Witt/Kieffer Names Andrew Chastain As CEO

March 28, 2017 – After leading one of the nation’s top 10 executive search firms — and the single largest specializing in healthcare, education and non-profit — Charles ‘Chuck’ W.B. Wardell will step down from his role as chief executive officer of Witt/Kieffer at the end of June. Andrew P. Chastain, who has been with the firm since 1997 and currently serves as managing partner and chairman of its healthcare practice, will become CEO. Mr. Wardell said he will remain a senior advisor to the firm.

Mr. Wardell joined Witt/Kieffer six years ago. Since that time the firm has approximately doubled in revenues and number of employees. The firm also saw outstanding growth over the past several years in its traditional lines of business, including healthcare, higher education, academic medicine, and information technology.

In addition to the expansion of its traditional practices, under Mr. Wardell’s oversight the firm launched and built five new practices, including life sciences, sports leadership, board services, leadership solutions and WK Advisors, the firm’s mid-level executive search practice. Further, it has established an international joint venture, Witt/Kieffer Ccentric, headquartered in London and in association with Australia-based Ccentric Group.


A Steady, Visionary Leader

According to colleagues, past and present, there’s a lot to like about Chuck Wardell. Prior to joining Witt/Kieffer, Mr. Wardell’s search career included 10 years at Korn Ferry serving as chairman of emerging markets and senior advisor to the CEO. BusinessWeek named him one of the world’s most influential search executives and he’s received the Gardner W. Heidrick Award for contributions to recruiting. But what is most notable about Chuck Wardell, yet rarely recognized, is his service to the nation. Mr. Wardell is a decorated combat veteran, having served with distinction in Vietnam. From there, he began his civilian life, and an illustrious career, in the White House — as deputy special assistant to Presidents Nixon and Ford and as deputy assistant secretary of state appointed by President Ford. “There are many things that military service instilled in me and many of the lessons I’ve learned continue to serve me today,” he told Hunt Scanlon editors last summer. “One of the first lessons of combat leadership is ‘do something.’ In business, that translates into ‘make timely decisions.’ The second most important thing that I’ve learned is that it’s absolutely critical to find ways to help difficult people work together. Unless you can organize, direct and create a cohesive organization, you will not meet your business goals.” Delegating, identifying good people and letting them do their jobs – that’s quite a legacy ….. Here’s the rest of that interview from Hunt Scanlon Media.

Recruiting CEO Discusses Tenure … and Industry Challenges Ahead
Last August, Chuck Wardell took us inside his tenure at Witt/Kieffer – one of the nation’s leading search specialists. In this wide ranging interview, he looked back and ahead at the challenges and opportunities on the horizon for executive recruiters. Here it is, in case you missed it. If you did read it, it’s worth a second look.


Taking the Reins

Mr. Chastain, who assumes the CEO role in July, has more than 20 years of healthcare leadership and executive search experience and plans to remain active in these areas. He will continue to partner with health systems, major hospitals, academic medical centers, and other healthcare clients to identify CEOs and senior executive leaders. As CEO, he will also oversee operations and strategy of the firm’s major practices, including healthcare, education, life sciences, and its WK Advisors division.

Mr. Chastain has made a significant impact across the firm for the past two decades. Beginning in 1997, he served as managing partner of Witt/Kieffer’s southern region for seven years and then as co-leader of the central region for three years. In his roles as board treasurer and vice chair, he has helped govern and direct the strategy and operations for the firm. In 2015, Mr. Chastain spearheaded a successful account management initiative to provide dedicated, expanded recruitment services to major clients.


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“I’m deeply honored and excited to take the reins as CEO at a time of such strength and growth for Witt/Kieffer,” said Mr. Chastain. “While there is rapid change occurring across the search industry, and in the industries we serve, I am very optimistic about our opportunities to thrive in this dynamic time. Clients are increasingly looking to us to act as trusted partners and advisors who understand their industry and know how critical the right leadership is to their success. I look forward to serving our clients as they flex for the future, as well as transforming our own firm to meet the needs of our dynamic industry.”

“Andrew has been a respected and proven leader throughout his time at Witt/Kieffer,” said Mr. Wardell. “The board is confident that his deep experience, tremendous energy, strategic vision and forward-thinking approach will allow the firm to continue to grow and flourish.”

From Outside Leader to Insider

Mr. Chastain recently sat down with Hunt Scanlon Media to discuss his plans for the firm and the current state of the healthcare sector. 

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Andrew, are you planning any new initiatives or new directions for the business as you prepare to take charge? 

I am fortunate to take over the CEO position in a thriving organization with a solid strategic direction, one that I helped develop. I don’t see any 90-degree turns in the short-term; however, I see our market changing quickly. To continue leading in our industries, we must anticipate the changes required by our clients. I will work closely with our board, our team and clients to ensure we anticipate the future needs of the marketplace.  

Any difficulties filling Chuck’s shoes since he has been CEO for such a long time?

Chuck was the right leader at the right time. He has led us to unprecedented growth and helped us to consistently outperform the market. One of Chuck’s greatest attributes from the beginning was his external view of Witt/Kieffer. Coming from outside of the firm, he was able to see us for what we could be, not who we were. He saw opportunities and pushed us to grow in new ways. He has led with class and confidence. He has been incredibly supportive of me and has provided me with great guidance about how to transition into the position from the inside.

Can you describe the current state of the executive search industry within the healthcare sector? 

Unlike any other time in our nation’s history, healthcare is in the national spotlight – politically, socially and economically. The complexities of reform, health system consolidation and integration are putting significant pressure on our clients to fundamentally change who they are and how they do business. Similarly, this puts pressure on executive search firms to innovate. To continue thriving, we must adapt. We must provide a consultative partnership to meet the growing expectations of our clients in terms of service, speed and quality. I am energized by the changes and challenges. Regardless of the current political machinations, we have an industry of innovators looking for better ways to care for the nation’s healthcare needs in a safer, more cost-effective manner. Search firms have a unique opportunity to support them.

“We must provide a consultative partnership to meet the growing expectations of our clients in terms of service, speed and quality. I am energized by the changes and challenges.” 

Any trends you can share with us?

One trend is that clients want to be extremely well-informed at all times during a search. First, they are increasingly looking for market and recruiting expertise in the search consultants they work with and a partnering approach to search work. They really want to make sure that we understand their needs within today’s parameters and stay in touch throughout the engagement. Second, they want to know more about executives who they are hiring ahead of time. For this reason we do significant interviewing, vetting, and assessment of leading candidates. It is important for search firms to make sure someone is right for the job and right for the organization.

What do you see ahead?

I am an optimist. The strongest and most innovative will thrive during times of change. I see the chance for executive recruiting firms to make a real difference. For us, that means supporting organizations in industries that have a direct impact on our collective quality of life.

What are some current or recent searches that you have worked on that you can share with our readers? 

I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to work with many of the nation’s top health systems over my 20-year career with Witt/Kieffer. Recently, I worked closely with the boards of both Baylor Scott & White Health System and Carolinas HealthCare System to identify new chief executive officers.

Contributed by Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor and Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief — Hunt Scanlon Media

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