SJ Berwin picks McKinsey accountant as first-ever COO

SJ Berwin has turned to management consultancy giant McKinsey & Company for the hire of its first chief operating officer (COO).

Rob Day
Rob Day

Accountant Rick Baumgartner will join SJ Berwin on 9 September following a string of moves by the City firm to bring in high-level business support staff or non-executive directors over the past two years.

He has been at McKinsey for over ten years, most recently as regional finance leader and global controller and was effectively its COO.

He qualified as an accountant at Touche Ross, now Deloitte, in 1984, initially specialising in audit, taxation and financial services, and worked at Ernst & Young as a senior manager and at the Australian Stock Exchange.

The role is a new position for SJ Berwin and comes amid talks with Asia-Pacific firm King & Wood Mallesons over a merger, which would extend the City outfit’s reach to Australia and significantly bulk it up in Asia should the deal go ahead (28 May 2013).

Managing partner Rob Day said: “I have been reviewing our support structure for some time and felt that with the level of operational change currently being experienced within the profession, a heavy-weight COO would give us a tremendous advantage in adapting to a fast moving market. Rick is without doubt a class act and proves that we are serious about constantly improving our business for the good of our clients and our people.”

The firm previously had a CEO but discontinued the job a while ago, with the latest appointment to some extent a revival of that role.

The news follows SJ Berwin’s appointment of Simon Gill as permanent financial director earlier this year to replace Mike Giles (17 June 2013). The firm also hired William Stancer as head of business development from Chinese outsourcing provider Bleum last year and shortly before that brought in Rachel Reid as strategy director from Mayer Brown’s London office.

In 2011 it also added former Linklaters managing partner Tony Angel as a non-executive member of its partnership board (11 March 2011), with ex-UBS banker Lucinda Riches replacing him following his move to DLA Piper as senior partner (2 April 2012).

Other non-executive members of the board include former Dechert London managing partner Steven Fogel, who joined the oversight body as an external member earlier this year (3 January 2013).

Baumgartner will become the 13th member of the board, which is chaired by senior partner Stephen Kon.

His appointment comes just over a year after competition specialist Kon took up the role at the helm of the firm to replace longstanding funds partner Jonathan Blake (15 March 2012).

Kon said in a statement: “As the legal market continues to experience unprecedented change, we believe Rick will add tremendous insight to how we not only adapt to those pressures but how we create an infrastructure that is market-leading in the legal profession.”

Other top 20 UK firms to make senior business appointments recently include Herbert Smith Freehills, which has introduced the roles of global CFO and financial director for UK, EMEA and Asia (1 July 2013), and Ashurst, which this year hired a CFO for the first time (29 April 2013).