Asset Managers to CEOs: Do Better

A survey of nearly 800 investors and buy-side analysts reveals a lack of confidence in current corporate leadership practices.

Illustration by II

Illustration by II

Two-thirds of asset managers believe corporate executives are ill-prepared to take their companies into the future, according to a new survey by management consulting and recruitment firm Korn Ferry.

The survey, which included 795 investors and buy-side analysts, found that 82 percent believed companies globally are currently facing challenges from industry disruption. Under such circumstances, 83 percent said an “exceptional” chief executive is “critical to an organization’s success.”

Yet 67 percent of asset managers think current corporate leadership standards are “unfit” for the future, according to the survey, whose respondents represented $50 trillion in assets under management and included representatives from 85 percent of the 50 largest asset managers globally.

“As we accelerate further into the age of disruptive technology, competitor landscapes are evolving more quickly than ever before,” Khoi Tu, a senior client partner at Korn Ferry, said in a statement. “Self-disruptive leaders who can continually adapt to keep pace with the market are the key to success in today’s disruptive environment, but not all business leaders are ready for the challenge.”

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Survey respondents reported that corporate leadership was a decisive factor in where they allocate fund assets, with 78 percent citing a company’s chief executive as “critically important” to whether or not they chose to invest in that firm. Asset managers polled by Korn Ferry said they also believed boards of directors were “crucial” to corporate performance.


Their confidence in current corporate leadership varied by country, with survey respondents viewing executives in certain parts of Asia as some of the least prepared for future disruption. Corporate leaders in China received the lowest score, followed by those in Japan and Malaysia.

Executives in Hong Kong and Singapore, meanwhile, ranked among the most fit to take on future challenges in the eyes of asset managers. But only Germany’s corporate leaders earned the confidence of a majority of the survey’s respondents, with 52 percent rating them as prepared for coming disruption.

Some of the problems with current corporate leadership were attributed to short-termism, with 70 percent of the respondents noting that pressure to deliver performance over the short term hurt executives’ ability to deliver on innovation and digitalization.

The Korn Ferry report suggested that companies needed to identify and develop leaders who could identify opportunities, energize and nurture employees, accelerate business activities, partner with others, and form trusting relationships with staff.

“For the last hundred years, leaders have been taught that control, consistency, and closure are the principles of business leadership,” Dennis Baltzley, Korn Ferry’s global solution leader for leadership development, said in a statement. “But dramatic changes to the global business environment mean this is no longer sufficient – trust, purpose, and energizing others are now central.”