Christoph Schweizer is named BCG’s seventh CEO
Currently serving as Boston Consulting Group’s head of Central and Eastern Europe and the Middle East, Christoph Schweizer is set to become the consulting giant’s next Chief Executive Officer (CEO).
Schwiezer, 48 and a German native, will be BCG’s seventh CEO when he takes over on October 1, and will replace current CEO Rich Lesser, who stepping into the role of global chair.
Lesser tripled BCG business in under a decade
Having served as CEO for nearly nine years, Harvard-educated Rich Lesser is credited with leading a major expansion of the consulting firm, tripling its business and more than doubling its workforce to over 22,000 employees.
Central to such growth has been the rapid expansion in capabilities. The launch and scaling of BCG Digital Ventures to collaborate with clients to build and accelerate the growth of digital business; and BCG GAMMA to deliver cutting-edge advanced analytics, ML and AI capabilities; with embedding technology, digital and analytics now representing nearly 40% of BCG’s revenues, up from less than 10% a decade ago.
Lesser oversaw the creation of BCG TURN, a rapid performance accelerate unit, the launch of BCG’s now nearly US$2bn Principal Investor and Private Equity practice; the acquisition of BrightHouse, a pioneer in business purpose consulting; and the launch of the BCG Henderson Institute think tank.
But that’s not all. Under Lesser’s leadership, the company has expanded its footprint from 42 to 51 countries and has formulated a huge focus on diversity and inclusion, with female managing directors and partners having grown at almost three times the rate of male ones, and now representing 44% of BCG’s global staff and 35% of its Executive Committee. Lesser further accelerated the firm’s strong investments in social impact.
Schwiezer to build on Lesser’s legacy of growth
These are certainly big shoes for new CEO Schwiezer to fill, but ones the nearly 1,500-strong team of BCG managing directors and partners believe he is capable of, with all members of the team electing him to the role in a vote.
Having worked with BCG for the last 23 years, both in the firm’s New York and Munich offices, Schwiezer has served as global head of the Health Care practice, as head of CBG’s global practice areas, and most recently as head of central and eastern Europe and the Middle East.
He has a proven track record of growing and transforming major international businesses, especially across the healthcare industry and with private equity firms, and in his current role as head of central and eastern Europe and the Middle East is responsible for 23 countries that make up 30% of firm revenues, including 39 offices and several specialty businesses, which include BCG Platinion and INVERTO.
He will be the firm's seventh CEO in its 58-year history.
BCG's CEO timeline
BCG was founded in 1963 by the late Bruce Henderson, a Harvard graduate who became vice president of the Westinghouse Corporation at age 37 and served as a senior vice president for management services at consulting firm Arthur D. Little. Henderson led the firm he founded until 1980 and served as chairman until 1985 when he became Chairman of the Board.
The second CEO to take the reins for the firm was Alan Zakon, from 1980-1985, under whose leadership the firm initiated a series of R&D projects that lay the groundwork for what ultimately became the firm’s industry and functional practice areas, including banking, retail and manufacturing.
Harvard graduate John Clarkeson, who had been with the firm since 1966, took over from Zakon and was CEO for more than a decade, from 1986 to 1997, and later Chairman. During his tenure, Clarkeson reinvented the firm by focusing on international growth, boosting employee equity, and opening up its election process, a unique model of governance and partnership that still exists today. By the end of his term, Clarkeson had grown the firm from 500 to 3,000 professionals, with 40 offices worldwide.
Clarkeson was then succeeded in 1998 by Carl Stern, who spent 37 years with BCG, serving as its CEO for five years until 2003 and later Chairman for a further eight years. The firm’s fifth CEO Hans-Paul Burkner took over from Stern, serving nine years as President and CEO until 2013.
With a focus on globalisation and transformation, Burkner presided over a highly successful growth period for the firm during which BCG nearly tripled its revenues. Under his leadership, BCG established the Public Sector and Sustainability practices, the social-impact and education initiatives, and the insurance and Marketing and Sales practices, as well as opening 18 offices worldwide, doubling global staff and tripling revenues.
Marketing matters: from IBM to Kyndryl
Prior to joining Kyndryl as Chief Marketing Officer, Maria had a 25-year career at IBM, most recently as the tech giant’s CMO where she oversaw all marketing professionals and activities across North America, Canada and Latin America. She has held senior global marketing positions in a variety of disciplines and business units across IBM, most notably strategic initiatives in Smarter Cities and Watson Customer Engagement, as well as leading teams in services, business analytics, and mobile and industry solutions. She is known for her work with teams to leverage data, analytics and cloud technologies to build deeper engagements with customers and partners.
With a passion for marketing, business and people, and a recognized expert in data-driven marketing and brand engagement, Maria talks to Business Chief about her new role, her leadership style and what success means to her.
You've recently moved from IBM to Kyndryl, joining as CMO. Tell us about this exciting new role?
I’m Chief Marketing Officer for Kyndryl, the independent company that will be created following the separation from IBM of its Managed Infrastructure Services business, expected to occur by the end of 2021. My role is to plan, develop, and execute Kyndryl's marketing and advertising initiatives. This includes building a company culture and brand identity on which we base our marketing and advertising strategy.
We have an amazing opportunity ahead at Kyndryl to create a company brand that will stand apart in the market by leading with our people first. Once we are an independent company, each Kyndryl employee will advance the vital systems that power human progress. Our people are devoted, restless, empathetic, and anticipatory – key qualities needed as we build on existing customer relationships and cultivate new ones. Our people are at the heart of this business and I am deeply hopeful and excited for our future.
What experiences have helped prepare you for this new opportunity?
I’ve had a very rich and diverse career history at IBM that has lasted 25+ years. I started out in sales but landed explored opportunities at IBM in different roles, business units, geographies, and functions. Marketing and business are my passions and I landed on Marketing because it allowed me to utilize both my left and right brain, bringing together art and science. In college, I was no tonly a business major, but an art major. I love marketing because I can leverage my extensive knowledge of business, while also being able to think openly and creatively.
The opportunities I was given during my time at IBM and my natural curiosity have led me to the path I’m on now and there’s no better next career step than a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to help launch a company. The core of my role at Kyndryl is to create a culture centered on our people and growing up in my career at IBM has allowed me to see first-hand how to prioritize people and ensure they are at the heart of progress in everything Kyndryl will do.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I believe that people aren't your greatest assets, they are your only assets. My platform and background for leadership has always been grounded in authenticity to who I am and centered on diversity and inclusion. I immigrated to the US from Chile when I was 10 years old and so I know the power and beauty that comes from leaning into what makes you different from other people, and that's what I want every person in my marketing organization to feel – the value in bringing their most authentic self to work every day. The way our employees feel when they show up for themselves authentically is how they will also show up for our customers, and strong relationships drive growth.
I think this is especially true in light of a world forever changed by the pandemic. Living through such an unprecedented time has reinforced that we are all humans. We can't lead or care for one another without empathy and I think leaders everywhere have been reminded of this.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
When I was growing up as an immigrant in North Carolina, I often wanted to be just like everyone else. But my mother always told me: Be unique, be memorable – you have an authentic view and experience of the world that no one else will ever have, so don't try to be anyone else but you.
What does success look like to you?
I think the concept of success is multi-faceted. From a career perspective, being in a job where you're respected and appreciated, and where you can see how your contributions are providing value by motivating your teams to be better – that's success! From a personal perspective, there is no greater accomplishment than investing in the next generation. I love mentoring younger professionals – they are the future. I want my legacy as a leader to include providing value in work culture, but also in leaving a personal impact on the lives of professionals who will carry the workforce forward. Finding a position in life with a job and company that offers me a chance at all of that is what success looks like to me.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
I've always been a naturally curious person and it's easy for me to over-commit to projects that pique my interest. I've learned over years of practice how to manage that, so to my younger self I’d say… prioritize the things that are most important, and then become amazing at those things.