Advice to Aspiring CPOs from Bernhard Raschke and a Role Model in Lewis Love

We mentioned last week our lunch with Bernhard Raschke. He was a senior consultant with PWC before joining top head-hunters Korn Ferry a couple of years ago. He is now Senior Client Partner, leading Korn/Ferry’s EMEA Supply Chain Centre of Excellence and industry vertical for Transportation and Logistics Services, based in London.

Our conversation ranged widely, with Brexit one topic. As a German who has lived in the UK for many years now – his teenage sons have been brought up here – he confesses to some concerns of course. At the moment he has not seen any effect on the recruitment business but as we both agreed, it is very early days and he does see some issues ahead.

But more on that in the future no doubt. We also spoke about procurement competencies and about the route to the top for aspiring CPOs. Raschke, who is talking to candidates and recruiters in this field daily, perceives that there is a shortage of good candidates for the top procurement and supply chain roles and that the gap between the best people and the average is probably widening.

He also suggests that for those top jobs, experience outside procurement is particularly valuable. He likes candidates who have worked in other functions - operations “or even commercial or sales roles”. Not only does it bring a different perspective to the job, but it helps the CPO in terms of relating to the stakeholder situation, and of course managing senior stakeholders is an absolutely central element of that senior procurement role.  The need for that breadth is even more important where the role is supply chain rather than “just” procurement, Raschke says – the scope of responsibilities is broader and the need therefore for that view across the business is even more critical.

That was certainly the view at Mars when I worked for the group earlier in my career – and I believe it still is at that particular firm. At one stage, there was an unwritten rule that to get to the very top levels, you needed to have worked in more than one function and more than one country. I don’t know if that still applies, but the view that top managers should be more than just functional experts was strongly held.

Related to that, we spotted an announcement last week that Lewis Love, global CPO for the giant insurance and risk management Aon Corporation, is going back to Bank of Ireland as COO. At Aon he was responsible for the management of global procurement, global real estate, shared service strategy and some other areas too. He previously worked for Bank of Ireland as head of asset and liability management, with responsibility for capital management, securitisation and funding. He’s a lawyer by training, and has worked in procurement roles, as well as on big outsourcing deals and in those more “core” banking areas.

Love has now made the transition into top level general management, as he also becomes part of the bank’s group executive committee. So as well as offering him our congratulations, we thought his career path, specific though it is to the financial services industry, is in some ways a good role model for aspiring young procurement folk who want to get to the very top level as COOs or CEOs one day.

So the guidance might be to get useful international experience - it looks like he has worked both sides of the Atlantic. Move firms, but not too regularly (he was at Aon for 8 years). Work in some different areas – but if you have real skills in negotiation for instance you will find that useful outside procurement too (“Lewis is the best deal maker on the planet” according to one of his LinkedIn recommendations!) And a law degree isn’t a bad place to start either.

As Bernhard Raschke says, a breadth of experience, not just deep technical procurement skills, will make you in time a better CPO (let alone CEO) . It seems to have worked for Lewis Love anyway!

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