How reputation measurement will transform professional services


Earlier this week I did the opening keynote at the AMP Hillross annual convention, with the title of Embracing the Future. Hillross, one of the most upmarket of the wealth management networks, is seeking to lead the rest of the market by shifting to a pure fee-for-advice model, and rapidly developing a true professional culture. My keynote was designed to bring home the necessity of individual and firm leadership at this key juncture in industry structure.

One of the central themes of my talk was the increasing importance of reputation for professionals. Clearly reputation has always been critical for any professional, and there are some parts of professional services markets where reputation is already highly visible, such as prominent M&A lawyers, who are identified by numerous client surveys. While clients of other professional services (for example audit or management consulting) tend to be more focused on engaging firms rather than individuals, there is a fundamental shift from corporate to individual reputation under way.

What is changing is the extraordinary visibility of people’s actions and character and how others perceive them. One of the most valuable functions of the emerging ‘global brain’ that connects our insights is to make reputation more visible. For over a decade people have talked about how the internet is lowering transaction costs. Still today, the biggest single cost of business transactions is assessing the reputation of your potential business partner. Easier assessment of the reputation of suppliers will have a significant impact on the global economy.

Many professionals will be greatly impacted by these shifts. The search for professional advice is often still highly unstructured, based on anecdotal recommendations or simple searches. As importantly, clients of large professional firms may start to be more selective on who they wish to work with at the firm, creating a more streamlined meritocracy.

The mechanisms for measuring professional reputation are still very crude, yet over the coming decade we can expect to see substantial changes in how professionals are found. This will impact many facets of the industry.

  • Thanks for the forward thinking here, Ross, since those of us in Services-based businesses know the cornerstone of our success is Trust and the growing “discipline” of reputation management has interesting implications, both for us and for our clients. – Maybe, one day, our trustworthiness (reliability, integrity, etc.), as well as our expertise, will be beholden to some sort of certification process…which may well result in us being declared certifiable, given the likely amount of “hoops”, instead! For now, I’m sticking with my open, straight-shooter approach (aka transparency and managed expectations) as the best path to win-win and mutually productive long-term relationships.
    Thanks for this thought-provoking post and all good wishes for continued success.

  • Interesting comments about reputation and its increasing importance. A more complex subject to measure than most realise – reputation isn’t a uni-dimensional quality – and the internet has made reputations more volatile than ever.
    Our clients weren’t much interested in the subject until – ba daaa! – the Tiger Woods story hit the fan last month. Now its a hot topic! Even REPUTATION has a reputaiton.
    Duncan Stuart

  • Spot on, Ross
    And its a good thing. There’s unfortunately a reasonable amount of arrogance and condescending talk and behavior in the professional services arena. And most can’t contain these characteristics as they converse in social forums and networks.
    As resumes move from a traditional one page word document or linkedin profile to well, Google Search, across the entire social graph, it easy to size up a compete reputation profile.
    As the tools get better, more accurate and pervasive, I hope we put the professionalism back in into professional services.

  • Hi Ross
    Great insights in the post, I certainly think that we certainly are seeing the rise of the “Personal Brand” which has been enabled by the web.
    The importance of blogs to facilitate this cannot be underestimated

  • Thanks all for the interesting comments!
    Yes this is immensely hard to measure, for many reasons including that reputation is context-specific. But the reward of doing this makes it well worth trying, and I think we’ll get a long way over the next decade.
    It’s definitely interesting that transparency increases professionalism (in the long run), so the very nature of what it is to be a professional will change…