McKinsey Q&A: Richard

The McKinsey Global Institute (MGI), the business and economics research arm of McKinsey, recently celebrated its 25th anniversary in a big way: by being named the #1 private sector think tank in the world in the 2015 Global Go To Think Tank Index, an annual report issued by the Think Tanks and Civil Societies program at the Lauder Institute, University of Pennsylvania.


Richard Dobbs, a London-based director who co-leads MGI, recently spoke with us about the impact MGI is achieving, his own path to McKinsey, his most memorable project, and the reasons he has stayed at the firm for as many years as MGI has been in existence.

Interviewer: How does MGI fit into the broader firm?

Richard: MGI was established in 1990 to develop a deeper understanding of the evolving global economy and provide facts to inform management and policy decisions across sectors. All our research is peer reviewed by some of the most eminent economists in the world, including Nobel laureates. Our work is funded entirely by McKinsey and undertaken by McKinsey consultants staffed to MGI, just like a client engagement. We’re proud of our impact. Our in-depth reports have covered more than 20 countries and 30 industries, assessing topics from job creation, to resource productivity, and the impact of the Internet.

Interviewer: Tell us about your path to McKinsey.

Richard: I studied Engineering, Economics, and Management at Oxford University, where I was sponsored by Shell’s North Sea exploration and production business. At the time, oil prices had collapsed and the petroleum industry was learning to survive – similar to today.

After Oxford, I joined McKinsey as a business analyst in London. After a few years, the firm sponsored my M.B.A. at Stanford. I recently celebrated my 25th anniversary at McKinsey, an anniversary I share with MGI itself.

Interviewer: What keeps you here?

Richard: Very few days are ever alike. I have traveled extensively – for short-term client engagements and long-term moves to India and South Korea. The constant variety, opportunity to lead groundbreaking research, and my amazing colleagues who have some of the most inspiring minds in the world is incredibly stimulating and all part of why I have chosen to have a long career here.

Interviewer: What has been your most memorable project with MGI?

Richard: We get to delve into issues that have never had a global, macroeconomic lens applied to them. For example, in 2014, we undertook a study of the global economic impact of obesity. We looked at the impact of the epidemic and more than 500 initiatives to determine which were successful in the fight against it. It was a challenge because the debate on obesity had become quite hostile and our firm serves clients with a variety of perspectives on the issue. We were able to inject facts into the global discussion. We discovered obesity costs more than war globally, and there isn’t a silver bullet to tackle the problem; only multiple levers pulled simultaneously can make a difference.

Interviewer: What are you passionate about outside of work?

Richard: Sailing with my family.

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