The 10 Biggest Recruiting Assignments of 2016

December 30, 2016 – As the year now draws to a close, it turns out that when we looked back through our archives 2016 was simply a remarkable year for first rate search assignments. Hunt Scanlon Media tracked hundreds of them. From CEO placements to those covering the bandwidth of the C-suite, our editorial team gleaned the best from every industry sector and functional discipline to create this year’s 10 most interesting list.

Years ago, no recruiter worth his or her salt would dare speak of a completed search, let alone one in progress. That’s all changed. The industry has moved to a much more open and transparent model. Behind each assignment, a unique personal story typically unfolds. It might be the hiring executive on one search or the chosen candidate in another that we focus on. But many times it is the recruiter we bring forward. This is a personality-driven business, mind you, and one in which people still remain at the heart of every assignment. But searches expose more than just the comings and goings of people. Trends are discovered when searches are looked at over time or in their totality. So, we see search assignments as mini case studies and they are some of our most popular daily attractions.

While it is nearly impossible to pick just 10 of the most interesting search assignments over a full year, that’s exactly what we’ve tried to do here. So, in case you missed any of these stories during the course of a very busy year, or if you’d like to reread what are likely some of your own favorites, here are our 10 best picks for 2016. Happy reading . . . and Happy New Year from Hunt Scanlon Media.

Koya Leadership Partners In Hunt to Find Leader for Amnesty International

The non-profit sector remained a hot growth area for executive recruiters as mission-driven leaders took center stage in 2016. This search, for human rights organization Amnesty International USA, was certainly one of the most interesting and important ones launched during the year. Amnesty turned to Koya Leadership Partners for leadership assistance. Managing partner Molly Brennan and principal Sam Simmons are leading the search. With a flurry of non-profit organizations seeking top leaders in recent years, executives from all walks of the corporate world continue to flock to the sector, hoping to transfer the skills they’ve honed.

“Non-profits have realized that the hard skills that many candidates bring from the for-profit sector, including strategic planning and execution, change management, financial and operational expertise, and people management, are just as important as passion for a mission when it comes to delivering on measurable goals,” said Ms. Brennan. In order to make a successful placement, and be credible with candidates and clients, “recruiters in this field really need to be embedded in the non-profit sector,” said Koya CEO Katie Bouton. The line between the for-profit and non-profit sectors is increasingly blurring, she added, “meaning that top professionals are switching back and forth between the corporate sector and the non-profit sector throughout their careers. Top recruiters need to be able to leverage and tap both worlds.” To Katie, Molly and the Koya team, well done!

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Carrington & Carrington Recruits Chief Diversity Officer for McDonald’s

In arguably the most important global chief diversity officer search to come along in years, executive search firm Carrington & Carrington snared Major League Baseball‘s diversity head, Wendy Lewis, to serve as vice president and global chief diversity officer for McDonald’s. She replaced Patricia Harris who is retiring at the end of the year after 40 years of service. Willie E. Carrington led the search. As global chief diversity officer, Ms. Lewis will oversee the development and implementation of diversity and inclusion strategies and community engagement for McDonald’s and its restaurants around the globe.

Diversity recruiting continued to be on fire in 2016. Here’s why: diversity, Mr. Carrington said, is not one of those things that’s going to be resolved in a few years’ time. “We say, rather, that it’s a march of a thousand years.” He said diversity is one of those “nebulous areas” that changes with time and circumstance, and gets affected by so many things in the market. “Diversity, in many respects, moves forward and then moves backwards and then moves forward again. It is just challenging and tough. Our collective senses get riled,” he said, “and then they settle down.” That pattern, he said, repeats itself over and over again across our lifetimes. Well said, Willie!

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Duke University Picks Isaacson, Miller to Find Next President

Using a search firm to recruit a new president or provost today can cost colleges nearly $100,000 or more in recruiting fees. So, is it worth bringing in outside agencies to help? Short answer: Yes. “The market for executive search in universities and colleges has expanded dramatically over the last 25 years,” said Vivian Brocard, president of Isaacson, Miller, one of the leading recruiting specialists serving the needs of higher education institutional leadership. A nationally recognized search firm focused on finding transformative leaders for mission-driven organizations, Isaacson, Miller has conducted some 5,600 placements over 34 years. Of those, some 2,800, or half, have been in the academic sector, consisting of university presidents, college chancellors and deans. It has filled top leadership posts at Wellesley College, Washington State University, Miami University, Howard University, Bowdoin College, Dartmouth, NYU, Virginia State University, and the University of North Carolina, among a host of others. Just recently, the firm placed Vincent Edward Price as the 10th president of Duke University. Mr. Price, an academic who is widely known for embracing diversity, served as provost of the University of Pennsylvania. Search firm founder John Isaacson led the search along with vice president Jane Gruenebaum and vice president John Muckle.

Over the past five years, Isaacson, Miller has filled a number of other important leadership posts at Duke, including provost; president of the Duke University Health System; dean of the Nicholas School of the Environment; dean of its School of Medicine; and dean of Trinity College of Arts & Sciences. Mr. Isaacson said he expects overall demand for talent acquisition services geared toward the university sector will continue unabated as baby boomers retire and there remains continued flux within the higher education sector. “As the importance of leadership escalates steadily,” he said, “universities will use every method available to reduce the risk of a leadership failure and increase the likelihood of success; hence, the dramatic rise in the use of search.” Congratulations, team Isaacson, Miller for three and a half solid decades of great search work!

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Eastman & Beaudine Recruits Head Football Coach for Baylor

Sometimes the need to call on a recruiting specialist trumps all other predispositions that a search committee might harbor. In the sports world, and in the more defined area of football coaches, nothing seems to matter more than confidentiality, trust and connections when it comes to finding that next great team leader. In that regard, recruiting firms can be a search committee’s best kept secret weapon. For over 40 years, Eastman & Beaudine has been in a league of its own in conducting executive searches among sports, entertainment and business clients seeking direction, assessment and counsel to build their senior leadership teams. The firm is led by Bob Beaudine, who has helped shape the leadership teams for the NBA, Major League Baseball, the PGATour, Arena Football, the U.S. Olympics, NASCAR, Professional Bull Riders, Horse Racing, and Ultimate Fighting Championships. “Bob Beaudine challenges you to think differently. His unique approach to life and business has helped elevate many careers,” said Roger Goodell, commissioner of the NFL.

Aside from Baylor, Eastman & Beaudine has conducted numerous assignments to find head football or basketball coaches for a number of universities, including the University of Missouri, Arizona State, Clemson, the University of Mississippi, Texas Tech and other top college sports programs. But, of course, the field is wide open today and any number of search firms are being called in by professional sports teams, colleges, and sports consumer brands to identify a host of leaders, from coaches and athletics directors to heads of marketing, finance, sales, fundraising and corporate partnerships as well as general manger roles. Many C-suite focused recruiting firms are now active in the field and some specialize only in the sports field itself, but all are dedicated to providing sports-related executive search and leadership advisory services. They include Prodigy Sports, Nolan Partners, Turnkey Search; CarrSports Consulting, Korn Ferry, Harvard Group International, Marquee Search, DHR International, Hartmann Mason, College Sports Solutions, Egon Zehnder, Heidrick & Struggles, Ascension Sports Partners, Russell Reynolds Associates, Diversified Search, Odgers Berndtson, Ventura Partners, Alden Associates, Parker Executive Search, Sports Recruitment International (SRi), Neinas Sports Services, and Collegiate Sports Associates. To all of you — continued success in 2017!

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Egon Zehnder and Korn Ferry Tap Insider as Pharma Giant CEO

In the hunt for big time global leaders, sometimes it takes more than one search firm to help a company reach the absolute best talent available. Such was the case in 2016 when Egon Zehnder and Korn Ferry teamed up to support the CEO succession and recruitment process at GlaxoSmithKline by tapping company insider Emma Walmsley as chief executive officer. She becomes the first woman to lead the pharmaceutical giant and GSK will be the first top-tier pharmaceutical company to be led by a woman. That’s progress! Over the past year, Hunt Scanlon Media has reported on a number of global initiatives underway to mobilize efforts at supporting and expanding opportunities for women in the C-suite and corporate boardroom.

Search firms, of course, are part of this vanguard. They are also part of a growing trend to support insiders for CEO posts. Roughly 84 percent of chief executives comes from within the companies they already serve. In this case, a woman and an insider got the top job. Hats off to Mark Byford (global innovation and life sciences practice member at Egon Zehnder) and Patrick Mooney (senior client partner – global life sciences at Korn Ferry), who spearheaded the assignment supported by numerous colleagues. It was one of the biggest search assignments in British business this year, but by all accounts, boutique search firms were not even close to being considered for this plumb assignment. The C-suite has come a very long way in casting a wider net and inviting more specialist recruiting outfits to the search party, but it seems that at the very top of the staffing pyramid the last bastions of the old boy’s network prevailed in 2016. It won’t for much longer, though, as Millennials make inroads into every facet of the corporate hierarchy. They are less inclined to use any network bestowed upon them by others . . . so, when these floodgates open, look out! A new world order is on the way and thousands of specialist recruiters stand at the ready, powered by their iPhones and LinkedIn.

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Benchmark Executive Search Recruits Cybersecurity Leader for Accenture

Corporate cyberattacks are growing in magnitude, complexity and frequency, and these massive security lapses left an expanding list of major businesses compromised in 2016, including JPMorgan Chase, Target, Anthem, Sony Pictures, and Home Depot. Collateral damage to their corporate reputations and the weighty costs of recovering were just some of the heavy burdens these blue chip companies had to deal with while coming to grips with operating in a digital environment. Demand for cybersecurity executives to bolster defenses and hold down the corporate fort, it turns out, is picking up – but according to recruiters who specialize in the function the talent supply lines are weak. Bidding wars for the best people are afoot throughout the security sector, and that’s what makes this search worth a second look as we close the books on 2016. Jeremy King, president of Reston, VA-based Benchmark Executive Search, recruited Ira “Gus” Hunt several months ago to lead the cybersecurity practice at Accenture Federal Services (AFS). Mr. Hunt formerly served as chief technology officer for the CIA from which he retired in 2013 after a 28-year career. As CTO, he set the CIA’s information technology strategic direction, accelerated adoption of new technology and led the agency’s implementation of the Amazon cloud. Most recently, he served as chief architect for hedge fund Bridgewater Associates.

It is that sort of ‘talent find’ that Benchmark is quickly making its mark in. Mr. King, the firm’s founder, has worked extensively with VC/PE backed firms that serve the government, and he’s built strong ties with leaders in intelligence, defense, and national security. Benchmark’s focus has been on helping start-ups, emerging growth and mid-cap companies find top executives with government backgrounds and strong connections in the defense and national security markets. But in 2016 Benchmark started directing its energy to Fortune 1000 companies, many of which are finally awakening to how destructive security breaches of all types can be. “This group faces a clear imperative: decisively improve internal risk management assets, leadership and performance – or risk suffering at your company’s or shareholders’ peril,” said Mr. King. In many respects, risk management starts at the top of these companies, and the key will be vigorous attention and collaboration between board directors and the C-suite. But of particular concern in keeping companies safe is the human element. “With an estimated $94 billion dollars to be spent on cybersecurity in the next decade, it is surprising most corporate investment in security today is directed to hardening networks rather than people,” Mr. King said. Well said, Jeremy! Continued success as you expand your platform in 2017.

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DHR Recruits Chief Marketing Officer for Under Armour

While functional experts like cybersecurity leaders are forming the bedrock of so many companies regardless of size, chief marketing officers continue to gain in importance and influence in the C-suite. One of the leading assignments in the sector that took place in 2016 was the search that DHR International undertook for Under Armour, which resulted in the recruitment of Andy Donkin as CMO. Carlos Cata, a DHR managing partner in charge of the firm’s global CMO practice, and retail and consumer sector managing partner Frank Spencer, along with partner Julie Eakers, led the search. Mr. Donkin joined Under Armour from Amazon, where he served as head of worldwide mass and brand marketing. There, he managed the company’s global media budget and developed offline and online campaigns globally for North America, Europe and Asia. With vast technology and innovation expertise, Mr. Donkin was instrumental in the ideation, development and production of groundbreaking creative campaigns such as Amazon Prime, Amazon FireTV (streaming), Amazon tablets, Amazon Kindle, Amazon Echo and Amazon retail.

Under Armour, the highly popular sports clothing and accessories company, is today a multi-billion dollar conglomerate. It was founded by Kevin Plank, a 23 year old former special teams’ captain at the University of Maryland who started working out of his grandmother’s basement. So, what made this search more sensational than others over the span of 2016? It was the quintessential talent raid. Netflix, Goldman Sachs, Audi and Tesla have all been victimized by a competitor plucking away some of their most talented leaders. But Amazon is especially seen as a breeding ground for innovative talent — and hanging on to people has created a logistical nightmare for Jeff Bezos, the company’s CEO. In this raid, DHR consultants lured away Amazon’s top branding expert and, in the process, once again showed how valuable chief marketing officers have become as essential business game changers. DHR’s march into the C-suite continued unabated in 2016 — congratulations to Geoff Hoffman and his expanding team of A-players.

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Save the Children Taps Russell Reynolds for Chief People Officer

Of course, people are the backbone of every company. As such, any C-suite leader overseeing the people function needs a second look. The best search we could find in the Hunt Scanlon Media archives is the one Russell Reynolds Associates was tapped to lead this past spring: chief people officer for Save the Children International. Save the Children is one of the largest and best known international non-governmental organizations that promotes children’s rights, provides relief and helps support children in developing countries. It was established in the U.K. in 1919. The organization has been deluged with help requests and assistance needs from many war torn regions over the last several years, including Syria where some two million children have been caught in the crossfire of conflict — leaving the organization somewhat stressed itself. The chief people officer will be charged with the HR leadership of some 17,000 staff worldwide, with end-to-end responsibility for human capital strategy, including talent attraction, retention, development, rewards and employee relations.

The chief people officer (CPO) position is a relatively new title within the HR function which many companies are using instead of chief human resources officer (CHRO). It first appeared about a decade ago. But as companies look to build internal brand awareness and focus more on establishing and driving their own unique cultures, CPOs are coming more into vogue. Organizations that bring in a CPO are typically looking for more than a leader to oversee its staff and people policies; the focus, instead, is on building talent as a key competitive advantage, and more on culture — which includes values, ethics, mission and creating a working environment in which employees can thrive. Chief people officers, according to recruiters specializing in finding them, foster environments where employees are more productive, loyal and motivated to achieve an organization’s goals. The best chief people officers champion values. And for Save the Children, can we ask for much more than that? Three cheers to Russell Reynolds Associates for handling this assignment and for its tireless work in finding leaders for non-profits around the globe. Great job!

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Odgers Berndtson Recruits CFO for Valeant Pharmaceuticals

Yes – cybersecurity, marketing, and human resources are vital to the functioning of every company, but if you don’t have someone on board to count the beans what good is any of it. According to recent research, about one fifth of companies now change their CFO annually, and this is constricting the market for financial officers talent. The best candidates, in fact, often consider multiple opportunities that headhunters put before them at any one time. These tightening talent pipelines are edging up CFO pay – and that’s made the hunt for top-flight financial specialists one of the more lucrative areas for recruiters. So many CFO searches took place in 2016 that a number of them ended up on our cutting room floor. But one of the more interesting chief financial officer searches of 2016 was conducted by Odgers Berndtson for Valeant Pharmaceuticals. The search firm brought in Paul S. Herendeen to oversee all of the company’s finance functions, including controllership, tax, and treasury, reporting directly to chief executive officer Joseph C. Papa. Valeant turned to Odgers Berndtson in finding Mr. Papa this past April. John Hawkins, vice chairman and director in Odgers Berndtson’s life sciences practice, led both assignments.

“When we evaluated Paul’s outstanding career experience, it represented an exquisite fit with the mandate,” said Mr. Hawkins. “He has an outstanding reputation, deep specialty pharma industry experience, deep experience in equity and debt capital markets, he knows the investor community that follows Valeant, he is a CPA, and a highly seasoned CFO with a proven track record of building value for healthcare investors.” The requirement that made this search ‎unusual was the small universe of the strongest candidates, said Mr. Hawkins – “those who had experience within and understood the pharmaceuticals industry as well as the equity AND debt capital markets.” It is a rather rare breed of pharma CFOs who have both. In addition to conducting the company’s CEO and CFO searches, Odgers Berndtson also assisted Valeant in rounding out its board by placing five company directors. Awesome work and a big shout out to CEO Steve Potter — he’s put Odgers on track to being one of the fastest growing search firms of 2016. That’s tenacity!

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The New York Pops Turns to Greenwich Harbor Partners for Board Directors

Last, but not least, let’s head into the ultra-selective boardroom and see what’s been happening there. One of the most interesting trends we’ve seen in 2016 is the preponderance of boutique search firms finally getting invited in – and winning – assignments for some of the most prestigious boards in the country. This trend is happening everywhere, not just in the U.S. Two recruiting firms, in particular, stood out to us: Greenwich Harbor Partners and Harvard Group International. Coincidentally, both firms were called upon by clients not just to fill a single board seat, but six of them!

What makes the first one a standout set of director assignments is the fact that the recruiter in charge, Carrie Pryor, who happens to also be the founder of Greenwich Harbor Partners, helped reshape the board of The New York Pops and in the process was selected for one of the seats herself. Well done, Carrie! As she told us earlier this year when we first reported on this breakthrough assignment, the Pops might be all about music, but the stellar team of corporate directors that keeps it running smoothly have deep backgrounds in finance, HR, fundraising, business development and technology. These are highly engaged, well-connected, mission-driven leaders now looking beyond Carnegie Hall to bring the spirit and spirituality of music to public school children in struggling neighborhoods. Now, that’s a talented board with a compass pointed due north.

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Harvard Group In Hunt for Six Directors for Reeve Foundation

We’d be remiss if we didn’t take another look at this set of director searches: The Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation called in Harvard Group last spring to conduct a search for six special directors. Chuck Cain, a senior partner active in Harvard Group’s non-profit practice group, led the assignments. The Reeve Foundation’s roots stretch back to 1982 when the American Paralysis Association was formed. Christopher Reeve sought out the organization following his injury 21 years ago. What a legacy. Since launching its dedicated non-profit practice, Harvard Group has completed a number of key placements for leading organizations in the field, including Make-A-Wish Foundation chapters, the ALS Association, Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, United Way Worldwide, Boys & Girls Clubs chapters, National Charity League, PACE Center for Girls, the Oakland Raiders Foundation, Pet Partners, I Have a Dream Foundation, and ASHRAE, among countless others. Cyndi Court, former chief development and marketing officer for Special Olympics International and Boys & Girls Clubs of America, leads the practice, which includes Mr. Cain. In just the last 36 months, this small but expanding boutique has placed more than 100 board members with local, national, and global non-profits. Continued success to Havard Group’s search consultants – and to everyone who continues to spread good search work around the world.

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Happy New Year!

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief, Hunt Scanlon Media

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