What, exactly, geopolitical analysts are providing to their clients differs depending on the consultants themselves.
Smart likens his services to a "highly tailored weather report" for financial institutions and companies that are either locked into doing business in countries with high geopolitical tension, like Russia and China, or are considering expanding operations there.
"If you know you're going hiking along a certain trail, and you have to make that hike no matter what, you want to know if it's going to be hot and sunny or cold and wet," Smart said. "As much situational awareness as you can possibly have helps you reduce the risks in any decision you may have to make."
Papic also provides research and tailored analysis for his institutional clients, based on his personal methodology for understanding geopolitics he developed while working in the private intelligence space before joining the financial industry.
Papic argued that a rigorous, methodological approach to analysis is more useful to his clients than advice from former government officials.
"You need people who speak both languages (geopolitics and finance) at a very high level to actually add value," Papic said. "Pulling someone out of government after 30 years and trying to tell them, 'Hey, can you learn the Bloomberg terminal?' Yeah, good luck with that. I'm very skeptical of the supply (of consultants)."
Even pension funds that don't currently use geopolitical consultants said it's a space they're paying close attention to as the world continues to change.
"We are looking into this, because of the two wars going on," said Steven Meier, CIO of the $255 billion New York City Retirement Systems.
"The issue of geopolitical risk needs to be considered over the next 10 years. It's hard to price. It's the unknowns we don't know that we need to be concerned about."
Angela Miller-May, CIO of the $49 billion Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund, Oak Brook, added: "We're a global investor. We have exposure to countries outside the U.S. We have to look at these exposures now as risk. Do we look at a portfolio ex-China? Or as China's the next largest economy do we keep some" in the portfolio, she said. Geopolitical risk "is something we think about from an investment point of view and macroeconomic point of view."
Pension plans and asset managers are preparing for deglobalization and continued conflict, which they are concerned will impact global supply chains and maintain an inflationary impact on the world economy.
"It's not as if everybody is going to pull down their blinds and make everything in-house, but there will be both a greater sense of needing to have a couple of different backup supply lines, and maybe even deeper inventories," Smart said. "In this reorientation of trade routes and supply lines, there's a lot more need to understand what geographies make the most sense, and that's when a lot of the geopolitical questions arise."
Mucha said his job as a geopolitical strategist was to help Wellington and its clients invest in the world that exists, "not the world you wish we live in," which means acknowledging that issues like great power competition and climate change aren't going to simply disappear. "Geopolitical and policy risk is likely to be highly disruptive in coming years, I think that's going to mean greater differentiation from an investment perspective," Mucha said. "It's time to find winners and losers, to seek alpha in a more disruptive, more differentiated environment."