Global Executive Search Revenue Grows for Fourth Year in a Row, According to New AESC Report

2015 was the fourth year in a row of steady growth for the executive search and leadership consulting profession, with global revenues reaching an estimated $12 billion, according to Executive Talent 2020, a new report from the Association of Executive Search and Leadership Consultants.

Key findings from the report include:

  • 2015 was the biggest year ever for the executive search and leadership consulting profession, based on our estimated revenues. The 2.4% increase on 2014’s figures take the estimated global revenue to $12 billion.
  • Four in five (83%) AESC members are optimistic or have maintained their positive outlook from 2014 about the executive search and leadership consulting profession during 2016. Our members intend to maintain, build and broaden their trusted executive search relationships with clients and see new opportunities to expand into leadership consulting services.
  • The market for executive search remains strong, with 73% of clients expecting their use of executive search to increase or stay the same over the next five years; clients recognize the value we provide in terms of confidential searches, board and C-suite searches, and cross-border searches.
  • Clients seek executive search consultants as partners because of our professionalism, access to difficult to reach candidates, objectivity and confidentiality. Executive search is used when the executive position is strategic and high impact – positions where trust can make the difference between attracting the right talent and missing out.
  • Clients’ top three challenges today are ‘lack of diversity’ (82%), ‘lack of leadership successors’ (81%), and ‘competition for talent’ (75%). But the top three challenges in five years’ time are ‘aging demographics’ (78%), ‘globalization’ (69%), and ‘competition for talent’ (68%). Clients seem optimistic about initiatives around diversity and succession but see megatrends such as globalization and aging demographics posing a new set of challenges.
  • Clients are open to broadening the way they work with their current executive search firm in a wide range of leadership advisory services including succession planning and internal talent assessment.
  • The AESC members we surveyed also single out succession planning (45%), board advisory services (40%) and internal talent assessment (37%)as the areas beyond executive search for the most growth during 2016. In each area of leadership advisory services we identified, our members expect demand from clients to increase over the next five years. There is a clear alignment between client needs and the expansion of the service offerings of AESC members.

Karen Greenbaum, AESC President & CEO, said: “I am proud to lead the association that represents the executive search and leadership consulting profession worldwide. The AESC seal represents quality and integrity. Our indepth research combined data from leading global firms as well as insights from clients, members and candidates from around the world. The research confirms the trends we have observed — that our clients look to us for their most critical executive talent challenges. They see AESC members as trusted advisors and value our expertise in executive search and in a growing number of leadership advisory areas including internal talent assessment, succession planning, board advisory services, coaching and more. The future is bright, building on the steady growth we have seen for the last four years.

The findings in Executive Talent 2020 are based on survey data from 200 AESC members, 200 clients, 40 client interviews and 2,500 executive-level candidates. These surveys ran from January to March 2016.

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