What makes a good PPP advisory leader?

About three weeks ago, a discussion ensued between myself and a procurement expert as to which type of specialist is the best lead in a public-private partnership (PPP) advisory consortium. It made us think , it’s easy to  recognise a good leader,  but describing the components and breaking it down is a different matter. As a former client, we had our share of consultants and advisors – seeing advisory from a different perspective, we engaged with more than 50 consortia in a span of five and a half years. I think that gives me a good data set of comparisons, and one that means I can make an educated judgement as to which the best type of specialist is to lead in a PPP advisory consortium.

An infrastructure project is complicated in itself. When the private sector partners with the government the complexity of the project increases exponentially. Therefore, several experts are needed to help clients navigate the intricate nature of PPPs.  Without such experts the job at hand would be a lot harder and take significantly longer to fulfil.

A typical advisory consortium would comprise legal, financial/commercial and technical experts. But the best ones are those who can actually be generalists. The legal experts thoroughly understand the financial impact of a trigger provision. The commercial specialists have a deep appreciation of the technical viability of a bankable stipulation. The engineers are able to translate and integrate the service levels of an infrastructure facility into the PPP contract. On top of these experts, a lead is needed, someone who can sew it all together, reign in the respective passions, balance the client’s expectations with what is doable, facilitate discussions not only with clients but with various stakeholders, and ensure a transparent and level playing field through to effective management of the procurement process. Broadness of thinking is vital. A generalist understands not only their area of expertise but fully acknowledges the other aspects of the job. Closed thinking in advisory is counterintuitive as you end up giving other experts a raw deal further down the line. An inclusive approach is what makes an advisory team effective and efficient. That is why the best lead is a master specialist generalist with a keen transaction advisory skill.

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