Today, we’re living in one of the most volatile economic climates: geopolitical and macroeconomic events are driving global competition, disrupting supply chains, shifting regulatory landscapes, and consequently changing consumer behavior. For corporate and financial professionals, strategizing against these challenges in the age of information overload, digital transformation, and the rate of innovation makes it nearly impossible to act on fresh, insightful information.
That’s why an increasing number of sector leaders are turning to the expert network industry.
Expert networks refer to a type of business that connects companies with expert resources or subject-matter experts (ranging from former C-level executives to a company’s customers) to provide valuable and current information, data, or assistance.
Last year alone, the expert network industry surpassed $2.1 billion in revenue—a figure generated by more than 120 expert networks. Since 2015, the industry has seen an 18% average growth rate, even during and after the COVID-19 pandemic, with year-on-year growth surpassing 25% in 2021, only to slow down to 4% in 2022 as M&A activity fell.
It’s undeniable that expert network companies will continue to thrive in any crisis. However, as competitive pressure mounts for large incumbents and demand for insights grows exponentially, two questions arise: what does the future hold for the expert network industry? What trends will define it in the coming QoQ and YoY periods?
Using the AlphaSense platform, we dive into the five trends you can expect to unfold in the expert network market.
Continued Growth of the Expert Network Industry
While it may seem the demand for expert knowledge has recently peaked, interest in insider perspectives has been a remunerative market for decades. In the early 2000s, expert networks primarily served the hedge fund community and later the wider financial industry, reaching private equity firms, asset managers, banks, and consultants.
The industry experienced a revitalization with the advent of digital transformation, launching various online resources (i.e., LinkedIn) and introducing machine learning—a type of artificial intelligence. In early 2022, Inex One estimated that about 4,500 firms used expert networks.
Caption: In the AlphaSense platform, we noticed a nearly 39% increase in company documents mentioning “expert network” over the last ten years.
Market growth for the expert network industry can be attributed to a few different factors.
Taking advantage of accessibility, experts are embracing online platforms more than they ever have before and are adopting the concept of micro-consulting: short, sharp conversations with an expert at a critical point. Micro-consulting has become necessary with the rapid rise of new technology, evolving ways of working, and increasingly demanding consumer needs.
There’s also a growing need for expert insights stemming from growth in private equity (PE) assets under management, which fuels spending on deal analysis by both PE firms and the consultants that they engage. In addition, corporate strategy teams are leveraging expert networks to inform their decisions and, consequently, are developing a need for niche- or sector-specific experts. Market researchers have been dissatisfied with mediocre B2C sample quality and, alternatively, are shifting their attention and spending to qualified B2B respondents of expert networks.
Top Expert Network Industry Trends
Increasing Access to Experts
The channels of sourcing expert insights have dramatically evolved since the industry first emerged in the late 90s and early 2000s. Today, freelance expertise is available by the minute, all thanks to recent technological development and platforms boasting access to compliant, trusted expertise.
Rather than hire a full-time employee, co-talent sites offer individual investors and companies fractional access to expertise on a daily, weekly, or multi-monthly project basis. “The need to hire full-time has been obsolesced, and with it, a certain talent democracy has settled: you or your company needn’t be wealthy or well-known to attack freelance expertise,” a 2019 Forbes article on CleverX states.
With platforms like Upwork, Fiverr, and Freelancer.com, independent experts can work anywhere and still communicate with clients around the world with relative ease. Ultimately, this model helps entrepreneurs, budding start-ups and SMEs get the expertise they need without paying the price of a seasoned consultant.
It’s a win-win for everyone. As financial support is funneled towards the knowledge-sharing economy, organizations are better able to access the guidance of a seasoned expert to help them navigate unpredictable or volatile times.
Growth in Corporate Expert Networks
In a time when expert insights are needed at a moment’s notice, consulting is proving to be the largest and fastest-growing of expert networks. In fact, the demand is so overwhelming that leading consulting firms (i.e., Gerson Lehrman Group (GLG), AlphaSights, GuidePoint, Third Bridge etc.) are hiring their former consultants to offer their expertise to corporations needing insights on constant market shifts and beyond.
The most reliable methods of information sharing rely on compliance, and Stream in AlphaSense adheres to a strict process, created by our Chief Compliance Officer (CCO), to guarantee content you can trust. Our hand-picked team of compliance reviewers verify experts and review each individual transcript before publication. To date, they have collectively reviewed over 28,000 transcripts in the past two years to provide our clients with confidence about the safety of their research.
More start-ups and SMEs are realizing how expertise can provide a competitive advantage and, consequently, are tapping into expert networks. For consulting leaders and large consultancies, ignoring this growing demand could mean missing out on a growing, multi-billion-dollar market.
Related Reading: GLG Alternatives & Competitors
Providing Solutions to Industry Shortages
Potentially the most significant benefit of expert networks is providing solutions to shortages in specific industries. As the Russia-Ukraine war continues to disrupt global supply chains, expert networks take the pressure off from companies to set up specialized departments for overcoming macroeconomic hurdles and providing clients with the solutions they need in turbulent times. This especially rings true for the healthcare industry during the COVID-19 pandemic.
For medical professionals, gleaning expert insights quickly is essential for keeping up with the fast-changing industry and constant new developments. For immediate and up-to-date insights, AlphaSense’s Stream provides our users with recaps of expert call transcripts that pull out the most valuable and critical trending healthcare topics, upcoming events, and market movers.
Expert networks have also proved beneficial for the tech industry. This past year, tech mammoths faced a shortage of software developers, mainly attributed to retaining talent, working with limited resources, and increasing customer demands.
Essentially, every company has software development needs but not all organizations are equipped to manage tech departments. To this end, expert networks are available for hire on a subscription or transaction basis, meaning companies can utilize a network for a specific type of service instead of having to hire and nurture new internal teams.
Artificial Intelligence for Expert Networks
Since the COVID-19 pandemic and the rise of the work-from-home model, technology-focused expert networks have served businesses well. In the management consulting industry, remote work gave rise to new needs like remote consulting, on-demand services, micro-projects, and professional insights. The firms that were able to meet these client needs were the ones who turned to expert networks to fill management micro consulting jobs.
But as demand for expertise has risen in recent years, more expert networks and market intelligence platforms are integrating sophisticated technologies, like artificial intelligence (AI), to increase the efficiency of finding the best professionals to fulfill clients’ needs. Unlike traditional expert network services, AI works 24/7 across all time zones and industries to identify, qualify, and segment experts for engagement. This capability allows AI-driven expert networks to more efficiently build large, high-quality databases in comparison to a standard model, which relies on humans to manually search for experts and add them to a database.
AlphaSense takes the headache out of finding crucial insights by leveraging proprietary AI within our expert call library. Our sentiment analysis identifies, quantifies, and analyzes levels of emotion in text while the Search Summary feature allows you to find relevant companies, industries and regions trending in relation to a specific theme—all with the help of AI.
The China and Capvision Debacle
SInce 2022, China has actively sought to attract global investors into its high-end industries (i.e., healthcare, information technology, engineering, and luxury goods), going as far as sending city and business officials on trips to Asia and Europe to secure investments. The reason? Local governments are striving to meet their growth and employment targets and, more crucially, address China’s $9 trillion debt burden.
Despite China’s enormous population of 1.4 billion, which remains an enticing market for foreign investors, recent developments underscore President Xi Jinping’s determination to shape the narrative presented to potential investors.
In a recent incident, Chinese state broadcaster CCTV specifically targeted Capvision Partners, a consulting firm based in Shanghai, for its alleged non-compliance with China’s national security laws this past June. Capvision is just one of several companies recently subjected to “investigations” within mainland China.
As such incidents continue to unfold internationally, it is evident that concerns about due diligence, the reliability of expert advice, and consulting services originating from China have arisen, affecting not only foreign investors but also others engaged in business with the country.
While Capvision plans to address the concerns raised by Chinese authorities about its negligence of national security responsibilities (going as far as having formed a three-person internal “compliance committee”), other global investors are seeing the debacle in another light.
Recently, the American and European Chambers of Commerce in China expressed concern over China’s intervention. In their eyes, this string of investigations risks heightening uncertainty at a time when European companies are looking for clear signs that China’s business environment is becoming more reliable and predictable—qualities absent from the EU market due to the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
Without more details on what is permissible regarding due diligence and consulting services, prospective investors may find it challenging to be thorough before committing to deals.
While this particular series of events affects the nature of doing business in China, it puts into perspective the fragility of the expert network industry against governing policies. There’s no doubt the industry is slated for success in the coming quarters, but the pace of its growth will depend entirely on how leaders of the sector, like Capvision, fare in the near quarters.
Streamline Your Research Process with AlphaSense
Staying up to date on every expert industry development requires a tool that separates the noise from the insights you need. With AlphaSense, there’s no need to meticulously search global expert networks or spend hours reviewing documents to analyze a competitive landscape.
Our platform uses our proprietary AI technology and extensive library of expert calls so users can glean fresh insights on new products, market sizes, and sector occurrences shaping their industry.
Discover how the power of AlphaSense’s Expert Transcript Library can keep you informed on market movements and help you stay ahead of your competitors with our infosheet, Critical Areas Missing from Your Research: Expert Transcript Library.