Interview with Alan Kaplan, CEO and Founder of Kaplan Partners - Part I


Alan J. Kaplan

Click here for Part IIPart III

Connecting financial and growth-minded institutions with the next generation of leadership

Alan Kaplan is the CEO and founder of Kaplan Partners. Established in 1994 in Philadelphia, Kaplan Partners is a retained executive search and talent advisory firm that helps organizations fulfill critical roles and meet evolving leadership requirements. The firm specializes in executive search, board advisory services, and management assessment and succession planning. Clients include technology companies, private equity funds, community banks, nonprofits, and more.

Jeff Mack: Tell us about your company.

ALAN KAPLAN: Our company works predominantly with the broadly defined financial universe: banks, asset management firms, some mortgage and insurance companies, financial sponsors like private equity and venture capital firms, and we also do a lot of work with corporate finance and CFO-type search work across different industries. We also have a client base of technology companies, high growth companies, as well that we serve as predominantly in the region around Philadelphia. Our financial services practice has clients in 16 states from Maine to Tennessee to Ohio. We just picked up our first client in Michigan and we have a new client in Kansas as well.

We provide high-level executive recruiting services as well as management assessment services to help boards and CEOs grapple with the succession issues for the CEO themselves or for other positions, and we work with boards of directors around board performance, board repopulation and refreshment, board diversity—those kind of issues as well that are really critical for companies today.

If you’re doing, say a CEO succession project—and we’ve done probably close to 70 of those in the history of our firm and probably 64 financial institutions—you’ve got the typically retiring CEO who may have a particular slant on the role or the position of what their successor should look like, and you might have the board of directors that may have the same or different vision as to what that future leader is going to look like, so a big part of our role in our process is actually the due diligence on the front end: giving all the constituents a voice into the process of “What will the next leader look like? What skills and attributes, and what leadership competencies, what behaviors, what personality styles we are going to need in that next leader?”

Most of the time we hope those interests are not going to conflict; they’re going to align in terms of kind of what’s needed in the future leader. And then communication is a really big piece of it—making sure everybody is on the same page. If they’re not, then we’re facilitating some kind of conversation around the disconnect so that everybody gets on the same page. And we use an assessment tool called the Predictive Index, which helps our clients to map out: “What does everybody think are the behaviors that we’re looking for, the stylistic elements that we’re looking for in somebody?” So, again, if there’s a dichotomy there, that’s going to come out in that conversation, and we can facilitate some dialog around “Why are there all those differences?” Let’s try to get those resolved in the front end.”

Q. Leadership recruitment must differ significantly from other kinds of talent recruitment. What do you look for in the executives you interview?

A. Most senior executives, when you interview them, are pretty skilled at being interviewed. Many of them have been coached or they have been through really good transition coaching or outplacement services, so people tend to be pretty good at telling their own story in their own way that makes them look really good. We’re lot more interested not in what they did, but how they actually did what they did, so getting beyond just sort of the chronological or the tactical and more into the behavior. If your organization grew sales by 50% in three years, how did that actually happen? What was your role? What did you lead versus what did others do? How much of a collaborative environment was it versus an environment that you were really driving that change? The how things happened and who was involved, and how you led an organization or a team. or dealt with challenges or grappled with. difficult situations—underperforming employees, strategic conflicts in an organization—the hows and the resolutions of those issues are so much more critical than just “well, I did this,” or “I did that.”

Connect with Alan on LinkedIn

Sponsored by:


Newmark Knight Frank (NKF) is one of the world's leading commercial real estate advisory firms. Together with London-based partner Knight Frank and independently-owned offices, NKF's 15,000 professionals operate from more than 400 offices in established and emerging property markets on six continents.

With roots dating back to 1929, NKF's strong foundation makes it one of the most trusted names in commercial real estate. NKF's full-service platform comprises BGC's real estate services segment, offering commercial real estate tenants, landlords, investors and developers a wide range of services including leasing; capital markets services, including investment sales, debt placement, appraisal, and valuation services; commercial mortgage brokerage services; as well as corporate advisory services, consulting, project and development management, and property and corporate facilities management services. For further information, visit

NKF is a part of BGC Partners, Inc., a leading global brokerage company servicing the financial and real estate markets. BGC's common stock trades on the NASDAQ Global Select Market under the ticker symbol (NASDAQ: BGCP). BGC also has an outstanding bond issuance of Senior Notes due June 15, 2042, which trade on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol (NYSE: BGCA). BGC Partners is led by Chairman and Chief Executive Officer  Howard W. Lutnick. For more information, please visit

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