Who is McKinsey's new global managing partner Kevin Sneader?

Underwhelming but sensible are the words that best describe McKinsey & Co's new appointment.

by Stephen Jones
Last Updated: 26 Feb 2018

What do Kevin Sneader and The Scottish National Party’s Susan Aitken have in common?

Both have strong links to Glasgow, both were elected using the Single Transferable Vote system and unless you’ve got a vested interest, you’ve probably not really heard of either of them.

The latter is the leader of Glasgow City Council while the former will replace Dominic Barton as the twelfth global managing partner of the world’s largest consultancy firm, McKinsey & Co.

‘It’s another white, middle-aged dude’ was the response - quoted by the Financial Times - of an anonymous former partner to Sneader’s appointment, and while those hoping to see the election of McKinsey’s first female chief in 92 years will be disappointed, the 51-year-old McKinsey lifer is a stable choice. But who is he?

Formative years: The son of a University Lecturer and kindergarten teacher, Sneader was born in Canada but grew up in Glasgow. His first job was selling jewelry in his uncle’s jewelry shop. He has a first class law degree from the University of Glasgow and was also a Baker Scholar at Harvard Business School. A passionate Glasgow Celtic fan, Sneader said in an interview with McKinsey that his ‘outlook remains rooted in Scotland and Scottish community values’.

One club man: Sneader’s nearly 29-year association with McKinsey started in 1989, when he joined the London office as a business analyst. Since then he has been the managing partner of McKinsey firms in the USA, and was UK and Ireland managing partner before his latest role as Asia Pacific Chairman. The firm list his expertise in consumer packaged goods, retail and pharmaceuticals, among others.

Challenges ahead: For McKinsey’s Mr Worldwide, perhaps the biggest challenge will be navigating the political scandal in South Africa, one of the regions the Scot hasn’t worked in. Allegations of corruption have been levelled against the firm for it’s work with Trillian Capital - a company linked to the Gupta family, which has been accused of exploiting ties to Jacob Zuma to manipulate state contracts.

While his appointment may be understated, his experience could be key to rebuilding McKinsey’s reputation and for someone who has been present for nearly a third of the firm’s lifetime he should be able to hit the ground running.

Image: McKinsey

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