This summer we opened the first McKinsey office in Serbia. The new Belgrade office is the ninth McKinsey location in our Central and Eastern Europe region, alongside Bratislava, Bucharest, Budapest, Kyiv, Moscow, Prague, Warsaw, and Zagreb.
Economically, Serbia is well positioned in the region, with access to over one billion consumers through free-trade agreements and an advanced road network. It’s also strong in several sectors, such as agriculture and food and IT services, which are predicted to see growing demand over the coming decades. And the country is moving toward membership in the European Union.
The McKinsey team in Belgrade combines Serbian talent with experience drawn from elsewhere in the region. The leadership team comprises Boris Dragovic and Dusan Komar—both born in Serbia—and Jurica Novak from Croatia. All three were educated partly overseas. Boris and Jurica have PhDs from Cambridge University (in computer science and nanoscale physics, respectively). Dusan received his master’s degree from the London School of Economics. Adding to the regional flavor, Jurica will split his time among Belgrade and our offices in neighboring Bucharest and Zagreb.
A common theme across the region is that many of our private-sector clients are somewhat smaller than is typically the case in Western Europe. This calls for flexibility on our part. Belgrade-based consultants work in teams on projects large and small, helping local companies navigate increased competition in their home markets while taking advantage of growth opportunities in international markets. The mix of clients includes players in financial services, oil and gas, telecommunications, and basic materials, among other sectors.
Now that the office is officially open, what’s in store for the rest of this year and beyond? Hiring and developing Serbian talent is a big priority. The “brain drain” of the 1990s saw many students and professionals move overseas from Croatia, Serbia, and other Balkan countries to escape conflict and economic chaos. Jurica was among them, in the early 1990s, when he moved from Zagreb to rural Michigan for his final year of high school before heading to Cornell and then to Cambridge. “Back then, the only way to be competitive was to graduate from a US high school,” he recalls.
Times have changed. Serbia, in particular, has emerged as a talent hub for the region, with more than 240,000 students enrolled in higher education. While we won’t be hiring in the hundreds or thousands, we hope to be advising the companies that do.