Expert networks are generally people networks that connect individuals with expert resources or a Subject-matter expert to provide valuable information or assistance.
- 1 History
- 2 Expert Network Examples
- 3 Expert Network Business Models
- 4 Investor Expert Networks
- 5 Further reading
- 6 References
- 7 Other
The phrase "expert network" was originally coined by Mark O'Connor of Yankee Group in presentations introducing his August 1997 Management Strategies report, Knowledge Management: People and the Process.
The first known published appearance of the phrase in this context is in the April 1999 Yankee Group white paper A Knowledge Perspective: The Knowledge Management Product and Service Domain. In the December 1999 publication, "Knowledge Evolution: Tools of the Trade," clients were advised to utilize Expert Networks to "Understand who the experts are throughout the organization (including the extended organization), and more appropriately employ that expertise within a broader range of business contexts for better decision making."
Expert Network Examples
Since the early 2000's, a rather large industry has sprung up facilitating "expert" connections, or providing connections to industry or subject matter experts whom a single individual or organization has no pre-existing relationship with. GLG, one of the oldest expert networks still operating, was founded in 1998.
Investor Expert Networks
The investment community is the largest consumer of expert network services; an estimated 38 expert network companies generated $364 million in revenues in 2009, according to a report by Integrity Research on the industry. Those numbers are said to have grown to more than 50 expert networks generating about $1 billion (or $648-1254 million) in 2016, reports from 2018 by Inex One and Civic Enterprises.
Technology Outsourcing Expert Networks
Real-time and on-demand expert networks for providing technology services or code mentoring are on the rise, with several organization reaching out to industry specific expert networks to fulfill various projects on an interim basis.
Education Expert Networks
The concept of expert networks is being most recently applied within the construct of education. Considered an expansion of coaching and tutoring networks these private expert knowledge networks connect students and faculty to expert resources that have a preexisting relationship with the institution, in an on-demand nature. This often includes expert connections to peers, coaches, tutors, advisors, counselors, and other institutionally related experts.
Venture Mentor Expert Networks
Many education institutions have begun using expert network models in support of new venture creation and student entrepreneurialism. The concept of Venture Mentor Expert Networks was born out of a need to remedy a gap in how universities support emerging entrepreneurial ventures. as an example, MIT hand selects experts from their alumni network and assigns them to individual ventures/consumers to facilitate the transfer of knowledge and information.
Expert Network Business Models
There are many nuances between the types of services and experts provided by each, but historically there were two dominant business models within the industry: Subscription and Transactional Expert Networks. Recently there has also been a third rapidly growing business model which focuses on custom sourcing.
The vast majority of investor expert networks service providers operate on a closed network subscription based business model. These networks charge consumer (researchers) flat fees for access to a predefined stable of experts (information providers), the expert network provider then pays the expert (information provider) hourly rates as they are used by the consumer/subscriber base. The network keeps the difference between the subscription fees collected and the hourly rates paid out..
The face-to-face coaching/tutoring industry and the technology service outsourcing community has embraced a transactional model. These networks pay information providers hourly rates and bill them out to researchers at a higher rate, keeping the difference.
Custom Sourcing Models
Some Expert Networks do not charge a subscription fee, instead using custom recruitment for each research project undertaken. Clients submit confidential research requests, the expert network seeks out experts/professionals specifically in those fields and return with a list of vetted individuals within one to five days of the initial request.
Investor Expert Networks
A primary example of Expert networks are investor networks that are in the business of primary research. These firms connect buy side investors, consultants, and business decision-makers with industry experts. Consultations between expert network clients and experts may be in the form of "face-to-face meetings, phone calls, teleconferences, video conferences, [or] email exchanges."
According to a 2009 report by Integrity Research, there are at least 38 investor expert network providers worldwide. According to a 2018 report by Inex One, that number has grown to at least 50. Although most expert networks operate across verticals and geographies, recent trends point towards specialized expert networks serving a particular geography or vertical.
In recent years, as sell-side research has become increasingly "scarce and less influential," institutional investors have turned to expert networks to gain "new insights and a competitive edge" within a compliant framework. According to a 2011 report published by TABB Group, 81% of investment professionals believe that "talking to experts" is a legitimate, value-adding part of the investment due diligence process.
Investor Expert networks became more widely used after the implementation of Regulation Fair Disclosure in 2000, which made it harder for institutional investors to get market moving information directly from publicly traded companies. Hedge funds were early adopters, but the use of expert networks quickly spread to all types of institutional investors, including mutual funds, pension funds, banks, and private equity firms. The investment community continues to be the largest consumer of expert network services. In 2009, expert network companies generated an estimated $364 million in revenues, according to a report by Integrity Research. That number is said to have grown to about $1 billion (or $648-1254 million) in 2018 reports by Inex One and Civic Enterprises.
Investor Expert Network Legal Compliance Issues
One of the biggest challenges faced by expert network operators is legal compliance with regard to the information passed from information provider to researcher. Several expert networks have made headlines in relation to improper information disclosure and insider trading allegations. Networks have taken different approaches to the compliance puzzle. Some spend millions reaching out to publicly traded companies and others don't allow employees of publicly traded companies to consult at all.
Investor Expert Network Controversy
The Fall 2009 indictment of individuals associated with hedge fund FrontPoint illustrated the compliance challenges of speaking with sources directly. The individuals had initiated access with a Dr. Yves Benhamou, board member of an ongoing clinical trial. Though these began as formal engagements through a network, their exchanges with Dr. Benhamou would become less formal and more specific. They stopped going through the network, opting to contact one another directly, and they allegedly culminated in the portfolio managers coaxing inside information from Dr. Benhamou and Dr. Benhamou obliging. The circumstances illustrate one of the core challenges of primary research in general and a central plank of the expert network platform. The investigations resulted in allegations against Primary Global Research LLC. While the United States expert networks were weathering the storm of the insider trading investigations, European expert networks have not been nearly as affected and have been seen as alternatives, experiencing growth and investment.
- "Linking expert mouths with eager ears", The Economist, June 16, 2011.
- "Hedge Funds Keep Watch on Washington" by David Bogoslaw, BusinessWeek, September 22, 2009
- "Hedge Funds Look to Policy Experts to Decode Washington" New York Times DealBook, September 23, 2009
- "Information Have and Have Nots" by L. Gordon Crovitz, The Wall Street Journal, September 22, 2008
- "Network of 200,000 experts provides IP evaluations" by Steve Lewis, Intellectual Property Marketing Advisor, November 4, 2008
- "Credit Suisse analysts gain access to expert network" by Anette Jonsson, Finance Asia, September 16, 2008
- "Want Our Stock Researchers? Pay Up!" by Aaron Lucchetti, The Wall Street Journal, September 10, 2008
- "Integrity Publishes Comprehensive Report on Expert Networks" Integrity Research Associates, March 2, 2008
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