Alex Liu, a partner of AT Kearney for the past 22 years and a former head of its communications, media and technology practice, will be its next managing partner and chairman, the global management consultancy announced on Wednesday. 

Mr Liu, who is based in San Francisco, succeeds Johan Aurik, who has run the firm for two terms since his election to the top role in 2012. 

Nine candidates for AT Kearney’s top job were ultimately narrowed down to two finalists — both men — in three rounds of voting by partners.

Mr Liu, an AT Kearney partner since 1996, said his top priority would be “to bring the full force of our firm to each client we serve. To help deliver that, I will stay close to the action, working directly with clients and our teams”.

Mr Aurik, a Dutch native based in London, set out in 2013 to expand the partnership through organic growth rather than acquisition or merger. His predecessor had led the firm into unsuccessful merger talks with Booz & Co in 2010.

The appointment of Mr Liu, a former technology company chief executive currently based in San Francisco, is likely to move the firm away from the Europe-centred leadership of Mr Aurik.

PwC absorbed Booz in 2014, changing its name to Strategy&. Independent mid-sized firms such as AT Kearney and Germany’s Roland Berger, which decided not to pursue a courtship with EY in 2013, have instead sought to differentiate themselves from rivals with a wider global reach.

AT Kearney knows more than most of its peers about the perils of bringing two different cultures together in professional services. It suffered an unhappy decade as part of Electronic Data Systems, the information technology services group, before regaining its independence through a management buy-out in 2005.

The change at the top at AT Kearney, which employs 3,600 people in more than 40 countries, comes hard on the heels of leadership announcements at other consultancies. McKinsey senior partners voted Kevin Sneader into the managing role last month. He will succeed Dominic Barton in July. Manny Maceda took over as worldwide managing director of Bain & Company at the beginning of this month.

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