Chief Investment Officer’s annual ranking of the most influential consultants in the institutional investment universe.

Consultants are like lawyers: Everyone hates them, except for their own. Insiders understand why the industry has such a bad name: The mediocre ones act as herd animals; few did much during the financial crisis to justify their fees and influence; most have made murky their business model by entering the outsourced-CIO business.

And yet they also understand why even the most cynical asset owner will often have a favorite consultant, if not necessarily a consulting firm: The job of a CIO is simply too complex to do alone, and in resource-strapped institutions it is often the external consultant who gives the answers a board demands. 

Thus this list—an appraisal of the individuals within the consulting industry who have made a positive impact for their clients. Sourced from interviews with pension and non-profit CIOs, asset managers, and former consultants, it represents our best approximation of the hierarchy of today’s institutional consultant industry. So read on, and remember: Just as almost everyone needs a lawyer, most asset owners will continue to work with consultants. Just pick one you like.