Morning Coffee: The secretive race to the top at McKinsey. Jocks are coming back to the trading floor

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The first rule of making it to the top at McKinsey, is that you don't talk about making it to the top at McKinsey. The second rule is that you must be super-connected within the firm, and the third (OK, the Fight Club reference doesn't work anymore) is that you tread the middle ground.

“The process is like picking a new pope, there is no basis on which to judge” the candidates, a former McKinsey partner told the FT. “It is a bizarre election with no candidates and no manifestos. More often than not partners vote for people they know.”

While Goldman Sachs selects its future leaders on the basis of a complex series of interviews with peers, superiors and direct reports across functions, McKinsey's leadership race is more like a very secretive election. This week, the FT reports that 500 McKinsey senior partners gathered at Grosvenor House Hotel in London to start an arduous process to choose a successor to current global managing director, Dominic Barton, who's stepping down in June.

McKinsey, which is the most prestigious of the "big three" strategy consulting firms and regularly attracts more than 200,000 applications for its entry level positions alone, is in the midst of a minor crisis. Aside from its role in the South Africa political scandal surrounding the Gupta family, it's facing calls in some quarters to move away from its traditional consulting functions into a more diversified business. 55% of its employees, or around 16,000 people, work in consulting.

“People vote for the person they think will take McKinsey in the right direction," another former partner told the FT. "McKinsey traditionalists believe the firm should focus on core consulting and would be nervous about having someone very entrepreneurial at the top.”

After a first round of voting, 10 partners who get the most votes are chosen to move on to a second round in February, says the FT. This is then whittled down to two people for the final round of voting. There are four leading contenders:  Gary Pinkus, managing partner for North America; Kevin Sneader, chairman of the Asia-Pacific region; Vivian Hunt, managing partner of the UK and Ireland; and Bob Sternfels, head of global functions.

But, it seems, open campaigning is frowned upon. “If it’s happening, it’s strictly between senior partners, who are incredibly discreet,” said another former partner.

Separately, while quants are supposedly making the traditional Wall Street jock recruit redundant, there's some hope - albeit for the armchair enthusiast. Bloomberg reports that Susquehanna International is hiring in its Dublin office for a new team to bet on sports including basketball, American football, soccer and tennis. Already, it's taken on a former Goldman bond trader and a professional poker player. The catch? Well, as a quant trading firm Susquehanna is still largely hiring quants and computer programmers for the new unit...


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