September 24, 2007

Headhunting for Corporate America

Kenneth Rich ’67 amasses wealth of experience in executive search field

Kenneth Rich ’67 didn’t take long to build a resume of experience that took him from D.C. to Dubai, Athens to Asia. Not just that, but he spun on a dime, going from medical aspirations to the top of the financial world.

Rich graduated with a chemistry degree at age 20, having skipped a grade in elementary school. He received a full fellowship to study business administration at the University of Chicago.

“I never took an economics class at Lafayette,” he admits.

Rich adds that he had been elected senior class president, gained a reputation for being a good student, and had been in the freshman counseling program, guiding first-year students through the minefield that is college.

“I never thought about why I was recommended for the fellowship, but I suppose it must have been my reputation on campus,” he says.

Why did he major in chemistry if business seemed to be his destiny?

“I always had an interest in science, so I went into chemistry,” he says. “When I got to Lafayette, I was impressed with the facility and the program, so I stayed with the chemistry major.”

However, there was no hesitation to pursue his MBA in Chicago. He finished that course of study in 1969 and went to Wall Street, where he was in corporate finance and mergers and acquisitions.

After a four-year stint at the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, he returned to the private sector. He lived in Dubai while working for Citibank, focusing on OPEC, specifically Iran and Nigeria.

“Everything has changed so much there,” Rich says. “Now Dubai is a resort where people go for a nice vacation. Then, we got hardship pay for living there.”

Rich started in executive searches (i.e. “headhunting”) in 1983, consulting for businesses seeking the right candidates to fill top positions, from CEOs to CFOs. He has worked in, or recruited for, virtually all segments of the financial services industry, including capital markets, corporate finance, public finance, mergers and acquisitions, alternative investments, investment management, wealth management, hedge funds, and private equity.

He’s now managing director of financial services for Edward W. Kelley & Partners, Inc. handling the board searches for private and nonprofit financial organizations. Kelly & Partners entered this facet of consulting less than two years ago and Rich says he’s excited to be a part of it and to have hands-on relationships with clients.

“I have a general expertise,” he says. “I’ve done a little of everything so while some people have a very specific area of expertise, I’m a real generalist. I’ve seen just about everything.

“Basically I enjoy helping clients develop their strategy, not just their recruiting strategy, but their business development strategy. I want to position their firm uniquely and they look at me as a confidant, not only a consultant.”

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