Search Firms Bolster Their Own C-Suites to Broaden Push Into Talent Ecosystem

Executive search firms are bringing in new leaders – many with pedigrees from top consultancies like BCG, Deloitte, Bain & Company, and Mercer – to help grow and scale new talent offerings. Let’s take a closer look.

August 14, 2023 – Executive search firm Odgers Berndtson has appointed Frances Brooks Taplett as chief operating officer of its U.S. business. “As we continue to expand our business in the U.S. as a modern and progressive executive search firm, we are committed to building our processes, operations, and teams around forward-thinking strategies when it comes to organizational design and development, people operations, and inclusion,” said Kennon Kincaid, CEO of Odgers Berndtson U.S. “To this end, I am thrilled to welcome Frances as a key member of our leadership team.”

“Her extensive background in people ops and her passion for diversity and inclusion make her the right leader to grow and develop our team, so that we lead by example, as we deliver best in class executive search and human capital solutions for our clients,” Mr. Kincaid said.

Ms. Brooks Taplett is a people operations thought leader who brings over 15 years of management consulting, CHRO, as well as software as a service (SaaS) experience. She served as the head of customer engagement at Eightfold.AI, the chief people officer for the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT, and before that was a partner at the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), as well as the leader of BCG’s consulting people management team. “A strategic leader with an outcomes-centric focus, she has deep expertise in scaling organizations, organizational design, people operations strategy, employee engagement, and diversity, equity, and inclusion,” said the firm in a statement. Ms. Brooks Taplett has an MBA from the Tuck School at Dartmouth College and a bachelor’s degree from Stanford University. She is an advisor and chair of the DEI committee at Boston Ballet.

“Odgers Berndtson provides an incredible opportunity to grow a U.S. business as part of a global executive search organization while continuing to push the envelope on how we deliver for our clients, and innovate around a broader talent ecosystem,” said Ms. Brooks Taplett. “I am thrilled to join such a wonderful team of bright people, and I look forward to partnering with Kennon, our CEO, to deliver his innovative vision.”

In April, Odgers Berndtson named Mr. Kincaid as the firm’s new CEO for its U.S. business, succeeding Steve Potter, who held the position for the past 12 years. Mr. Potter, who will remain an active board member, has grown the firm to become No. 12 on the Hunt Scanlon Top 50 Recruiters ranking in the U.S. “Steve built a strong team, and a particular achievement has been hiring and developing Kennon as his successor,” said Scott A. Scanlon, CEO of Hunt Scanlon Media. “They have worked closely together for five years as COO and CEO preparing for this transition.”

Frances Brooks Taplett is the chief operating officer of Odgers Berndtson US. She is a people operations thought leader who brings 15+ years of management consulting, CHRO, and Software as a Service (SaaS) experience. Prior to joining Odgers, Ms. Brooks Taplett served as the head of customer engagement at Eightfold.AI, the chief people officer for the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT, and before that was a partner at the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), as well as the leader of BCG’s consulting people management team. She brings expertise in scaling organizations, metrics-driven HR strategy, and inclusion & diversity.

Mr. Kincaid has spent the past four years as the Odgers Berndtson U.S. chief operating officer, where he oversaw its people, processes, and operations. He serves on the firm’s board of directors as well as its global advisory board.

Hiring from Consulting Firms

Other executive search firms have also been bolstering their C-suites of late, preparing for what many see as a substantial period of growth and expansion ahead for the sector. ZRG Partners just named former Deloitte Consulting executive Michelle Stuntz to lead and grow the firm’s human capital consulting and advisory practice. She has experience in human capital strategy, innovative performance management redesign, assessing and succession planning for C-suite talent, redesigning various talent functions, designing EVP, and optimizing rewards spending.

“As ZRG continues to build out our human capital offerings, bringing in a leader with global experience scaling a consulting business was a critical step in our journey,” said Larry Hartmann, CEO. “We are thrilled to add Michelle, who has successfully navigated growing a consulting business within a global executive search firm at Korn Ferry but also brings outstanding pedigree and experience from Deloitte.”

In June, ZRG Partners named James Absalom to the position of international chief commercial officer. “James is  responsible for maximizing growth across all our business lines, including executive search, DEI, interim management, leadership and assessment consulting, and recruitment process outsourcing (RPO) and showcase our truly collaborative, end-to-end talent advisory firm,” said Mr. Hartmann. “We are confident he will help us grow our business practices all across the globe.” In his new role, Mr. Absalom will oversee growth of ZRG’s international footprint in Latin America, Europe, the Middle East, Asia-Pacific, and Australia. In keeping with ZRG’s M&A focused growth strategy, he will also work closely with the board to identify, acquire, and integrate M&A targets internationally.”

Two years ago ZRG also added Justin Pinchback as chief revenue officer and head of practices. After completing his MBA at Harvard Business School, where he was a Goldman Sachs Fellow, Mr. Pinchback moved on to Bain & Company, where he focused on private equity diligence, human capital advisory and merger integration for the firm’s clients. While at Bain, he helped the company drive campus and diversity recruitment efforts. Mr. Pinchback later earned talent leadership roles at top financial services institutions including Citadel and Bridgewater Associates, where he built talent acquisition capabilities and drove innovation.

In November, Oak Brook, IL-based WittKieffer named Christina Boiler as its chief operating officer. “Christina is well known for inspiring organizations to achieve excellence and meaningful change,” said Andrew Chastain, president and CEO of WittKieffer. “She brings a unique, diverse skill-set developed through previous senior leadership roles while possessing an eager willingness to explore new opportunities and embrace strategies that will ultimately help us to serve our clients better. Her expertise is invaluable to WittKieffer.”

Ms. Boiler has more than 15 years of leadership experience across operations, strategy, business development, and finance in market-leading consulting organizations. She was previously a partner and led the North American global mobility business for the global consulting firm Mercer. That role was the culmination of other positions within Mercer of increasing impact, including as head of strategy, North America, in which she spearheaded major initiatives to drive growth and increase operational efficiencies.

Also in November, ChampionScott Partners (CSP), which specializes in senior-level appointments for technology and technology-enabled companies, appointed Doug Kaplan as managing director and president. Geoff Champion, CEO said: “Having had the pleasure of supporting his success as a candidate and client, we’re confident that he’ll add great value to our team. Doug joins a team of professionals who’ve led businesses as CEOs, served on boards and as senior executives led transformative growth initiatives globally. Our valued added IP and advisory expertise in support of our clients has never been stronger.”

Related: A Look at Emerging Trends Affecting Leadership Teams Today

Mr. Kaplan joined CSP as a top leader for SaaS / PaaS / IaaS solutions in the Industry 4.0 / IoT industries, compliance, professional training and certification and creative and digital staffing segments. Mr. Kaplan’s previous experience includes leadership roles at LexisNexis, Ascend learning, Aquent and, most recently, a PE sponsored asset, CEOWarrior, for the skilled trades industry.

More Leadership Appointments

Global search firm H.I. Executive Consulting (HIEC) named Stacey Mainiero as its CEO, based in New York. Ms. Mainiero joined HIEC from ZRG Partners where she held the role of COO, managing and overseeing the firm’s global corporate activity of retained executive search and talent management across the firm’s global offices. In this role, Ms. Mainiero provided leadership and direction across the operational functions of the firm including finance, IT, HR, recruitment, and research. During her time at ZRG, she obtained private equity investment to fuel the ongoing growth of the firm.

Slone Partners Names Chief Talent Officer

Life sciences-focused search firm Slone Partners has expanded with the addition of Alicia Montgomery as chief talent officer. “Alicia Montgomery is a true superstar in the recruiting world,” said Leslie Loveless, CEO of Slone Partners. “She has a passion for providing an exceptional client experience and for developing effective training and onboarding programs to help advance internal talent. We are delighted to welcome her to the Slone Partners leadership team.” As CTO, Ms. Montgomery is responsible for building out internal systems and programs to support onboarding and the ongoing training, development, and growth of the executive search team. She will also support executive and leadership recruiting engagements through direct interactions with clients to ensure an exceptional experience on every search assignment.

San Diego, CA-headquartered Bespoke Partners has also joined the fray, adding a number of C-suite personnel, including the hiring of Adam Boone as chief marketing officer. Eric Walczykowski, CEO of Bespoke and former Deloitte executive, said: “Boone brings key insights and experience to grow our business with new, high-impact services that will deliver great value to our private equity clients.” Mr. Boone has more than 25 years of experience in marketing strategy and execution. He has orchestrated launches and demand generation programs for more than 100 products, services, and ventures generating billions of dollars in revenue and many multiples of enterprise value. Sequoia Capital, Goldman Sachs, Greylock, Bessemer Ventures, and other top tier private capital investors have backed Boone’s companies in a range of sectors including software, telecommunications, cybersecurity, and networking.

Bespoke also named Julie Catalano as its chief people officer as the firm’s first ever chief people officer. “Julie’s breadth and depth of experience make her extraordinarily well-suited to help us scale out a world-class team, deepen our high-performance culture, and do so in a way that creates an inclusive, driven, and highly collaborative work environment.”

Based in Bespoke’s Philadelphia office, Ms. Catalano has expertise in human capital management stemming from her achievements in organizational design and change management, succession and workforce planning, and M&A integration. She brings more than 20 years of senior leadership in human resources, organizational culture, human capital management, and business strategy for high-performance companies.

Also last year, Bespoke appointed Prakash Patel as chief financial officer. Based in Chicago, Mr. Patel joined Bespoke Partners from Kaufman Hall & Associates, a private-equity-backed healthcare consulting and SaaS organization. Most recently he led a minority equity acquisition of Kaufman Hall & Associates. Prior to that, he led the spinoff of a SaaS business and four acquisitions along with driving strategy and growth initiatives.

Related: CEOs Anticipate a Possible Recession

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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