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Walker Sime begins an exciting new chapter, in partnership with US-based Otak

Walker Sime + Otak + K2

It’s a move that will enable us to build our capabilities and reach across the UK and beyond, accelerate our strategic plan, and create more jobs. And the best thing about our newly announced partnership with Otak? They’re people-people too.

The past 22 years has seen Walker Sime grow – not purely in terms of the balance sheet and number of people on our team, but also in terms of the scale and ambition of the projects we undertake and the clients we work with. That growth has been built on maintaining a laser focus on client success, by attracting exceptional talent, and by staying true to our values.

So, when we started the process of looking for a partner to help us grow further, we wanted a collaborator entirely in step with who we are, what we do, and how we do it. In truth, we weren’t altogether convinced such a partner existed. But then we met Otak.

About Otak and HanmiGlobal

Otak is a 350-strong design and project management company headquartered in Portland, Oregon. In 2022, Otak was named the ENR Top Design of the Northwest.  For over 40 years Otak has worked with public and private clients to deliver infrastructure engineering, planning, and architecture throughout the US. In 2011 it joined forces with HanmiGlobal (HG). Otak manages investment relationships for HG across North America and UK/Europe.

HanmiGlobal has consistently been a leader in promoting an advanced construction culture in the Korean market through the introduction of advanced construction project management techniques since 1996. They have successfully contributed to the success of over 2,600 projects in Korea and beyond. HanmiGlobal is ranked 9th largest Global PMCM firm ranked by Engineering News Record (ENR) with over 30 years of major project and program delivery in nearly every sector of the economy, including advanced technology, retail and residential, resort development, and low carbon economy projects.

How the partnership will work

If we want our aspirations for Walker Sime to become a reality we need to continue growing. And to continue growing, we need the right sort of investment, as Walker Sime MD Duncan Firth explains:

“This partnership will allow us to accelerate our portfolio and expand our geographic footprint. It will allow us to remain focused on our core business; and through the expertise and presence of Otak and its parent company HanmiGlobal, we will have the opportunity to contribute to winning and delivering projects of real significance in advanced manufacturing and the low carbon economy.”

“We deliberately chose not to accept just being a cog in a larger machine,” continued Duncan. “That wasn’t a price we were willing to pay for investment. Otak is a partner that values our distinct culture and our people as essential to our growth.”

The investment by South Korean program and construction management specialist HanmiGlobal (HG) with Otak’s expertise in marketing, HR, finance, accounting and infrastructure supports Walker Sime’s strategic growth. Walker Sime will, however, remain an independent operating group and retain its existing management team, and brand.

“Walker Sime has built an incredible reputation and culture deeply rooted in its people and their success with clients, said Jim Hamann, CEO of Otak. “It is a tremendous benefit to Walker Sime’s clients for Duncan and his team to draw on a broad set of expertise and experience as they take on some of the most exciting projects in the UK.”

Before agreeing to the partnership, Walker Sime met with K2, a London-based construction consultancy firm who entered into a similar arrangement with Otak three years ago. They confirmed Otak’s approach is about fostering and enabling growth while protecting autonomy.

The combination of K2’s complementary service lines and regional presence give the group a strong construction offering as well as North/South offices in the UK.

The right kind of partner

Talking with Otak feels a lot like looking in a transatlantic mirror. It’s a business that shares a similar ethos and culture.

“We were looking for the right kind of partner – a partner who could support our growth but who also shared our values and culture,” comments Dez Walker, one of the original founders of Walker Sime, alongside Jon Sime.

“Otak isn’t interested in changing us. They are committed to supporting us, not subsuming us – to buying into us, not buying us. It was vital that any partner should enable us to continue our journey. Otak will.”

Good news for jobs

Any strategic organisational announcement brings with it the inevitable, but perfectly reasonable, question about jobs. The new partnership is expected to influence jobs at Walker Sime in a wholly positive way.

“There’s absolutely no risk to jobs from this move,” confirms Jon Sime. “We’re going to need more people, not fewer, and our people will benefit from the career growth opportunities this investment will bring, both in the UK and abroad.

“Otak’s investment opens an exciting new chapter for Walker Sime and ensures that whatever we do in the future and wherever we do it, it’ll be done the Walker Sime way.”

Image left to right shows: Duncan Firth MD Walker Sime, Jon Sime Client Relations Director Walker Sime, Jim Hamann CEO Otak, Dez Walker Client Relations Director Walker Sime, John Setra MD K2