Bob Reed, a founding partner and president of New York-based Options Group, has died at the age of 51. “Today, we have lost someone who is irreplaceable to all of us,” said the executive search firm in a statement, adding that his “legacy will be remembered and celebrated.” Mr. Reed suffered from glioblastoma for the past 15 months, an aggressive type of cancer that can occur in the brain or spinal cord.
Mr. Reed, born Rajesh Malladi Shastry, started Options Group with CEO Mike Karp, at the age of 23. With deep subject matter expertise, extensive global experience, and intense drive, Mr. Reed was by all measures uniquely qualified to enter the rough and tumble world of executive recruiting in New York City. In time, a growing cadre of Wall Street clients came to depend on his talent advice.
In conjunction with his Options Group partners, Mr. Reed developed and implemented the firm’s business strategy, and in the process provided trusted recruitment and strategic solutions in leading financial markets beyond New York. He spearheaded the launch of Options Group’s Tokyo office in 2000, and his expertise in capital markets and investment banking has helped place senior level executives with global investment banks, hedge funds, asset management firms and private equity firms.
According to colleagues, he was a sought after specialist in sales and marketing, trading, securitization, principal investment, and research across all asset classes.
At Options Group, Mr. Reed was heavily involved in a myriad of areas, including oversight of the firm’s market intelligence platform OG iQ, leadership recruiting, internship programs, university relations, talent development, succession planning, career development, diversity & inclusion, cultural stewardship, and performance management.
Founded in 1992, Options Group is today considered a leading global talent acquisition and development firm specializing in financial services and technology. According to clients, the firm has been at the forefront of the industry, pioneering a new generation of human talent management solutions through its proprietary technologies. “It is a key differentiator among rivals and meets the demands of organizations eager for real-time intelligence captured through a talent acquisition platform,” said one client.
Technology as a New Weapon
According to colleagues, Mr. Reed was “very much a citizen of the world and helped transform a dying industry into a vibrant marketplace for top talent around the world.” He co-founded Options Group three decades ago with Mr. Karp, who serves as the firm’s chief executive officer. Today, according to clients, Options Group is the most diverse financial services and technology specialist executive search and consulting firm in the world.
In 1992, the year the firm was founded, “many of the brightest and the best were beginning to leave the world’s incumbent companies to launch tech startups in garages around Silicon Valley and Seattle,” said a firm spokesperson. In New York, two young pioneers—Bob Reed and Mike Karp—were doing the same. “When Bob and Mike launched Options Group, the word ‘disruption’ had not yet become a cliché.” But like the West Coast startups, Options Group’s founders saw an opportunity to use technology to take on the staid establishment in their industry. “They took notice at how traditional search firms were missing the way technical competencies were becoming a critical element in the identification of great talent—particularly in financial services,” said the spokesperson.
At its beginning, Options Group’s core clients were anxious to hire as many application developers and analytic programmers as possible. The firm quickly evolved to include financial technology in its search expertise arsenal, along the way placing many of the executives who would later become CEOs and senior leaders in both the financial services world and in what we now have come to call fintech.
“Bob was instrumental in introducing a relationship-focused approach to recruiting driven by research and competitor intelligence,” said the search firm. “He always insisted that every recruiter manage the firm’s client relationships with an ‘enterprise methodology’ which has allowed Options Group to provide the most complete solutions on a scalable basis for an extensive range of talent requirements.” Bob was most proud of the firm’s unique team-based approach that does not operate in silos or individual P&Ls. The firm’s retention rate, as a result, is amongst the highest in the industry.
Competitive Advantage & Tradecraft
“Bob always tried to instill in the younger generation that long term client relationships are based on trust, developed painstakingly over time by a track record of meeting clients’ needs and dealing with them ethically,” said the firm. “Once established, this trust assures the firm both a proprietary insight into their needs as well as giving us the business opportunities that will fundamentally and significantly transform our clients’ firms.” Bob Reed had everything to do with that. From the start, his ambition for Options Group was to prove that individual growth has unlimited possibilities. This was the entrepreneurial essence of Options Group and the primary way the firm distinguished itself from larger competitors.
According to both colleagues and clients, Mr. Reed was among the first in the search industry to understand the central role of Big Data, information security, algorithmic trading and other now common technologies would play in the growth of its clients. “It was an insight that gave Options Group competitive advantages allowing it to compete with the household names of the search industry,” firms far bigger than the New York upstart, said a client.
To Mr. Reed, it was all ‘tradecraft.’ While the firm today speaks roughly 42 languages, Mr. Reed always remarked that “the languages of resilience, optimism and collaboration were universally always the most important.”
Mr. Reed was said to have established a democratic approach to running Options Group—notwithstanding its growth to 15 global offices around the world, from London to Tokyo. “He modeled an integrity and a habit of collaboration that made him the trusted advisor of the firm’s long-standing clients,” said one colleague. “He personally oversaw the training and development of all the up-and-comers who went through the OG University program. He was responsible for what are still among the highest employee engagement stats in our industry.”
“Bob is a legend and will remain one,” said Mr. Karp. “I will miss my friend every day and we will make sure to carry his legacy forward.”