Scaling your Portfolio Executive Business: Building an ecosystem

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In the previous part of this series, we talked about increasing your fees.  We talked about starting to provide connections and resources for your clients. 

In this part, I want to talk about building an ecosystem. To scale your Portfolio Executive business, you need to identify what the ecosystem is that you want to build around you and what’s the ecosystem that you want to make available to your clients. How that looks will vary enormously. But you should be intentional about seeking out an ecosystem that makes sense for you and for your clients. 

Working with Early-stage Businesses 

Some of the Portfolio Executives I work with love the idea of working with earlier-stage businesses.  In this world, engaging with these very early-stage businesses may not be the most rewarding use of your time, but it does give you access to a whole series of interesting innovations, insights and new ways of working that you can then draw on to engage with your clients.  Sometimes these early-stage businesses are associated with universities or various forms of tech and innovation hubs.  Sometimes they’re associated with specific industries.  Sometimes its just because you’re in a particular geography where there is an emerging ecosystem (cluster) that you can start to participate in.  For example, Cambridge became famous in the early 1980s as ‘Silicon Fen’ – a cluster of microcomputer companies that gave birth to global chip designer ARM.  More recently Cambridge has become a biotech cluster drawing on the excellence of Cambridge University cell biology and genetics research, the world-renowned MRC Molecular Biology Lab (the urban myth is they have more Nobel Laureates than France!), a world class teaching hospital and the Human Genome initiative at the former Tube Investments R&D campus in a village less than 10 miles away. 

The Fintech Ecosystem 

Many of the Portfolio Executives, I work with, find the fintech ecosystem a really engaging place to be.  You can enjoy the high energy and excellent quality of people attracted to fintech start-ups.  You can love the opportunity to be at the leading or bleeding edge of implementing technologies such as blockchain, AI, robotic automation and the financial modelling of ‘rocket scientists’.  It is a very international, cosmopolitan, results driven culture. You can get involved in opportunities to raise substantial investment.  When marketing and selling products and services to the financial services community you have sophisticated buyers that will pay a premium for technology advantage. 

If your focus is working with more mature scale-up or scale-out fintech clients, you now have got a whole set of relationships that can be very valuable to your clients.  You also have nurtured relationships with advisors and investors and earlier-stage businesses,  they can start to help build a pipeline of opportunities for your clients and give you opportunities to extend the value of the services you offer. 

Suppliers, Buyers and Ecosystem Recognition 

As you get more engaged with your chosen ecosystem, you can start to understand who the suppliers are to clients in the ecosystem. They can start to find who are the buyers of the services that your clients offer in the ecosystem. You can start to see what kind of professional skills that your clients most need.  Most importantly you become very alert to all the different opportunities that can emerge. 

You can go beyond being just a trusted advisor, to become a highly valued referrer, introducer and source of relationships within the ecosystem.  You are starting to be seen as a player.  You may then choose to increase your presence in the ecosystem by speaking regularly at events, engaging with advisors, attending webinars, participating at in-person networking events.  You may also chose to engage in a different way with the relevant professional institution. 


To scale your Portfolio Executive business, consider build an ecosystem.  Pick a well-defined ecosystem and establish a plan to engage.  

As you build your relationships with different stakeholders in the ecosystem, you can help to make the ecosystem more available to become part of the ecosystem of your clients. 

This will further scale your Portfolio Executive business through new opportunities.  You may decide that through those relationships you want to refer people into your clients or refer your clients into their potential buyers.  You could start to create some kind of referral fee mechanism. There is a really interesting business model that one of the people I’m working with has established where they act as a trusted advisor to clients in the asset management space, they bring their expertise of understanding IT strategy to that space but they also have a relationship with a set of IT suppliers and when they make a relevant and appropriate introduction to that supplier, they get some ongoing recurring revenue for that introduction for the lifetime of the relationship with their client. 

So, this is not just about building your presence and your reputation, it can also be directly related to the fee-earning work.  The starting point is to see you as part of an ecosystem. Understand what that ecosystem is, recognize why it matters to your clients, and then be intentional about building the right ecosystem for you that will better serve your clients. 


Charles McLachlan is the founder of FuturePerfect and on a mission to transform the future of work and business. The Portfolio Executive programme is a new initiative to help executives build a sustainable and impactful second-half-career. Creating an alternative future takes imagination, design, organisation and many other thinking skills. Charles is happy to lend them to you.