McKinsey's global managing partner just got voted out from serving a second term. Meet the two potential contenders who'd take the helm of the $11 billion consultancy.

  • Kevin Sneader, McKinsey’s global managing partner since 2018, was voted out and will not serve a second term. 
  • About 650 senior partners participated in a three-step voting process. 
  • Here’s how the leadership structure works at McKinsey, and what we know about the leadership front-runners. 
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

McKinsey employees have voted Kevin Sneader, its global managing partner since 2018, out of serving a second term at the consultancy. 

“Every three years, McKinsey’s senior partners elect one of their colleagues to serve as the firm’s global managing partner,” a spokesperson told Insider. “The election, which is conducted by an independent third-party firm, is now underway and we will announce the result after the election concludes.”

As first reported by the Financial Times, Bob Sternfels and Sven Smit are the top candidates for the global managing partner position; they are both senior partners and members of McKinsey’s shareholders council,  respectively based out of the global firm’s San Francisco and Amsterdam offices. 

Prior to Wednesday, insiders and alumni at McKinsey said it would be unusual for Sneader to not be re-elected again. Insiders and experts have shared that it’s tradition for the global managing partner to be reappointed. In fact, Sneader’s five predecessors — including Dominic Barton and Ian Davis — each served in this leadership role for at least six years. 

McKinsey introduced this year’s election earlier than expected, Financial Times reported. Sneader, who joined McKinsey in 1989, has served as the poster child for McKinsey’s mounting scrutiny including a $573 million settlement for boosting opioid sales during the epidemic and political tension with Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and China over its ethical standards.

But Sneader was one of the highest-rated corporate leaders on the employee review site Glassdoor in 2019. He spent his reign introducing new policies and guidelines to become more selective with the work and clients the company serves. 

“The McKinsey I know is not perfect,” he previously wrote in an op-ed on CNBC. “But the McKinsey I know is a firm that attracts talented people who are passionate about helping others achieve their professional and personal goals… A firm that is committed to change and improve. This is the McKinsey I hope the world gets to know.”

Among over 30,000 global employees, about 650 senior partners (who reportedly represent a younger generation of partners than previous years) are electing one of their colleagues to take the helm of the over $11 billion uber-consultancy. 

McKinsey’s future leader

The front-runners have both spent over 20 years in a variety of leadership roles at McKinsey. 

Sternfels ran the firm’s US operations practice and its private equity and investing global practice. He’s also a member of the shareholders council, a company entity that functions similarly to a board of directors. The senior partner is described as a protégé of Dominic Barton, McKinsey’s former leader from 2009 to 2018, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Senior partner Sven Smit works out of the Amsterdam office, and he’s also a shareholders council member. He held titles like McKinsey’s strategy and corporate finance lead, Western Europe division’s lead, and cochairman of the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI), the firm’s economics research arm.

What we know about McKinsey’s leadership structure

McKinsey’s 650 senior partners followed a three-step voting process. Each partner selected seven candidates and ranked candidates in order of preference. Contenders who may not be interested can still be nominated for the global managing partner role. 

The new leader will appoint a leadership team of 15 partners, a spokesperson said. McKinsey’s global managing partner works alongside the shareholders council to set policies like helping staff adjust to remote work and increasing their sense of wellbeing during the pandemic.

Shareholder council votings are held annually, and members serve staggered terms for three years, a company spokesperson said. The council includes six sub-committees of senior partners who influence client work and audits. Former and current employees, whose employment history was verified by Insider, said these committees also make decisions around employee compensation and performance bonuses. 

This story is developing and may be updated or expanded upon.

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