ZRG Partners Brazil: Why Brazil? Why Now?

ZRG CEO Larry Hartmann and Brazil CEO Denys Monteiro discuss this bold move and what companies are asking for in Brazil
ZRG Partners recently announced a major expansion into Brazil, with new offices in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. The timing could not be more interesting or challenging. As we visited many CEO’s in Brazil this past month during our road show to tell our story, the question always came up – Why Brazil? Why Now?

The question is a good one. Today, Brazil is clearly a country in crisis. There has been a sharp downturn from the prosperity and optimism that drove growth and expansion a few years back. Things started to change in early 2014.

As recent as 2009, Brazil’s president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva declared the nation’s biggest oil discovery its “passport to the future.” Things were going well. Brazil was awarded the World Cup and the Summer Olympics. Momentum was strong. The downfall began in early 2014 – the economy dipped into the biggest slump in a century, they were tangled with a massive corruption investigation with oil giant Petrobras, there was political unrest along with the threat of impeachment coupled with complete instability in the government. The economists have predicted Brazil’s economy will shrink by 3.5 percent this year following a 3.8 percent contraction in 2015; which is a sharp contrast from a few years back, meaning double trouble with economic challenge and the worst political crisis in decades.

ZRG Launches in Brazil

 Clearly the timing could not be more interesting to open a new business in Brazil, and ironically our launch could not have been more successful. ZRG Partners has been doing global executive search for 15 years but has never before found the right leadership and delivery team for Brazil. Operating throughout North America, Europe and Asia Pacific, Brazil was the missing link for a local team.

The opportunity to build out the team was centered around the background and experience of Denys Monteiro, former President of Fesa, a top executive search firm in Brazil. Denys’ local knowledge of talent as well as his understanding of the issues in working with global multinationals and local Brazilian companies was second to none. Denys spent 17 years in the market as a senior executive search leader, running a top firm and interfacing with clients, boards and CEO’s in the region. Denys quickly and naturally attracted a strong team that was loyal to him and within 30 days, the ZRG Partners Brazil business had 2 offices and 10 employees.

In the first quarter of 2016, client reaction has been exceptional as the team has landed 15 new projects in the first 60 days. This is a record breaking start in good times and a herculean effort in the current Brazilian environment. So why ZRG, and why are clients in Brazil embracing a new player in the market?

Denys Monteiro relates that executive search in Brazil is well accepted but not very innovative or creative. ZRG has brought great tools and analytics to go with typical search. For Brazil, the importance of leadership and making the right hire has never been more critical. ZRG’s value proposition providing data, analytics and technology-enabled solutions to compliment the traditional executive search process is the right answer for our discerning clients. ZRG’s approach is focused on helping clients make the best hiring decision, not just finding a candidate. The ZRG client deliverables have been very well received in Brazil as the next generation of executive search. If we can help our clients avoid a hiring mistake and clearly see the best hire for each role, we are adding value in a new way.

What are CEO’s in Brazil thinking about regarding talent?

As we met with many top CEO’s in Brazil the comments from our meetings were telling. A CEO from one of the biggest insurance firms shared that he needs executives that can change and move fast. He needs leaders who can adapt and adjust. Insuring that the hires have these qualities is critical to any new senior leadership they consider adding.

A global Pharmaceutical CEO is intensely focused on talent during these turbulent times. This leader related that expanding searches to look for talent both locally and globally is the new mandate. The second interesting strategy discussed was how ZRG can further convince the best of the Brazilian leaders who during the past decade have left the country for global positions to now come back and lead in the country. The perspective they gained working around the world makes them even more valuable, and their loyalty to Brazil would make them a welcome hire for key leadership opportunities. ZRG’s global network will facilitate this need perfectly.

While some companies are flat or shrinking, there is still growth in many sectors. In meeting with the CEO of one of the world’s fastest growing e-commerce/payment processing firms, the focus was on hiring the best to keep up with triple digit growth. So, yes, firms are finding growth despite the challenges. The recruiting leaders of this tech firm are focused on finding those who are high energy, flexible and hard working. They feel the bar is high and they are intent on maximizing every hire to find the absolute best during these times. When headcount is valuable and every hire matters, insuring you have the best slate of broad candidates and information to help you make the right hire just makes sense.

The topic of Board of Directors and corporate oversight is also a growing need in Brazil. For many companies, the learnings from the Petrobas case is opening the discussion to more diverse and global boards. This has led to some interesting search work for the team in Brazil in finding the right new board members to guide companies through the next decade of challenge. The makeup of the boards is changing and the requirements have never been more important than now.

We also met with one of the world’s largest Private Equity firms in Brazil who is cautiously optimistic, however uncertainty has changed the focus from new investing to helping existing portfolio companies that are excelling in these market conditions. The Managing Director reminded us that Brazil is still made up of 200 million people, buying everyday goods and services and the economy has a gross domestic product exceeding 3 trillion dollars. So while things are slower, the economy is still made up largely of consumer of goods and services, which creates opportunity to grow even in tougher markets. Their focus was on making sure execution leadership can take existing business and insure the blocking and tackling of running the businesses and expanding was top drawer and in place. This also applied to top supply chain leaders, growth leaders and operations staff. Certainly, the CFO role has never been more important for both growing PE backed firms and those who are struggling in their portfolios, so this was a big topic and need.

An Industrial / Distribution leader in Brazil shared a great quote with us that the ZRG team in Brazil has adopted as the official mantra. This leader simply shared, “We decided a while back that we would not be part of this recession and it has worked. We are focused on our own success, not the problems and it is working.


Brazil clearly has some uncertainty and difficult days ahead but this is not stopping leading companies and CEO’s from seizing the day and finding success in the storm. Leadership and talent has never been more important to companies in Brazil. When every hire matters and leadership is key, rigor is required. ZRG Partners Brazil is poised to make a positive impact on the market as the newest player in the space by bringing data, analytics and global best practices to this important market.



About the Authors

Larry Hartmann
CEO of ZRG Partners, LLC

Larry Hartmann is the CEO of ZRG Partners, one of the fastest growing mid-sized global executive search firms in the industry. He is a results-driven leader with a broad business background in executive search as well as in industry.

As CEO, Larry is responsible for driving overall growth, client engagement and profitability of the firm. A key focus for Larry is engaging and recruiting top talent to join the firm as well as selectively pursuing additional acquisitions that fit the ZRG culture. Larry also leads the charge in continuing to innovate and enhance the firm’s data driven value proposition.

Prior to joining ZRG in 2002, Larry was a founder of Rockford Industries, a NASDAQ traded commercial lending business that supported the medical device market. While at Rockford, the firm went from a pure start up, to an Inc. 500 recognized growth firm through IPO and ultimate sale to American Express. This experience provided a unique view of growing a business, raising capital and hiring talent, through virtually all business stages. After the sale, Larry was an EVP with American Express for three years. Larry also has extensive board of director experience, having served on the boards of public and private companies, private equity backed and venture funded firms as well as in academia and in the not-for-profit sector.

Denys Monteiro
CEO of ZRG Partners Brazil

Denys Monteiro is the CEO of ZRG Partners Brazil.

Denys is based in the São Paulo office and is the mainly responsible for the company’s startup in Brazil. As a result, he has built a strong and senior team of Partners to serve the main industries and clients. Prior to joining ZRG, Denys was the CEO and Partner of another executive search firm in Brazil, where he spent almost 19 years of his career and was able to grow the company, position its brand and transform a niche company into a relevant player in the market. Before being appointed as CEO, Denys held the Managing Partner role, responsible for Life Sciences, FMCG, TMT and Professional Services practices. Lately, he was directly involved with Board Members, CEO, CFO and other C-Suite positions.

Denys is a member of the Young President´s Organization (YPO/WPO) and has been an active member in Brazil since 2014. Additionally, Denys was a Global Board Member of the Association of Executive Search Consultants (AESC) and started the Brazilian Chapter, back in 2013, to promote the profession and shed light in the benefits of using high quality trusted advisors in Executive Search. He started his career in Human Resources in the Media and Retail segments, where he could work for #1 players in each market. In addition to his responsibilities in leading the firm in Brazil, Denys also supports senior level executive search engagements and consulting projects in the Life Sciences, FMCG, Retail, TMT, Professional Services, Education and Private Equity segments. Denys is a graduate from Pontificia Universidade Catolica (RS) in Psychology and holds a Business Administration post-graduation degree in Business Administration in the same University. He also attended the Leading Professional Services Firms at Harvard.


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