Heidrick & Struggles Posts Revenue Declines for 2020

As the pandemic continues to impact executive search firms around the world, one of the nation's premier recruiters delivers its latest revenue report to Wall Street. It reveals a 12 percent revenue decrease for the year but a promising uptick in the fourth quarter. Let’s go inside the latest numbers.

February 23, 2021 – Executive search, leadership consulting and culture shaping services provider Heidrick & Struggles (NASDAQ:HSII) has posted global revenues of $621.6 million in 2020, a 12 percent decrease from revenues of $706.9 million the year before.

The firm says the reduction in net revenue was primarily due to the impact of the pandemic on a global basis. The Chicago-headquartered recruiter — the fourth largest global firm as ranked by Hunt Scanlon Media — reported net income of $46.9 million, or $2.40 per share, on the year.

Executive search net revenue was $565.2 million compared to $646.4 million in 2019. Excluding the impact of exchange rate fluctuations which negatively impacted results by 0.2 percent, net revenue decreased $80.1 million. Net revenue decreased 13 percent in the Americas (or 12.5 percent on a constant currency basis), decreased eight percent in Europe (decreased 9.1 percent on a constant currency basis), and decreased 17 percent in Asia Pacific (decreased 16.6 percent on a constant currency basis). Productivity was $1.5 million compared to $1.7 million in 2019. The average revenue per executive search was $123,200 compared to $132,000 in 2019, while the number of executive searches confirmed declined 6.3 percent. Heidrick consulting net revenue was $56.4 million compared to $60.6 million in 2019, a decrease of 7.2 percent.

For the fourth quarter, Heidrick recorded revenues of $161 million, a decrease of 10.5 percent from revenues of $180.0 million a year ago. Executive search net revenue was $146.3 million compared to $163.0 million in the 2019 fourth quarter. Executive search net revenue declined $18.1 million. Net revenue decreased 9.8 percent in the Americas (decreased 9.1 percent on a constant currency basis), increased one percent in Europe (decreased 3.9 percent on a constant currency basis) and decreased 26.9 percent in Asia Pacific (decreased 29.4 percent on a constant currency basis).

There were 361 executive search consultants at December 31, 2020 compared to 380 at December 31, 2019 and 362 at September 30, 2020. Productivity, as measured by annualized executive search net revenue per consultant, was $1.6 million compared to $1.7 million in the 2019 fourth quarter. The average revenue per executive search was $125,100 compared to $149,300 in the 2019 fourth quarter, while the number of confirmed searches increased 7.1 percent compared to the year-ago period.

Unprecedented Year

“Our fourth quarter results capped an unprecedented year throughout which our team demonstrated tremendous resilience while adapting our business for rapidly shifting market conditions,” said Krishnan Rajagopalan, president and CEO of Heidrick. “Business trends improved from the third quarter trough, and we are encouraged by the current momentum.”

“While near-term visibility remains more limited than normal, I am optimistic that 2021 will ultimately be a year of accomplishments for our firm as we emerge even stronger, generating enhanced revenue growth, profitability and cash flow,” Mr. Rajagopalan said. “Consistent with our strategic plan, we are committed to capturing market share by going to market as one firm with an integrated value proposition. At the same time, we are actively moving forward with strategic long-term initiatives that will broaden our capabilities and services with new technology and data-driven offerings that leverage our core brand, while maintaining a strong balance sheet, paying our dividend and continuing to create long-term shareholder value.”

Executive Search Firms Adapting to the New Normal
2020 was an unprecedented year in most respects, and a challenging year for many in the executive search industry. Senior executives across the sector, however, are generally optimistic in their outlook for the year ahead. According to two leading reports, one from Bullhorn and the other from Hunt Scanlon Media, optimism reigns supreme.

According to Hunt Scanlon, 93 percent of recruiting leaders said they are expecting growth in 2021, while 80 percent are bullish on business prospects for the new year. A full 75 percent of search executives in the 2021 Hunt Scanlon Pulse Rankings survey said they expect full growth to return by June. Fifty-nine percent of those polled said they expected to meet their targets for 2021, while 41 percent said they would exceed targets set for the year.

During the quarter, Heidrick’s board of directors declared a 2021 first quarter cash dividend of $0.15 per share payable on March 19, 2021 to shareholders of record at the close of business on March 5, 2021.

Leadership Changes

Heidrick & Struggles recently appointed Kamau Coar to the newly created role of chief inclusion officer and Jenni Hibbert as global managing partner, head of executive search go-to-market. This is part of the Heidrick’s long-term strategic plans to accelerate business growth and strengthen its focus on diversity and the firm’s workplace culture, said the search firm. “We continue to transform our business and build for the future,” said Mr. Rajagopalan. “As we progress on this journey, our leadership and workplace culture remain foundational to our success. We have a longstanding commitment to developing talent from within our firm, and these new roles and leadership changes put us in an even stronger position to support our employees while delivering world-class advisory services to our clients.”

In addition to these new roles, the following leadership changes have been implemented as part of the firm’s ongoing leadership development and succession planning efforts:

  • Alyse Bodine, partner, global head of financial officers practice.
  • Sam Burman, partner, global practice managing partner, disruptive innovators team, and head of specialty practices.
  • Tim Dietlin, partner, global practice managing partner, healthcare and life sciences practice.
  • Jonathan Graham, partner, global practice managing partner, industrial practice.
  • Tom Murray, partner, global practice managing partner, global technology services.
  • Victoria Reese, partner, global practice managing partner, corporate officers practice; Ms. Reese also continues to lead the legal, risk, compliance and government affairs practice.
  • Todd Taylor, partner, global practice managing partner, financial services practice.


Heidrick expects 2021 first quarter consolidated net revenue of between $160 million and $170 million, while acknowledging the continued fluidity of the COVID-19 pandemic that will continue to impact quarterly results. Responding to what is likely an extended and possibly permanent ‘new normal’ for companies impacted by the health crisis around the world, Heidrick reduced its real estate footprint by some 20 percent over the prior year. It is a move other executive search firms have been seen taking as the shift to remote working accelerates.

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media

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