Johan Aurik elected Managing Partner of A.T. Kearney

23 October 2015 7 min. read
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The partners of global management consulting firm A.T. Kearney have re-elected Johan Aurik to a second three-year term as Managing Partner and Chairman of the board, starting 1 January 2016.

Johan Aurik is an expert in strategy, organisational design, and supply chain management, with a focus on clients in the consumer, transportation, pharmaceutical and chemicals industries. He started his firm term as Global Managing Partner of A.T. Kearney on 1 January 2013, when he succeeded Paul Laudicina, who served the maximum of six years*. Aurik, who originates from the Netherlands, joined A.T. Kearney in 1989, aged 28, spending the first five years at the firm in the Benelux region (Belgium; Netherlands and Luxembourg).

Following a two-year stint in A.T. Kearney’s New York office, Aurik was appointed a Partner in 1997, after which he returned to Europe where he fulfilled a variety of leadership roles. In 2009 he was promoted to Managing Director of the Europe, Middle East & Africa (EMEA) region, and on the back of a strong spell leading the unit the global partner tam four years later showed their admiration by voting him to lead the firm’s global operations. Aurik, and the only eight other Managing Partners before him, were all elected with a majority of at least 50% plus 1%. “That is crucial in this business. This business is run by culture and it is run by the ability to make long-term decisions, and you need a partnership structure for that, not corporate P&L with quarterly profits,” he comments.

Johan Aurik elected Managing Partner of A.T. KearneyDuring his next term, Aurik has set the goal to take a major step towards realising the firm’s ambitious strategy – doubling its revenue to $2 billion in 2020, one of the key pillars of its ‘Vision 2020’ strategy**. “We are cherishing and treasuring what we have, but we also need to add to it. We need more scope, more scale so then we can have more in-depth expertise,” says Aurik. When he joined back in 1989, the firm had 35 partners and annual revenues of around $100 million. By 2000 A.T. Kearney had hit $1.5 billion and had more than 300 partners.

Vision 2020 strategy

“At the time we were the clear number three globally,” recalls Aurik. “McKinsey & Company was still the biggest but we were the talk of the town. It was just unbelievable growth.” In stark contrast to the miraculous growth, what soon followed was according to Aurik the “darkest period” in the firm’s history. By the end of 2004 the management consultancy had halved in size compared to its peak in 2000, mainly the consequence of a changed strategy at the top of EDS, a global IT-services giant which acquired A.T. Kearney in 1995. Synergies evaporated, the cultures of the companies clashed, with an exodus of partners and consultants the result, leaving the firm “almost dead”. Aurik prepared himself for the possibility that the firm itself might go under, yet before it came to that, however, he and the other 173 partners bought the firm back.

Under the leadership of Laudicina A.T. Kearney regained its glamour and profitability, and by the end of Laudicina’s two terms the consultancy had booked 33% growth in revenues, taking fee income to just above the $1 billion barrier. When Aurik started his role, still in the aftermath of the crisis, he said he would not rule out consolidation with other players, relating to the series of major mergers across the management consulting landscape at the time, as well as A.T. Kearney’s serious flirt with Booz & Company back in 2010. The two strategy houses ceased their negotiations following a due diligence process, with Laudicina and Shumeet Bannerji (the CEO of Booz & Company at the time) stating that an independent future had a brighter outlook.

Insiders later revealed that a perceived lack of cultural fit – a notorious pitfall in consulting – and insufficient commitment at the top stood at the basis of the broken down discussions. In the case of Booz & Company the move took its toll – three years later the firm was poached by PwC for approximately $1 billion, a move which sent a tidal wave through the strategy & operations advisory industry. A.T. Kearney enjoyed better fortunes, further growing its footprint and revenues, and looking ahead Aurik more strongly believes strong “organic growth” remains the most likely way for the partnership to expand under his second term.

To underpin the growth, Aurik sees talent management and people development as key drivers, a feat which it has invested in significantly over the years. “This is the biggest and best way to grow,” says Aurik. “It’s the one that sticks.” Yet besides the hard $2 billion target, Aurik too points at the softer goals he has set for the coming years. “The real important goal is to become the most admired. This is a differentiation goal, an excellence goal. It’s what sets us apart,” he states. On the matter, the consultancy can off late boast of one of the most impressive track records in the industry. In 2015 A.T. Kearney was once again recognised as a Best Company for Working Mothers, the firm was awarded a prize for its pro bono work, and also named one of the 10 best consulting firms to work for, to highlight a few examples. On a personal level, Leslie Parker, partner at A.T. Kearney in the US, was named one of the 12 most influential women in management consulting, for her leadership role in promoting diversity in the workplace, while US-based Alex Liu was named a Top 25 Consultant, a feat which Aurik himself bagged in 2013. 

“Three years ago, we launched Vision 2020, setting our ambition to drive growth and become the industry’s most admired firm, distinguished by our culture and how we work. We have made great strides on this journey and the path ahead promises to be even more exciting and rewarding for our clients, our people, and our firm,” comments Aurik, who is married, has four children and since 2009 resides in London. “I’m honoured that my fellow partners have chosen me to continue to serve as the firm’s Managing Partner,” he concludes.

Leading the strategy giants

A.T. Kearney’s move to re-elect its global boss follows in the footsteps of two of its major rivals. Earlier this year McKinsey & Company reconfirmed its confidence in the Canadian Dominic Barton, who runs a third term, while Rich Lesser was re-elected for a second three-year term as Chief Executive Officer of BCG. Two other major players in the market, Bain & Company and Strategy& (the former Booz & Company), are headed by the American Bob Bechek and Leslie Moeller (who took over the helm from Cesare Mainardi in June this year) respectively.

* Laudicina still works for the firm, currently as Chairman emeritus and chairman of the firm's Global Business Policy Council (GBPC).

** A.T. Kearney currently has a revenue of $1.1 billion, and 61 offices in 40+ countries.