Egon Zehnder Scam or Legit Company? Reviews and Complaints

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  • Post published:November 14, 2023
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Egon Zehnder is one of the world’s largest executive search and leadership advisory firms, with over 560 consultants across 63 offices globally. The privately-held company was founded in 1964 and is headquartered in Zurich, Switzerland.

Egon Zehnder offers executive search, board consulting, and leadership strategy services to clients. But is Egon Zehnder a scam or legit firm? Here is an in-depth review of Egon Zehnder, including an overview of the company, services, culture, complaints, and comparisons to competitors.

Egon Zehnder Company Overview

Egon Zehnder was founded in 1964 by Egon P.S. Zehnder, a 1956 Harvard Business School graduate. The firm quickly expanded internationally, establishing its first non-Swiss office in London in 1966. By 1992, Egon Zehnder had grown to become the largest executive search firm in Europe.

Today, Egon Zehnder has over 560 consultants working across 63 offices in 36 countries worldwide. The firm has continued expanding globally, including recent office openings in Brisbane and Seoul. Egon Zehnder reported CHF 883 million in global revenue in 2022.

Egon Zehnder is structured as a private partnership owned entirely by its consultants. This ownership structure means consultants have a vested interest in the long-term success of the firm.

The company focuses on three main service offerings:

  • Executive Search: Egon Zehnder conducts CEO, C-suite, and board searches for clients. The firm has conducted over 40,000 executive searches since 1964.
  • Board Consulting: Egon Zehnder provides board reviews, succession planning, and recruitment services aimed at helping clients enhance board effectiveness.
  • Leadership Strategy: Egon Zehnder offers leadership assessment, development, and team alignment services to support clients in developing leadership at all levels.

Egon Zehnder is organized into global practices focused on major industries and functions, allowing consultants to develop deep expertise. Some of the firm’s main practices include consumer, financial services, industrial, healthcare, private equity, and digital.

Egon Zehnder

Services Offered by Egon Zehnder

As mentioned above, Egon Zehnder’s core services include executive search, board consulting, and leadership strategy. Here is an overview of the key services offered in each area:

Executive Search

✓ CEO search – Egon Zehnder helps clients find CEOs and general managers to lead their organizations. This is a core part of the firm’s business.

✓ C-Suite search – The firm conducts searches for C-level roles like CFO, CMO, CIO, CHRO, as well as heads of major business units.

✓ Board search – Egon Zehnder identifies director candidates for corporate and non-profit boards. Diversity is a major focus.

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✓ Private equity talent – Egon Zehnder supports private equity firms in finding leadership talent for their portfolio companies.

✓ Interim executives – The firm maintains a roster of interim executive candidates who can step into leadership roles on an interim basis.

Board Consulting

✓ Board reviews – Egon Zehnder conducts board performance reviews, identifying strengths, gaps, and areas for improvement.

✓ Board recruitment – The firm identifies, evaluates, and recruits director candidates to enhance board composition.

✓ Succession planning – Egon Zehnder helps boards define and implement succession plans for key leadership roles.

✓ Board development – The firm provides director education programs, evaluations, and other development services.

✓ Governance advisory – Egon Zehnder gives guidance on board governance models, committee structures, and best practices.

Leadership Strategy

✓ Leadership assessment – Egon Zehnder has a battery of tools to assess leadership potential and development needs.

✓ Leadership development – The firm provides tailored development programs for high-potential leaders in client organizations.

✓ Team alignment – Egon Zehnder helps align organizational leadership teams around shared purpose and effective collaboration.

✓ Organizational design – The firm advises companies on optimizing organizational structure, roles, and accountabilities.

✓ Culture shaping – Egon Zehnder gives guidance on culture assessment and shaping organizational culture.

Egon Zehnder focuses on top-tier clients across all major industries, including Fortune 500 companies, private equity firms, family businesses, startups going public, and non-profit organizations.

The firm has cultivated a reputation for working on some of the most prominent executive and board searches worldwide.

Egon’s Company Culture and Values

Egon Zehnder is known for its “one-firm” culture built on collaboration. The firm has consciously avoided creating separate brand identities for its executive search vs. leadership consulting businesses.

The company emphasizes four core values:

  • Client Focus – Prioritizing clients’ interests and co-creating solutions with clients.
  • Collaboration – Leveraging the collective capabilities of the global partner group.
  • Professionalism – Delivering work to the highest professional standards.
  • Integrity & Respect – Conducting business ethically and with respect for all.

Egon Zehnder prides itself on a diverse and inclusive culture, with women representing over 30% of the partnership. However, there have been some complaints about a “boys club” atmosphere in some offices.

The firm is said to offer consultants a great deal of autonomy combined with high expectations for delivering results. The interaction model is heavily focused on internal collaboration, with consultants teaming across offices to share knowledge and work on complex assignments.

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Overall, employees and consultants praise the intellectual stimulation of working with highly talented peers on global executive search and leadership advisory projects. However, the expectations for travel and personal client service are demanding.

Complaints and Controversies

With thousands of executive searches and clients over five decades, Egon Zehnder has naturally faced some criticism and controversies.

Here are some of the main complaints and criticisms:

🚩 Exclusivity – Some companies have complained that Egon Zehnder pushes clients to use the firm exclusively for all searches. There have been accusations of discouraging clients from using other search firms.

🚩 Opacity – Egon Zehnder reveals very little about its search process and candidate details to clients. The firm acts as a “black box,” providing minimal visibility into search mechanics.

🚩 Bias – There have been sporadic complaints about racial, gender, and cultural bias in Egon Zehnder’s candidate recommendations and assessments.

🚩 Overselling – Some leadership consulting clients have felt Egon Zehnder oversold its capabilities and struggled to deliver on ambitious promises.

🚩 Poaching – There are recurring complaints of Egon Zehnder recruiters poaching talent directly from clients. This undermines trust in the consultant-client relationship.

🚩 Fees – Egon Zehnder is known for premium prices that are high compared to competitors. Some clients see the firm’s fees as disproportionate to the value delivered.

While Egon Zehnder has undoubtedly provided successful executive search and advisory services for thousands of clients, they have also made missteps over their long history. However, the firm continues working to improve its culture, processes, and client service.

Competitors

Egon Zehndercompetes in the global executive search and management consulting markets. The firm’s main competitors include:

Heidrick & Struggles – Founded in 1953, publicly traded Heidrick & Struggles is one of the largest executive search firms, known for CEO and board search.

Spencer Stuart – Privately held Spencer Stuart is another top global executive search competitor founded in 1956. They focus on C-suite search.

Russell Reynolds Associates – Founded in 1969, Russell Reynolds offers executive search, board advisory, and leadership consulting services globally.

Korn Ferry – A publicly traded firm, Korn Ferry expanded from executive search into broader talent management and HR consulting.

McKinsey & Company – The massive management consulting firm McKinsey competes with Egon Zehnder’s leadership advisory services.

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Boston Consulting Group – BCG is another giant strategy and management consulting firm competing with Egon Zehnder’s consulting offerings.

While facing intense competition, Egon Zehnder continues leveraging its specialized search expertise and brand reputation to maintain leadership in executive search. The firm’s brand and global footprint help attract top consulting talent.

Is Egon Zehnder Legit or a Scam?

Based on the company’s long track record serving prominent global clients, Egon Zehnder appears to be a legitimate, well-established firm in the executive search and leadership advisory space. However, there are isolated complaints about service issues and controversies.

Here is a summary of key factors indicating Egon Zehnder is a legitimate firm:

  • 50+ years in business and a well-known global brand in executive search.
  • Over 40,000 successful executive searches completed.
  • 560+ consultants with specialized expertise spread globally.
  • Client roster includes Fortune 500 companies, top private equity firms, and non-profits.
  • Significant investment in leadership research and knowledge development.
  • Billions in annual revenue, with steady growth over time.
  • Owned and governed entirely by current consultants.

Potential downsides to consider:

  • Isolated complaints of subpar service from some clients and candidates.
  • High fees relative to value delivered, according to some clients.
  • Opacity around process and candidates can frustrate clients.
  • Need to manage occasional conflicts of interest with clients.

Overall, Egon Zehnder clearly has a successful 50-year track record in the executive talent industry. While no firm is perfect, they are widely viewed as a reputable, high-end provider of executive search and leadership advisory services worldwide.

Conclusion

Egon Zehnder is an established leader in executive search and leadership consulting, with a generally strong reputation. The firm seems to deliver satisfactory outcomes for most clients, though prices are high. Leadership strategy consulting appears to be a growth area but faces stiff competition.

While Egon Zehnder is not without flaws, there are no signs it is anything approaching a scam. The firm has successfully served elite clients for decades, retaining many long-term client relationships. However, there is room for improvement in service delivery, transparency, and reducing conflicts of interest.

The bottom line is, businesses and non-profits seeking high-caliber executive search and advisory services will find Egon Zehnder has the global reach, industry expertise, and intellectual capital to meet their leadership needs.

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