The Expert Network industry was founded approximately 20 years ago by a pioneering company out of New York. The idea is a simple one: to connect people who need in-depth knowledge and insight on specific topics, with people “on the ground” who really know the relevant details first hand. Usually, the information being sought relates to details about a specific company that an investment or consulting firm is analysing for investment purposes.
Most ‘use cases’ for Expert Networks, therefore, relate to analysing the suitability, opportunities and risks relating to specific investments. This can be for Private Equity, Public Equity or Credit investment, and tends to be for investors that carry out deep fundamental research rather than short term investors. A further big use, particularly important to management consultants, is due diligence work relating to acquisitions.
The next logical question is what type of specific individuals are we talking about and how can these individuals help?
The types of ‘experts’ sought can be extremely varied depending on the nature of information needed. Typical ‘experts’ can be former executives of a firm being looked into for investment purposes, customers or suppliers to that firm, competitors of the firm, people with knowledge of the regulatory environment the firm operates in, people with specialised knowledge of local conventions or ‘tastes’, industry analysts etc. Basically, anybody who can help the user better understand a potential or existing investment.
How can these individuals help? All of these individuals have detailed knowledge that will add context and understanding around the topic. Some may have information that is vital in either supporting or disaffirming an investment hypothesis. Clients of an Expert Network may simply be trying to ascertain whether a company’s management is telling the whole truth or whether they are leaving out important information. Alternatively, they may be trying to understand specific opportunities or threats that have not been adequetly covered in their research to date. They may also be going further by undertaking a deeper analysis of a particular business line of a company. In all cases, there are individual experts that can add value and real-life insight.
Usage can start with a one-off single conversation for one hour with an expert. On the other hand, some users may need several one hour conversations with multiple ‘experts’ that have different pools of knowledge about a company (this is particularly useful for due diligence for example). On occasion, there may also be need for multiple conversations with a single expert, to delve deeper into individual issues that have been raised.
It is all very simple. You tell the Expert Network, in as much detail as possible, the information you are after and the types of people you might want to speak to. The Expert Network does the rest. They will source experts, you will approve or decline these experts individually, and they will then set up the calls for you.
Expert Networks have evolved many charging models, with the most common being subscription-based, (one price for a given number of calls), or pay as you go. Bigger Expert networks may sometimes demand a sizable subscription or volume of expert consultations from a client to make the business worth their while.
Users can expect to pay $1,000 or more for a one-hour consultation, depending on the experience and seniority of the individual.
The Expert Network industry has metamorphosed, going from one single company twenty years ago to well over 130 today. Some of these are big generalised Expert Networks operating across large regions, or even globally. Others are smaller and some specialise in a particular region or sector. Many different service models have evolved to meet specific customer needs.
The services offered by Expert Networks have also become far more sophisticated. For example, out of necessity Expert Networks have become much more capable of handling important user concerns, such as how to manage Compliance for buy-side clients and avoid an expert disclosing material non-public information. There have also been vast improvements in ‘ease of use’ for clients, such as call scheduling and setting up conference bridges, transcription services, automated billing etc.
On the back of this market fragmentation, new companies – such as us at Consverge – have been set up to better manage and streamline the process of accessing the right experts from multiple expert networks. Consverge can give you access to the choice and quality only possible from working with many different Expert Networks, with the convenience of operating on a single modern platform and with a single point of contact.
Whether you are a user / customer or an expert network, if you want to participate in the Consverge transformation you can register on our platform at https://portal.consverge.com/ or reach us at: firstname.lastname@example.org