Trailblazing consultancy matchmaker Outsized makes strong UK debut

30 May 2018 6 min. read
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A novel approach to consultancy matchmaking is exciting British clients in the financial services sector. With a winning combination of pre-matching support, machine learning technology, and outright innovation, Outsized has levelled the playing field for boutique consultancies and guaranteed tailor-made consulting services for clients, says the firm’s founder in discussion with

Outsized’s philosophy is underpinned by a key insight – countless clients miss out on the true value of consulting by hiring firms with a famous name but the wrong toolkit to address their specific needs. “Most clients default to the big brand firms even when the fit is not optimal”, says Niclas Thelander, founder and managing director of Outsized. The firm is in the business of matching clients in the financial realm with the very best consulting teams to meet their unique challenges.

“If you are looking for external expertise, capabilities and solutions in fast developing areas such as digital or innovation, there is no functioning or transparent marketplace where buy-side and supply-side can be connected”, points out Thelander, who launched Outsized with Anurag Bhalla in late 2015, with an initial focus on emerging markets. “This is where we provide the solution.” 

Outsized isn’t the standard consulting industry disruptor, he argues. Matchmaking services leveraging vast talent pools of independent advisors began shaking up the sector at the turn of the decade, spurred on by the evolution of the gig workforce. What separates Outsized from the herd is its laser sharp focus on the financial services and private equity sectors, and the combination of machine learning technology and human sector expertise. 

The company – which now boasts offices in India, Africa, and the UK – also matches clients with teams of freelance consultants or with mid-sized and boutique consulting firms, rather than solely with individuals. Major consultancies, including Big Four players, also tap into Outsized’s pool of more than 1,400 (boutique) consulting firms and agencies when they need to close capability gaps in specialist areas, or staff up projects in a flexible manner.

Trailblazing consultancy matchmaker Outsized makes strong UK debut

“Our consulting clients can have vetted options working on their projects within 48 hours”, says Thelander, who pledges to match all corporate clients with suitable consultants – and after a full RFP process – within ten days. 

Having consulting firms both within the Outsized talent pool and as clients places the firm in a unique position. “Consulting firms are increasingly asking us to help in identifying high quality specialist consultancies for joint ventures or acquisitions. Given our market position, we know which boutiques are winning projects and delivering great work in areas such as innovation, transformation and more.” 

To match its financial services and private equity clients – among them Axa, Franklin Templeton and Dunedin – with the right consultants, Outsized blends “state-of-the-art technology with a human touch”. For complex requirements the firm can perform its own consulting work, helping clients develop their ideas into fully scoped and well-structured projects. This ensures that clients and their partners are well aligned in their understanding of the initiative, says Thelander, therefore maximising project success down the line. 

According to him, “No-one else is currently offering clients this pre-matching support, which is an important value-add not least for client business owners who may not be frequent buyers of consulting services.”

“We then base our matching against the specific expertise needed, not the brand of the consultancies, using a combination of human analysis via off-platform searches and machine-learning technology that taps into our network of consultancies, agencies and experts.”

Thelander stresses that only once the scope and requirements are 100% clear will Outsized proceed to the matchmaking process. The system ensures that clients get the right match based on verifiable intelligence aligned with their specific requirements. It also levels the playing field for boutique consultancies, which may be better suited for a particular service but lack the name value of a leading strategy house such as McKinsey or Bain. 

Niclas Thelander and Anurag Bhalla

British invasion

Outsized has come full circle in the UK. Before launching its office in India, the firm was self-funded and managed out of London coffee shops for six months. Less than three years later Outsized returned with a substantial client portfolio to launch its UK services in the third quarter of last year and expand its global footprint to three continents and counting.

Though known for its focus on the emerging markets space, which Thelander argues is woefully neglected by current consulting industry paradigms, the UK is a natural fit for Outsized. From their British base, the firm can secure new connections in Africa and Asia where UK clients conduct sizeable portions of their business. 

“We recently matched a leading UK challenger consultancy to a pan-African capital markets project”, cites Thelander as an example. “Conversely, there are many innovations happening in Africa and Asia in areas like mobile money, frugal innovations etc in which UK clients will benefit from.” 

Regardless of geographic scope, UK clients are also enjoying Outsized’s novel approach to engaging consultants, he states. “Clients across private equity and financial services seem to agree that for a lot of projects you receive better quality services from boutique consultancies and agencies compared to the biggest brand firms”, says Thelander. “As an added bonus, pricing tends to be competitive but it is primarily about the quality.”

His belief is backed by a recent study by The Economist Intelligence Unit, which found that cost-weary clients are increasingly looking at specialised consultancies for best value: 75% of the client buyers surveyed stated that SME consultancies will have a more important role to play in five years’ time. 

Outsized UK has as its primary focus the digital transformation – a $44 billion industry globally – and innovation agenda for financial services clients, matching them with expert consultants in the customer experience, and data & analytics space. Still relatively fresh to the market, Thelander and the team are also involved in payments processing, commercial and tech due diligence, and credit scoring, among a wealth of other in-demand areas.

Related: One fifth of UK management consulting work goes to independent consultants.