these employees joined our Environment platform, one of our key expansion areas with approximately 22% growth since 2018. Once again, I would like to welcome our new colleagues to the WSP family!

 

Focused on 2020 and beyond

The only way we can continue to grow as an organization is by striving to push through boundaries and challenge ourselves to do even more – something which we have done time and time again as it is inherent to our identity. In remaining focused on our ambitions, we are now well positioned to continue driving sustainable and profitable growth, while delivering compelling value to our clients, people and shareholders.

I would like to thank our Board of Directors, clients and shareholders for their continued support. To our 50,000 employees around the world, thank you for your steadfast dedication and commitment to our clients, our communities and our great organization.

I’m incredibly proud of what we have been able to accomplish together this past year, and excited to discover what the journey ahead holds.


Pie chart forming steps | WSP

2019 Annual Report

Read our Annual Report to learn more about our accomplishments in 2019.

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