The head of a UK clearing bank was recently heard to remark that he would be surprised if some strategic consultants made any money out of strategic consultancy. Rather, he suggested, this was the platform from which they advised clients to outsource activities - to the consultants' own specialist divisions, of course. Behind the jocular comment lies an increasingly valid criticism of the current enthusiasm for focus.
The arguments in favour of greater focus are compelling because they seem so sensible. Don't venture beyond the immediate area of your expertise.
Don't undertake anything which anyone else can do for you, certainly not if they can do it cheaper. Allocating assets across industrial sectors is the role of investors not managers. And what about the destruction of shareholder value brought about by Britain's better known conglomerates over the last few years, as soon as other companies' financial management systems - and the accountancy bodies - had caught up with them?