Bob Sternfels or Sven Smit to become McKinsey's next leader

24 February 2021 3 min. read
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McKinsey’s senior partners have voted the firm’s current global managing partner Kevin Sneader out of his role, meaning that the global strategy consulting firm will either have an American or a Dutchman take over the reins of its 30,000-strong workforce.

On Monday, McKinsey’s 650 senior partners kicked off their routine three-yearly voting process on who should lead the consulting firm for the coming three years. According to reports on Tuesday, a group of eight senior partners had the best papers to shift into the top role.

Kevin Sneader, McKinsey’s current global managing partner who succeeded Canadian Dominic Barton three years ago, was regarded as the favorite, for two reasons. First, each of the five previous global managing partners served at least two three-year terms, and second, Sneader had managed to lift McKinsey’s ethical standards, stepping up the importance of values in the firm’s client management, work, and culture.

Bob Sternfels and Sven Smit - McKinsey & Company

However, Sneader faced a number of crises during his tenure, including the historic opioid settlement (which related to work delivered over a decade ago), a recent embarrassment in Moscow, criticism for the firm’s work with autocratic leaders such as the House of Saud, and the Gupta family saga in South Africa.

In a rebuke over his handling of these crises, Sneader has now been ousted. According to Financial Times, which spoke with two people with direct knowledge of the matter, the 54-year-old Scot will be replaced by either Bob Sternfels (the runner-up to Kevin Sneader in 2018) or Sven Smit.

Bob Sternfels has been with McKinsey & Company for 25 years and is a senior partner based in the San Francisco office. The American is the global head of McKinsey’s client capabilities, which includes its industry practices and functional areas. Earlier in his career at the firm, Sternfels led the operations practice in the Americas and the private equity & principal investors practice globally.

Sven Smit has been with McKinsey since 1992, and rose through the ranks to become senior partner of the Netherlands practice, global head of the strategy & corporate finance practice, and leader of the firm's Western Europe division. The Dutchman is currently co-chairman of the McKinsey Global Institute, McKinsey’s business and economics research arm – and the globe’s top private sector think tank.

Globally, McKinsey generates around $11 billion in revenues. The firm has over 100 offices worldwide.