Financial services consulting matchmaker gaining ground in Africa

06 June 2018 5 min. read

Consulting matchmaker Outsized chose South Africa for a reason. The firm is on a mission to radically improve how clients and consultants interact. Outsized has a specialised focus on financial services clients in emerging markets and has already established a footprint across Sub-Saharan Africa – with impressive results.

A drive to bring quality consulting services to financial services clients in emerging markets saw innovative consultancy matchmaker Outsized open a new office in South Africa in January this year. Since then, the boutique firm – with other offices in London and Mumbai – has gone from strength to strength, cultivating new client relationships on the ground and establishing a network of consulting expertise across the continent.

Outsized is a consulting firm in its own right which offers pre-matching services to clients in the financial services and private equity sector. The team help clients develop their ideas into fully scoped and well-structured projects before matching them with a pool of 1,400 high-quality consultancies, as well as independent consultants.

Much of the Outsized philosophy – which seeks to address the gap between client needs and their access to suitable consultants – evolved over years of hard experience in Africa and Asia, where founder and Managing Director Niclas Thelander learned his trade. The firm is extremely active across the African continent, with a focus on South Africa, Ghana and the other larger African economies.

Financial services consulting matchmaker gaining ground in Africa

“We have done a lot of projects in Sub-Saharan Africa since launching Outsized at the end of 2015; in fact we piloted the proposition in West Africa and India from the very start”, says Thelander. “Over the past two years we have facilitated projects across the African continent in areas as diverse as digital transformations, product development, agency training, and strategy.”

“We decided to open an office in South Africa to be closer to local clients and to the consulting community to offer an even better service to both sides of the market. South Africa has a large and innovative financial sector, so we felt our offering could bring real benefit to the market and that our broader network would benefit from access to South African expertise.”

At the helm: Johann van Niekerk

Leading the charge in South Africa while Thelander and co-founder Anurag Bhalla concentrate on expansion efforts across Asia and the UK, is Johann van Niekerk. The Director knows African financial services inside out. He has held senior roles spanning business development and strategic marketing, to venture building and running the innovation accelerator for a global reinsurer.

Familiarity with the unique dynamics that drive the quickly evolving African business landscape is vital, says Thelander, who believes the Sub-Saharan region has terrific potential for consultancies with a positive mindset and international perspective. 

“Looking across Sub-Saharan Africa, there are a lot of financial services and FinTech activities and many great consultancies. However, if you focus on an individual country basis, the best options are not always local. Thus, a service that looks at regional or international support options has a big role to fill.” 

So far Outsized has done a good job of filling the gap. The firm – which launched as recently as 2015 –  has already secured a wide range of Africa-based clients, from private equity funds like LeapFrog Investments to corporates such as Guardrisk (part of MMI Holdings) and financial inclusion specialists like FSD Africa. 

Johann van Niekerk and Niclas Thelander - Outsized

“We match them with vetted consultancies, agencies and independents”, says Thelander. “For many projects local expertise is critical, whereas for other initiatives our clients want us to bring in international expertise. Our global outreach and growing network in the financial services and financial inclusion space enables us the ability to do both.”

All of which makes Outsized an exciting new addition to an already thriving Sub-Saharan financial services scene. The firm’s overarching philosophy presents a major challenge to the consulting status quo which, in Thelander’s words, sees “clients default to the big brand firms even for projects where the fit is not optimal.”

He is eager to change this dynamic by levelling the playing field for the countless boutique and independent consultancies who lack the name recognition of a Big Four firm but may have superior solutions for a client facing unique challenges. “If you are looking for external expertise, capabilities and solutions in fast developing digital areas, there is no functioning or transparent marketplace where buy-side and supply-side can be connected,” he notes.

In South Africa Outsized has entered the market “at an ideal time,” and not just because of the global trend towards flexible access to expertise. The wider Sub-Saharan market is on the brink of huge change, and firms – both clients and consultants – are keen to stamp their own identity on the market. Outsized offers them the chance to do so; and by leveraging machine learning technology in its matching process while combining it with human sector expertise, the firm is already one step ahead of the curve.