Earlier this month, Gerson Lehrman Group, the world’s leading expert network, introduced a new logo and revamped its website. The change is symptomatic of the resurgence of expert networks since the onset of the insider trading investigations.
Gerson Lehrman, reportedly coming off a year of record revenues in 2013, is rebranding itself as GLG, not to be confused with GLG Partners, the $30 billion hedge fund based in London. Besides a state-of-the-art new website, it will be moving its headquarters into state-of-the-art new offices at One Grand Central Place in Manhattan this summer. And it is hiring furiously. It would not be surprising if the long deferred IPO were announced later this year.
With the new website comes a new url: www.glg.it. Note the .it domain. No, Gerson Lehrman has not moved to Italy. It doesn’t even have an office in Italy. More likely the domain is meant to evoke ‘Information Technology’, seeking to position GLG as a tech company.
Aspiring to be viewed as a tech company is not a new phenomenon for GLG. During its last rebranding in 2011, the firm launched a social media site named G+ which was going to be the new social media face of Gerson Lehrman: a LinkedIn with gravitas or, more accurately, a business-oriented version of Quora. However, Google did not take kindly to the G+ brand, and GLG changed it to ‘High Table’ in 2012. With the latest rebranding this month, GLG has quietly killed www.hightable.com, redirecting the url to its main site.
The GLG research website still lives on (www.glgresearch.com) highlighting GLG’s events, offering website information in 12 different languages and featuring GLG’s research store which allows purchase of one-off reports and conference transcripts. However, parts of the GLG research site already redirect to www.GLG.it so it may just be a matter of time before it goes away also.
Expert Membership Network
The other key facet of GLG’s rebranding is to distance it from being an expert network. Gerson Lehrman is no longer an expert network, it is a membership: “GLG is building the world’s largest membership for professional learning and expertise, so clients in every sector can interact with experts to gain insight.” Oops, experts slipped in there. The guideline for writing GLG’s copy appears to require sparing references to experts or networks and never ever put the two words together.
The irony here is that being an expert network, and more especially being an expert network during the insider trading investigation, has ultimately been good for Gerson Lehrman. After its planned sale to Goldman Sachs cratered over liability issues in 2004, GLG began aggressively beefing up its compliance platform. By 2008, the stringency of GLG’s compliance platform was becoming a competitive issue, with smaller, nimbler expert networks touting their quicker response times (and implicitly their laxer compliance regimes).
Gerson Lehrman had an even bigger problem as pricing was pressured by greater competition. GLG created a large price umbrella, typically charging over $1000 per hour for consultations, and there were few barriers to entry for new expert networks. By 2010, there were around 50 expert networks globally, and the consultation fees were dropping to $800 per hour. Then in late 2010, the insider trading investigations went public and an expert network competitor, Primary Global, was deeply implicated in the scandal.
Suddenly, the words ‘expert network’ raised the blood pressure of buy-side compliance officers and GLG became the safe choice. GLG was not immune from the overall decline in expert networks by asset managers immediately following the Primary Global scandal, but it picked up market share. And the number of competitors shrank by more than half. Now, as usage of expert networks has rebounded, GLG is a key beneficiary.
GLG is hiring aggressively. With a staff of 850, it is already an order of magnitude larger than most other expert networks. It is advertising over 70 new jobs as it continues to scale. Three quarters of the new jobs are in the US, reflecting in part the centralization of many of its back office operations in Austin Texas, but it is also hiring in China, India (where much of its expert sourcing occurs), UK, Ireland and Singapore.
Overall, we think the new rebranding is more successful than its previous brandings, and reflects the confidence engendered by the resurgence of its business (and big bucks spent on high end designers). The end goal is an IPO exit for its private equity investors, Silver Lake Partners and Bessemer Venture Partners. The exit was delayed by the insider trading scandals, but now that GLG has resumed a growth path it is just a matter of time before GLG files, perhaps later this year.