A year in New York: celebrating the first anniversary of our NY office

Natasha Cowan | 29th September 2017

We can’t believe it has been more than year since we opened our New York Office. Here we speak to Vice President James Atherton to find out about the highlights, the lessons learned and the healthcare industry trends he’s witnessed in the US.

Why did BLH start a NY office?

New York is a centre for innovation, growth and hustle. Boston and New Jersey are both close by and working with our west coast clients is a lot easier now than it was from London. It’s an opportunity to take our way of thinking and culture and accelerate its impact, both at a global level but also in the biggest healthcare market there is.

What part of the BLH approach sets us apart from the crowd?

There is a new trend in the industry of blending creative and consultant skillsets, however, we embedded this strategy in 2012. Unlike our competitors we have established a full-service consultancy carefully and organically.

We have seen the ‘giants’ of the likes of Accenture and WPP trying to combine two fundamentally different types of people and mind-sets. This is easier to do ‘on paper’ than in practice, where creating a consistent culture takes time and commitment.

Our ambition is to participate in shaping the future of healthcare by partnering with innovative companies that are transforming and saving lives”

We have spent years building this approach, bringing together four world-class capabilities – Insight, Strategy, Customer Experience and Creative. We’re properly integrated, across territories, with everyone sitting under a single P&L. This means specialist cross-discipline teams can be created quickly and core market, scientific, commercial and strategic knowledge is retained and more easily shared.

We were prepared to adjust our positioning in the US but it hasn’t been necessary and our clients have appreciated the ‘fresh perspective’ we bring. Our global experience and focus on value also sets us apart from the US ‘home grown’ agencies and consultancies.

The cost constrained, value centric model has been in place in many regions outside the US for years now. We have experience working in these countries so it’s something we’re well placed to help our US clients get to grips with.”

What are the top pharma trends in US at the moment?

1. The Affordable Care Act (ACA)

One topic you can’t avoid is changes to ACA, which could have major implications and is continually being touted, however, little traction has been seen yet.

2. The move from volume to value

There is a strong trend around volume to value – acts like Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA) illustrate a move towards a new way of paying healthcare providers. The model has shifted from rewarding a high volume of service to payment based on better care outcomes.

The cost constrained, value centric model has been in place in many regions outside the US for years now. We have experience working in these countries so it’s something we’re well placed to help our US clients get to grips with.

3. Collaboration between healthcare and cutting-edge tech companies on data and analytics

There is a fascinating movement in which both large tech companies and start-ups have started working in the data and analytics space in healthcare. Whether it’s Google/Alphabet’s Verily study of 10,000 patients to understand the transition from health to illness, or the Apple Watch partnership with insurance providers and universities to capture data and investigate conditions.

4. Personalised medicine, machine learning and oncology breakthroughs

From a clinical perspective we've been working at the forefront of immunoncology for years but to be in America when the next generation of treatments – CAR-Ts – were approved was special. Our work in the biotech space has kept us close to this exciting new therapy class.

Elsewhere I think the emergence of truly agnostic genetic diagnostic companies like Foundation Medicine is going to really transform the oncology field and deliver the precision medicine model to patients.

We've been working at the forefront of immunoncology for years but to be in America when the next generation of treatments – CAR-Ts – were approved was special”

It’s been over a year since you opened the US office – what has been the highlight so far?

Good question! The easy answer would be winning our first global agency of record account, across an entire therapy area – a massive achievement that was ahead of schedule.

But aside from that there have been a number of moments that would make the highlights reel – launching a series of online workshops to an audience of 3,000 people with a top pharma client, growing the team, moving offices to account for team growth, participating in a ‘Shark Tank’ initiative, and watching the eclipse from our building’s rooftop (I should stop now right?!).

We knew from day one we wanted one team, one culture and one P&L and that’s never been in doubt.”

I’d say the biggest success has been how the whole company has got behind the launch of the US office. It really has touched almost everyone in the business and the support that we’ve had both from internal functions and client facing colleagues has been phenomenal. We knew from day one we wanted one team, one culture and one P&L and that’s never been in doubt.

What has been the biggest learning curve?

I’d be lying if I said there hadn’t been an internal learning curve. Moving from our large London office, to what is effectively a start-up, has meant we needed to change our mind set. We look for and encourage entrepreneurialism and self-starters in the UK, but that side of things needed to be dialled up a few notches in the US.

We’ve also got a lot closer to our US clients, who I would say are not always as transparent with feedback as their European counterparts might be…but that’s probably best explained further over a beer.

If you could go back in time to your first day at the NY office, what advice would you give yourself?

Buy a warm coat before they sell out and winter sets in!

How does working in America differ from working in the UK?

There is a perception that the American working culture is more demanding than the culture in the UK, but I would say the two are fairly similar.

We’ve tried to maintain the positive aspects of our working culture in the transition and things balance out. You do need to be more available to clients later in the day and occasionally on the weekend, but there is also a trend for ‘summer Fridays’ – where people finish early on a Friday, assuming everything is in order.

What is your favourite thing to do in NY?

I live right next to Prospect Park and so have been taking full advantage of it through the summer – cycling, watching bands like Whitney or Andrew Bird (for free!) or chowing down at Smorgasburg – think Whitecross market x10 for the Insta generation

What does the future hold for the US office?

It’s an exciting time for us right now. We’re ticking the boxes around existing and new clients and doubling the size of the team in the process, hiring in the US and bringing people over from the UK.

Our ambition is to participate in shaping the future of healthcare by partnering with innovative companies that are transforming and saving lives, either through the development of new treatments, new technologies or combining the two.

If being part of that is something that excites you, do get in touch – the door is open to great minds that can help us and our clients navigate to the future state. 

Meet Senior Talent Manager Deborah Braud

Natasha Cowan | 2nd October 2017

At Blue Latitude Health, we pride ourselves on our unique, inclusive culture. Here, Senior Talent Manager Deborah Braud explains her role in recruiting the top people from across industry, and why our ‘family-like’ values are crucial to our success.

read more

A year in New York: celebrating the first anniversary of our NY office

Natasha Cowan | 29th September 2017

We can’t believe it has been more than year since we opened our New York Office. Here we speak to Vice President James Atherton to find out about the highlights, the lessons learned and the healthcare industry trends he’s witnessed in the US.

read more

8 things I’ve learned since graduation

Pany Koizi | 4th August 2017

Senior Associate Consultant and millennial Pany Koizi reveals his top lessons learned since leaving university and gives his advice to aspiring consultants in 2017.

read more