By Sanford Bragg August 4, 2020
Access to industry experts is a key feature of a research boutique headed by former Redburn founding partner Peter Robinson. Transcripts of expert interviews have recently been added to the firm’s core thematic research, partly as a COVID-19 response. Whereas expert networks such as Third Bridge have been moving closer to offering research product, Robinson’s new firm illustrates the critical importance of primary research for those with mainstream research ties.
London-based Primary Access & Research provides thematic research focused on industry disruption and political risk. Recent research topics include ESG’s potential impact on the fashion industry, digital disruption in the insurance industry and an analysis of the UK Green Tech sector.
However, primary research is a key component of the research service, as the firm’s name suggests. According to the company’s marketing materials, “the core proposition of Primary is to offer an introductory and access consultancy of acknowledged experts.” In addition to bespoke expert access, the company increasingly provides research based on interviews with selected experts. Recent examples include interviews with the CEO of an augmented reality company and a Washington Post columnist on the upcoming US presidential election. The coronavirus pandemic was cited as an impetus for adding interview transcripts to the research mix.
Managing Partner Peter Robinson said in an interview that the traditional approach to investment research is ripe for disruption: “We could clearly see things moving inexorably in a new direction especially among smarter industry actors who wanted holistic big picture analysis rather than more quarterly earnings calls. Much of the competition is hampered by a need to research the incumbent corporate leaders and maintain relationships.”
The target clients for Primary Access are private equity firms, hedge funds and institutional investors. Pricing is based on an annual subscription, which can vary based on the number of bespoke access engagements. The firm intends to limit its client base to support premium pricing for its offerings.
Primary Access and Research Limited was co-founded last year by Robinson and other ex-Redburn employees. The company is self-funded with all partners investing alongside 5 external private shareholders. The team includes a former Redburn expert access professional (previously a Gerson Lehrman research manager), a former Redburn salesperson recently ennobled for his prominent Conservative Party roles, a former portfolio manager with experience at BlackRock, Scottish Widows and Royal Insurance, and a research analyst with experience at Redburn. The firm will be announcing the hiring of Caspar Shand-Kydd, a veteran salesperson with experience as head of UK sales for Cantor Fitzgerald, Collins Stewart and Jefferies.
London-based expert network Third Bridge has been particularly aggressive in building out a research offering focused on transcripts of expert interviews. The firm conducts around 5,000 interviews per year with internally vetted experts, covering 4,000 private and public companies from 7 sectors. Financial data platform Sentieo recently began redistributing 10,000 of Third Bridge’s research reports. Chicago-based Tegus has built a stockpile of 6,000 investor-led interview transcripts by charging hedge funds lower fees for expert consultations if the transcript is shared with others after a 2-week embargo period.
In contrast, Primary Access & Research approaches transcripts from the opposite direction, having roots in traditional investment research. Interview transcripts are generally tied to policy research themes or those of industry disruption, focusing on startups or new technologies. The expert views complement and inform broader thematic research offered by the firm.
More broadly, primary research is one of the fastest growing areas of investment research, along with ESG research and alternative data. We estimate that the expert network industry is now around $1.5 billion in annual revenues, and that does not include the other forms of primary research such as survey firms, channel checkers, investigative research and so on. For this reason, Primary Access’s decision to make primary research a cornerstone of its research product is a smart move.