Career News, Updates & Insights

10 years at CRA

Arthur Baines | Financial Economics | Charles River Associates

Vice President and Financial Economics Co-Practice Leader Arthur Baines shares his experience of working at CRA for the past 10 years.

What has kept you at CRA? What do you enjoy about working here?

That’s easy. You always want to be number 1 or 2 in the marketplace or the places where you choose to compete, and we are simply the best at what we do. The market knows us well and we focus on the things that we’re good at. I simply like working for the best consulting firm.

We don’t do everything and that is the magic there. We’ve picked our spots. Whether it’s financial economics, forensics,  energy, or any of our other practice areas, we’ve built industry-leading practices; we know what we do and do it extremely well. It’s a reflection of the talented people we have here.

What elements of your work have changed during your career at CRA?

In the big picture, not much. Our work is dictated by having strong relationships with clients and a strong presence in the market. Throughout time, needs have evolved around things like data security, but the way we consult hasn’t drastically changed. The ongoing integrity of our work has been something our clients have always recognized in us.

What are some of your best memories at CRA?

Most are around interesting projects. One that comes to mind is a pro bono project we did a few years ago on behalf of a young girl who needed a lung transplant. She was disadvantaged by the organ allocation system in place. CRA pulled together a team over a weekend and worked closely with her attorney to support her case. If I worked anywhere else, I’m not sure I would have had the right resources to draw upon. I had the opportunity to pull in colleagues from different practices who had healthcare policy backgrounds and the right econometrics and statistical backgrounds. The staff that helped found the project rewarding and it turned out to be one of the cases that kickstarted CRA’s pro bono program.

How do you feel CRA helped guide your professional growth?

I joined at a senior level with a well-developed personal brand. Nevertheless, I still benefit a lot from the relationships I’ve built with fellow practice leaders and vice presidents over the years. There has always been an informal element to internal networking here. What’s changed in the past 10 years is that we now have a formal structure in place too. This includes core training programs that build business development skills early on in your career and provide expectations around what will get you to the next level of your career. My experience here has been that folks are supportive of that development process. Whether it includes going to industry conferences or creating thought leadership pieces, CRA will invest the time and resources to get us what we need.

What values or skills do you think CRA instilled in you?

I believe CRA values integrity regarding the quality of our work, which manifests itself in many ways. For example, the firm doesn’t take on projects that we’re not qualified for. I see this across the board with my peers in Life Sciences, Competition, Energy, etc. We are a rigorous organization with ambitious and motivated staff.

In addition, we’re supportive of one another. Each time I’ve reached out to a colleague for help, they’ve always returned the call and have been willing to provide their insight or find team members that could help me. This type of culture has existed at CRA for as long as I’ve been here. It reflects how we recruit people and what attributes we look for in colleagues.

How do you think you and your colleagues use your degrees at CRA? 

I think it’s true across the firm that we thoroughly apply the academic disciplines that we’re trained in.

What we do day in and day out is not soft consulting where we only review policies and procedures. What we do tends to be rigorous, academic, empirical, and analytical. My practice utilizes evolving versions of statistical and econometric textbooks in our work on a regular basis. We recruit staff that are bright and more recently trained on these specific techniques, but we also have senior staff who have a strong understanding of these areas and who are expected to consistently explain these concepts to clients.

What is a recent opportunity you’ve been able to take advantage of at CRA?

We had an opportunity to work with a DC-based, nonprofit think tank called FinRegLab on original research around consumer finance issues that ultimately led to us producing a large quantitative research paper. This topic is at the front edge of consumer finance right now. It’s a stretch on our econometrics and there are a lot of policy implications. Our paper contributed to federal regulators issuing guidance to financial institutions on how to use this type of data. It’s always interesting to be involved on projects that have this type of impact.

Read “The use of cash flow data in automated credit underwriting” here.

In addition, there are a few traditions that the DC office has during the holiday season. One includes working with the Children’s Law Center where CRA staff adopt families to support throughout the holidays. There are many colleagues here who do the hard work of organizing this. My wife and I find it a rewarding process to be a part of every year and we’re thrilled that the DC office provides this opportunity.

Do you have any advice for junior colleagues working towards their professional goals? 

Don’t be afraid to ask for the support you need. We have a lot of resources here. If you have a sense of the types of areas you’d like to explore here, the avenues exist, but you must raise your hand.