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McKinsey Chief Joins Key Oxford Board

Dominic Barton, managing director of McKinsey

Dominic Barton, managing director of McKinsey

Dominic Barton, managing director of McKinsey & Co., is joining the board of Oxford University’s Saïd Business School, the school announced today (Feb. 4).

Barton, who had been a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University, will join the board for a term of three years. “I am greatly looking forward to extending my association with Oxford and to contributing to the future success and direction of Saїd Business School,” Barton said in a statement.

“The young leaders who study at the school are progressing their business careers at a time of great global change and challenge and I look forward to helping shape the school’s strategy to prepare them fully to lead their organizations.”


For Oxford’s young business school, it’s certainly a coup to get the head of McKinsey on its key advisory board. It’s relatively rare that the head of the firm accepts business school appointments. With Barton onboard, it’s likely that an increasingly number of Saïd MBAs will find employment at McKinsey, the largest single recruiter of elite MBAs in the world. The global consulting firm hired just two of the school’s 247 graduates in 2012, the last year for which an employment report is available. Amazon was Saïd’s largest employer that year, with six hires, while FSA brought aboard four, and Deloitte and Ernst & Young hired three each.

In the last five years, 15 Oxford MBAs have joined McKinsey, according to careers head Derek Walker. A few more will have joined from other programs at the school, including at least five masters in Financial Economics (MFE) graduates. Walker estimates that roughly 30 people in McKinsey worldwide have Oxford University on their resumes when you include undergraduates. They range in roles up to partner level and are spread out internationally including Latin America, U.S., Canada, Europe, Australia, South Africa, and the Middle East.

A Canadian, Dominic Barton was one of six students from a high school class of 200, in Sardis, British Columbia, to attend college. Unlike many McKinseyites, he does not have an MBA degree. After studying economics at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, he won a Rhodes Scholarship to attend Oxford University. He began his career as a currency analyst at Rothschild, joining McKinsey’s Toronto office in 1986.

He apparently struggled to become a partner at the firm. “It took me three times before I was elected a partner,” he once told a reporter. “I was working hard and I was rejected….it was a bit of a slap in the head.” Before becoming global managing director of McKinsey in 2009, Barton served as McKinsey’s chairman in Asia from 2004–09, based in Shanghai, and led the firm’s office in Korea from 2000–04.


In a video interview with The Wall Street Journal last year, Dominic Barton said that MBAs are now less than half the annual hires at McKinsey. “We’re looking for a wide diversity of talent to come in,” he said. “It’s not just the MBAs. We take people from all disciplines: astrophysics, poets, journalists. “What we are looking for is more about their character. Are they driven? Do they want to make a difference in the world? We are not looking for people who want to make a lot of money. Are you a team player? Are you selfless and do you help other people? How do you deal with setbacks and failures? It’s more about leadership than anything else.”

“We are delighted to welcome Dominic to the school board and look forward to his input to our strategic discussions at an exciting time of development for the school,” said Peter Tufano, dean of Saїd Business School, in a statement. “We are very fortunate indeed in the quality of our board, and Dominic will strengthen the group further, bringing invaluable insight drawn from his long and distinguished international career.”

The school also said that Orna NiChionna had joined the board as the new chair of the School’s Business Advisory Council. Ms. NiChionna is currently serving as Senior Independent Director of Royal Mail, and she is also Chair of Eden McCallum’s Advisory Board, and a Trustee of the National Trust. After gaining an MBA at Harvard Business School, NiChionna spent 18 years with McKinsey and has held directorships at HMV, Bupa, Northern Foods and Bank of Ireland UK.

The School Board has broad oversight of the School’s activities and is responsible for steering its strategy. Its membership includes external members drawn from the business community as well as from the wider University. The board helps ensure that the School connects with business leaders and keeps in mind its core objective to inform business practice. Sir Howard Stringer, most recently CEO and Chairman of Sony Corporation, was recently appointed Chair of the School Board a term of three years.