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UNITED STATES

SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION

Washington, D.C. 20549

 

Form 10-K

 

ANNUAL REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934

 

For the fiscal year ended April 30, 2020

OR

 

TRANSITION REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934

 

For the transition period from ____to _____

Commission File Number 001-14505

 

KORN FERRY

(Exact Name of Registrant as Specified in its Charter)

 

Delaware

 

95-2623879

(State or Other Jurisdiction of Incorporation or Organization)

 

(I.R.S. Employer Identification No.)

 

 

 

1900 Avenue of the Stars, Suite 2600, Los Angeles, California

 

90067

(Address of Principal Executive Offices)

 

(Zip Code)

 

(310552-1834

(Registrant’s Telephone Number, Including Area Code)

 

Securities Registered Pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:

 

Title of Each Class

Trading Symbol(s)

Name of Each Exchange on Which Registered

Common Stock, par value $0.01 per share

KFY

New York Stock Exchange

 

Securities Registered Pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act: None

Indicate by check mark if the registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act. Yes  No 

Indicate by check mark if the registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or Section 15(d) of the Act. Yes  No 

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant (1) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to file such reports), and (2) has been subject to such filing requirements for the past 90 days. Yes  No 

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has submitted electronically every Interactive Data File required to be submitted pursuant to Rule 405 of Regulation S-T (§232.405 of this chapter) during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to submit such files). Yes No

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer, a smaller reporting company, or an emerging growth company. See the definitions of “large accelerated filer,” “accelerated filer,” “smaller reporting company,” and “emerging growth company” in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act.

 

Large accelerated filer

 

 

 

Accelerated filer

Non-accelerated filer 

 

 

 

Smaller reporting company

Emerging growth company

 

 

 

 

 

If an emerging growth company, indicate by check mark if the registrant has elected not to use the extended transition period for complying with any new or revised financial accounting standards provided pursuant to Section 13(a) of the Exchange Act.  

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act). Yes  No 

The number of shares outstanding of our common stock as of July 8, 2020 was 54,638,627 shares. The aggregate market value of the registrant’s voting and non-voting common stock held by non-affiliates of the registrant on October 31, 2019, the last business day of the registrant’s most recently completed second fiscal quarter (assuming that the registrant’s only affiliates are its officers, directors and 10% or greater stockholders) was approximately $1,508,247,824 based upon the closing market price of $36.69 on that date of a share of common stock as reported on the New York Stock Exchange.

Documents incorporated by reference

Portions of the registrant’s definitive Proxy Statement for its 2020 Annual Meeting of Stockholders scheduled to be held on September 23, 2020 are incorporated by reference into Part III of this Form 10-K.

Explanatory Note

The Company was unable to file this Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended April 30, 2020 (the “Annual Report”) by the original deadline of June 29, 2020 in light of the ongoing impact of the coronavirus (“COVID-19”) pandemic. To respond to both health and safety


concerns and applicable governmental orders, the Company imposed a range of travel restrictions, office closures, social distancing measures, and remote working policies to maintain its operations while prioritizing the safety of its employees and customers. These measures resulted in operational challenges and disruptions, including to the Company’s customary year-end processes and interactions with and between its accounting personnel, external auditors, and others responsible for or contributing to the preparation of the Annual Report. Therefore, as disclosed in a Form 8-K filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) on May 11, 2020, the Company relied on the SEC’s March 25, 2020 “Order Under Section 26 of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 Modifying Exemptions from the Reporting and Proxy Delivery Requirements for Public Companies,” Release No. 34-88465, to delay the filing of the Annual Report.

 

KORN FERRY

Index to Annual Report on Form 10-K for the Fiscal Year Ended April 30, 2020

 

Item #

Description

Page

 

Part I.

 

Item 1

Business

1

Item 1A

Risk Factors

12

Item 1B

Unresolved Staff Comments

28

Item 2

Properties

28

Item 3

Legal Proceedings

29

Item 4

Mine Safety Disclosures

29

 

Executive Officers

29

 

Part II.

 

Item 5

Market for Registrant’s Common Equity, Related Stockholder Matters and Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities

30

Item 6

Selected Financial Data

32

Item 7

Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations

34

Item 7A

Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures About Market Risk

55

Item 8

Financial Statements and Supplementary Data

56

Item 9

Changes in and Disagreements With Accountants on Accounting and Financial Disclosure

56

Item 9A

Controls and Procedures

56

Item 9B

Other Information

56

 

Part III.

 

Item 10

Directors, Executive Officers and Corporate Governance

57

Item 11

Executive Compensation

57

Item 12

Security Ownership of Certain Beneficial Owners and Management and Related Stockholder Matters

57

Item 13

Certain Relationships and Related Transactions, and Director Independence

57

Item 14

Principal Accountant Fees and Services

57

 

Part IV.

 

Item 15

Exhibits and Financial Statement Schedules

58

Item 16

Form 10-K Summary

60

 

Signatures

61

 

Financial Statements and Financial Statement Schedules

F-1

 

 

 

 


PART I.

Item 1. Business

ABOUT KORN FERRY

Korn Ferry (referred to herein as the “Company” or in the first-person notations “we,” “our,” and “us”) is a global organizational consulting firm, synchronizing our clients’ strategy and talent to drive superior business performance.

We operate in 111 offices in 53 countries, enabling us to deliver our solutions on a global basis, wherever our clients do business. As of April 30, 2020, we had 8,198 full-time employees, including 2,979 consultants and execution staff who are primarily responsible for originating client services.

During fiscal 2020, we partnered with 13,724 client organizations in achieving their strategic talent objectives by providing an entire array of products and services. Our clients include many of the world’s largest and most prestigious public and private companies, middle market and emerging growth companies, as well as government and nonprofit organizations. We serve 97% of the Fortune 100 and 93% of the Financial Times Stock Exchange 100. We have built strong client loyalty, with 90% of our engagements in fiscal 2020 being completed on behalf of clients for whom we had conducted engagements in the previous three fiscal years.

We were originally formed as a California corporation in November 1969 and reincorporated as a Delaware corporation in fiscal 2000.

 

The Company operates through four global segments:

1.

Consulting helps clients synchronize their strategy and their talent by addressing four fundamental needs: Organizational Strategy, Assessment and Succession, Leadership and Professional Development, and Rewards and Benefits. This work is supported and underpinned by a comprehensive range of some of the world’s leading intellectual property (“lP”) and data.

 

2.

Digital leverages an artificial intelligence (“AI”) powered platform to identify the best structure, roles, capabilities and behaviors needed to drive business forward. This end to end system gives clients one enterprise-wide talent framework and delivers an achievable blueprint for success along with the guidance and tools to deliver it. 

 

3.

Executive Search helps organizations recruit board level, chief executive and other senior executive and general management talent. Behavioral interviewing and proprietary assessments are used to determine ideal organizational fit, and salary benchmarking builds appropriate frameworks for compensation and retention.

 

4.

RPO and Professional Search combines people, process expertise and IP-enabled technology to deliver enterprise talent acquisition solutions to clients. Transaction sizes range from single professional searches to team, department and line of business projects, and global outsource recruiting solutions.

Consulting and Digital are new reporting segments. Previously, these were tracked and reported together as Korn Ferry Advisory (“Advisory”). Over the past years we have invested in the Digital business and harmonize the structure of our content and data, building a technology platform for the efficient delivery of these assets directly to an end consumer or indirectly through a consulting engagement. These investments, combined with the acquisitions of Miller Heiman Group, AchieveForum and Strategy Execution (the “Acquired Companies”) in November 2019, resulting in reassessing how we manage our Advisory business. Therefore, beginning in the third quarter of fiscal 2020, we separated Advisory into two segments in order to better align with the Company’s strategy (which included the acquisition of the Acquired Companies) and the decisions of the Company’s chief operating decision maker, who had begun to regularly make resource allocation decisions and assess performance separately between Consulting and Digital within Advisory.

In addition to Digital, in recent years we have made other significant investments in our business that have strengthened our IP, enhanced our geographical presence, added complementary offerings to deepen client relationships, and broaden our capabilities around talent acquisition, organizational strategy, assessment and succession, development and rewards and benefits. Approximately 71% of our revenue comes from clients that utilize multiple lines of our business.

 

1


On June 12, 2018, the Company’s Board of Directors approved the One Korn Ferry rebranding plan for the Company (the “Plan”). The Plan includes going to market under a single, master brand architecture, solely as Korn Ferry and sunsetting all the Company’s sub-brands used at the time, including Futurestep, Hay Group and Lominger, among others. This integrated go-to-market approach was a key driver in our fee revenue growth in fiscal year 2018, which led to the decision to further integrate our go-to-market activities under one master brand — Korn Ferry. As a result, the Company discontinued the use of all sub-brands and changed its name, effective January 1, 2019, to “Korn Ferry.” Two of the Company’s former sub-brands, Hay Group and Lominger, came to Korn Ferry through acquisitions. In connection with the accounting for these acquisitions, $106.6 million of the purchase price was allocated to indefinite-lived tradename intangible assets. As a result of the decision to discontinue their use, the Company took a one-time, non-cash write-off of tradenames of $106.6 million in fiscal 2019. During fiscal 2020 the Company completed the implementation of the plan.

In March 2020, COVID-19 was reported to have spread to over 100 countries, territories or areas worldwide. Initially, the negative business impact of the coronavirus outbreak was most pronounced in the Asia Pacific Region, and in particular China and Hong Kong. During the fourth quarter of fiscal 2020 the World Health Organization declared it a pandemic and the impact has been felt worldwide. The outbreak has severely restricted the level of economic activity in affected areas and has had an adverse impact on sales of certain of our products and services. Governments and companies have implemented social distancing - limiting either travel or in person individual or group face-to-face interaction as well as working from home to adhere to stay at home orders from national, state and city governments. All of our business segments across all of our geographies have been impacted as fee revenue decreased significantly in the fourth quarter. In light of the continuing uncertainty in worldwide economic conditions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and, as part of a broader program aimed at further enhancing our strong balance sheet and liquidity position, on April 20, 2020, we initiated a plan intended to adjust our cost base to the current economic environment and to position us to invest in the recovery. This plan includes (i) a reduction in workforce, which was substantially completed by the end of fiscal 2020 and resulted in restructuring charges of $40.5 million associated with severance, (ii) the temporary furlough of certain employees, (iii) subject to certain exceptions and legal requirements, salary reductions across the organization, and (iv) other cost saving measures relating to general and administrative expenses.

We file annual, quarterly and current reports, proxy statements and other documents with the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”), pursuant to the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended (the “Exchange Act”). Our reports, proxy statements and other documents filed electronically with the SEC are available at the website maintained by the SEC at www.sec.gov.

We also make available, free of charge on the Investor Relations portion of our website at http://ir.kornferry.com, our annual, quarterly, and current reports, and, if applicable, amendments to those reports, filed or furnished pursuant to Section 13(a) or 15(d) of the Exchange Act as soon as reasonably practicable after we electronically file such reports with, or furnish them to, the SEC at www.sec.gov.

We also make available on the Investor Relations portion of our website at http://ir.kornferry.com press releases and related earnings presentations and other important information, which we encourage you to review.

Our Corporate Governance Guidelines, Code of Business Conduct and Ethics, and the charters of the Audit Committee, Compensation and Personnel Committee, and Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee of our Board of Directors are also posted on the Investor Relations portion of our website at http://ir.kornferry.com. Stockholders may request copies of these documents by writing to our Corporate Secretary at 1900 Avenue of the Stars, Suite 2600, Los Angeles, California 90067.

THE KORN FERRY OPPORTUNITY

Aligned around our vision to be the preeminent organizational consulting firm, we are pursuing an ambitious strategy that will help us to focus relentlessly on clients and collaborate intensively across the organization. This approach builds on the best of our past and gives us a clear path to the future with focused initiatives to increase our client and commercial impact.

Korn Ferry is transforming how clients address their talent management needs. We have evolved from a mono-line business to a multi-faceted consultancy, giving our consultants more frequent and expanded opportunities to engage with clients. The expansion of our business into larger addressable markets offers higher growth potential and more durable and visible revenue streams.

While most organizations can develop a sound strategy, they often struggle with how to make it stick. That is where we come in: synchronizing an organization’s strategy with its talent to drive superior performance. We help companies design their organization—the structure, roles and responsibilities—to seize these opportunities. In addition, we help organizations select and hire the talent they need to execute their strategy—and show them the best way to compensate, develop and motivate their people.

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We do this through our five core solution sets:

Core Solutions

 

Organizational Strategy

We map talent strategy to business strategy by designing operating models and organizational structures that align to them, helping organizations put their plans into action. We make sure they have the right people, in the right roles, engaged and enabled to do the right things.

Assessment and Succession

We provide actionable, research-backed insights that allow organizations to understand the true capabilities of their people so they can make decisions that ensure the right leaders are ready—when and where they are needed—now and in the future.

Talent Acquisition

From executive search to recruitment process outsourcing (“RPO”), we integrate scientific research with our practical experience and industry-specific expertise to recruit professionals of all levels and functions for client organizations.

Leadership and Professional Development

We develop leaders at all levels along every stage of their career journey with a spectrum of intensive high-touch and scalable high-tech development experiences. Our combination of data, development content and coaching with forward-thinking, creative design builds leadership experiences that help entry-to senior-level leaders develop and deliver superior results.

Rewards and Benefits

We help organizations design rewards to achieve their strategic objectives. We help them pay their people fairly for doing the right things—with rewards they value—at a cost the organization can afford.

 

Integrated Solutions

Additionally, we deliver differentiated approaches for our clients through our integrated market offerings, which bring together our best thinking from across our core solutions. These offerings, guided by an ever-changing business environment, target specific client needs and demonstrate Korn Ferry’s competitive advantage and durability. 

For example, as the COVID-19 global pandemic took hold, our structure and systems enabled us to quickly pivot our go-to-market approach to help clients navigate the myriad of organizational and people challenges they faced at both the onset of the crisis and as they forge a path towards recovery. A key differentiator is Korn Ferry’s ability to bridge business strategy and talent strategy, positioning us to partner with our clients broadly and deeply in the delivery of integrated solutions ranging from cost optimization to virtual learning experiences, change management, and career transition/outplacement.

Other integrated offerings focus on our clients’ transformational challenges. Our digital transformation service helps clients execute on a digital operating model, including the introduction and integration of new agile ways of working. Rich proprietary data enables our clients to better deliver the right value proposition to attract, retain and engage digital talent. In addition, we help specific functional areas, such as HR, develop their future-state model within a digital environment.

Our diversity and inclusion (“D&I”) service helps clients innovate and grow by creating an inclusive culture and diverse workforce. Organizations are in different places on their D&I journeys, ranging from compliance-driven, values-driven, talent performance driven, and beyond. As a result, we combine our insights into a single offering that can be tailored to different markets and unique buyers.

From core through integrated, across our solution portfolio, we have the advantage of best-in-class solutions, products and talent, coupled with deep market expertise, to deliver a seamless approach to organization, talent and rewards strategies. Our change management capabilities further support our clients, through the successful execution of their transformational strategies and the effective implementation of their people and culture programs.

OUR INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY AND TECHNOLOGY

By bringing together our industry knowledge, methodology, measurements, and data insights, we can not only benchmark clients against the best but also help them make the changes necessary to achieve their optimal performance. We offer a complete view of the talent they need and the talent they have. We know if their rewards are fair and effective and we align their structures, role profiles, and people to support the strategy so that clients know where to focus their efforts to create lasting change in the organization.

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The Talent Hub

At the core of our approach is deep IP and research that informs smarter, more data-driven outcomes for our clients. We house all this data inside our Talent Hub. With more than four billion total data points, including 74 million assessment results, seven million employee engagement survey responses, and rewards data for 22 million employees across over 25,000 organizations and more than 150 countries, our Talent Hub provides the fuel for all of our services, solutions and products, bringing clients a research-based foundation to underpin quality and consistency in their talent processes.

The Korn Ferry Institute

The Korn Ferry Institute, our research and analytics arm, develops and infuses robust scientific research, cutting-edge IP, and state-of-the-art talent analytics methodologies into Korn Ferry, enabling every client facing Korn Ferry colleague to partner with organizations and people ​to activate their potential and find the success they seek.​

At the highest level, the Korn Ferry Institute is built on three core pillars:

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Robust Research and Thought Leadership​: We define leadership, human, and organizational performance for the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

 

2.

Science-Based IP: We develop and measure the gold standard of what is required for success at work for talent in the new economy.

 

3.

Client Advanced Analytics and Data Management: We integrate and build upon our data sets using advanced modeling and artificial intelligence to produce predictive insights and deliver demonstrable client impact.

In the fiscal year ahead, we will continue to innovate, driving even greater business and societal impact as we focus on crisis management, organizational transformation, and defining the leadership needed for the future.

INDUSTRY TRENDS

The world has seen so much change.

The emergence of COVID-19 is an event of historic magnitude, with repercussions that will undoubtedly be felt for years. There is virtually no company or industry that has not been impacted by the crisis, forcing them to evolve their talent processes, find new ways to deliver customer value, lead employees through uncertainty and change, and reduce costs to survive.

And, while the world battles this pandemic and the resulting adverse economic consequences, we are seeing violence in the United States uncover a long-standing practice of people treating others based on personal bias – conscious or sub-conscious. As part of this movement, we have raised an active and intentional voice to strongly condemn all bias, including racism and engage in candid dialogue to listen, understand and then lead through action to drive transformative change.

From these long overdue calls for social equality to a global pandemic causing economic downturns, layoffs, furloughs, and pay reductions, emotions are running high. Uncertainty has led to fear. People and companies are struggling to perform at their best. Organizations are increasingly turning to partners like Korn Ferry to synchronize their strategy with their talent as an answer to today’s most pressing business challenges, specifically:

 

Creating cultures of inclusion where diversity is intrinsically valued; where every individual is able to contribute fully; and where all talented people can advance through the organization regardless of their gender, background or other identifying factors.

 

Pivoting from in-person/classroom delivery and training to a model where our services, solutions and IP are consumed by our clients virtually, enabled by a technology platform.

 

Achieving growth and cost synergies from M&A transactions without destroying employee engagement.

 

Having the right people, mindsets and structures to achieve successful digital transformations.

 

Managing potential market volatility by optimizing cost in their reward structures and workforce mix.

 

Transitioning to the workforce of the future to address changes in work such as the need for greater agility and new roles being created by technology, plus changes to worker preferences such as remote working.

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Improving the way an organization engages its customers by aligning go-to-market strategy with the company’s growth strategy, ensuring that the right people are in the right roles, and that sale professionals have the right tools, skills and mindset to be effective – whether in a face-to-face or virtual setting.

 

Developing leaders at all levels along every stage of their career journey whether senior level, high-touch through early-career scalable high-tech development experiences. Clients need a combination of data, development content and coaching with forward-thinking, creative design to build leadership experiences that deliver superior results.

 

Changing ingrained ways of thinking and building strategies that energize employees and drive performance in the face of disruptive change.

 

Improving the quality of service delivery in core functions to create strategic competitive advantage.

In addition, we believe the following factors will have a long-term positive impact on our industry:

 

Companies are actively in search of trusted advisors that can offer a full suite of organizational consulting products and solutions, to manage the multiple needs of their business on a global scale using a common language and technology platform.

 

Over the next decade, demand for skilled workers will outstrip supply, resulting in a global talent shortage. Organizations must make talent strategy a key priority and take steps now to educate, train and upskill their existing workforces.

 

Companies are increasingly leveraging big data and predictive analytics to measure the influence of activities across all aspects of their business, including their people. They expect their partners to deliver superior metrics and better ways of driving results.

 

There is an increasing demand for professionals with not just the right experience, but also the right leadership competencies, traits and drivers to meet the requirements of the position and organizational culture today and prepare it for tomorrow. 

 

Executive management tenure continues to hover at historically low levels.

 

The balance of power is shifting from the employer to the employee, as more people take charge of their own careers and the gig economy continues to grow in popularity.

 

Talent mobility is being recognized as a critical driver in the recruitment, development and retention of an organization’s people, particularly their early career professionals.

 

Succession planning remains under heightened scrutiny amidst pressure to generate growth, shorter C suites tenures and the emphasis being placed on making succession planning a systemic governance process within global organizations.

 

Executive pay is under a perpetual spotlight, making it imperative that organizations get this right to ensure the public trust and establish a functional compensation strategy that starts right at the top and helps to drive retention.

 

Companies are more determined than ever to close the diversity gap on pay and advancement to leadership roles.

 

More companies are maintaining strategic focus by choosing to outsource non-core functions like talent acquisition to RPO providers who can offer efficient, high-quality services.

GROWTH STRATEGY

Our objective is to expand our position as the preeminent organizational consulting firm. In order to meet this objective, we will continue to pursue our multi-pronged strategy:

Drive a One Korn Ferry Go-to-Market Strategy

Our synergistic go-to-market strategy, bringing together our core solutions, is driving more integrated, scalable client relationships. This is evidenced by the fact that approximately 71% of our revenues come from clients that utilize

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multiple lines of our business. To better compete in the market, we will continue to evolve from our traditional line of business segmentation to integrated solutions along industries lines.

Our Digital business is a core pillar of our go-to-market strategy. We have built an integrated platform that gives clients direct access to people and organizational data, insights, analytics, and digital assets that when used together, give clients a common language for all talent matters. A software-as-a-service (“SaaS”) model creates financial security, improves Company cash flow, and helps us generate wider and more long-term relationships with our clients through large scale and technology-based human resources programs. Digital, with its discrete capabilities, also enables us to engage businesses we might not have previously worked with because a complete advisory solution was not required, cost was a barrier, or they lacked awareness of Korn Ferry as a provider. We continue to seek ways to further scale these highly profitable products to our global clients.

Another pillar of our growth strategy is our Marquee and Regional Accounts program. This program drives significant global and regional strategic account development and provides a framework for all our client development activities as we successfully deepen client relationships. Our Marquee and Regional Accounts program now comprises approximately one-third of our global fee revenues. In the year ahead, we will continue to grow and expand our account management activities. This includes driving consistent account selection, assignment, planning and execution; implementing account-based marketing efforts; optimizing the pipeline and opportunity process; integrating our best thinking across solutions; and hiring additional dedicated account leaders. The success of this approach has now been extended to include a broader set of Regional Accounts to be serviced with this same attention and care.

Deliver Client Excellence and Innovation

Technology is positioned to reshape the future of work and with it, the workforce as we know it today. Market innovations contribute to more accurate, faster, cost-effective and impactful business and human decisions. Our firm is well positioned here. We have a set of assets that are critical to such decisions: deep science on organization and human motivation, data on talent, work and rewards, and proven products and solutions.

We have combined our people and organizational data, insights, analytics, and digital assets into a unified single platform to inform smarter, more data-driven outcomes for our clients. Our license based tools allow us to create wide and meaningful impact across our clients’ business, from organizational development and job profiling to selection, training, individual and team development, succession planning, M&A, D&I, digital transformation and more. We can provide insights and solutions to clients more quickly by having “best practice” predefined to act as a benchmark to work towards. Continued enhancements to our Talent Hub platform, including the upcoming launches of Korn Ferry Architect, Learn, and Org Scan, will allow us to embed more analytics directly into our clients’ user experience.

More than 100,000 consumers have registered and are using Korn Ferry Advance, our business-to-consumer offering, since it launched in the United States (the “U.S.”) in July 2017. We are expanding and enhancing the offering to provide more focused assistance to people looking to make their next career move, as well as to provide tailored career services to an organization’s people. Korn Ferry Advance will continue to leverage cutting-edge technology as well as the greatest asset we have—our consultants. Korn Ferry Advance is also being used to augment our Korn Ferry Digital offerings, primarily in leadership development, professional development and career transition services.

Create the Top-of-Mind Brand in Organizational Consulting

Along with our people and IP, the Korn Ferry brand is the strongest asset of the Company. Positioning Korn Ferry as the preeminent global organizational consultancy and demonstrating our ability to drive business performance through people remains the goal of our global marketing program.

The Korn Ferry brand is brought to market via two distinct channels: primarily through business-to-business (“B2B”) and in the early stage of business-to-consumer (“B2C”). In both instances, we communicate key core values about what we do, expressing that we are ‘more than’ as well as inspiring action in the way our customers run their businesses and in the way they approach their careers. We are executing against our strategy with these priorities in mind:

 

One Korn Ferry—We will partner with internal and external stakeholders to advance a differentiated one Korn Ferry story and brand that minimizes operational risks, engages our employees, resonates in the broader market and becomes a platform for differentiation and sustainable growth.

 

Generate Demand—We will assess market trends, liaise with clients, and partner with internal stakeholders to develop a steady cadence of thought leadership-based campaigns, public relations and demand generation activities that engage clients and prospects in meaningful conversations.

Advance Korn Ferry as a Premier Career Destination

We continue to invest in building a world-class organization that is aligned to our strategy and is staffed by a capable, motivated and agile workforce. A few key initiatives in this area include:

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Onboarding— To support growth, we have a standardized, global onboarding experience for all Korn Ferry new hires using a common platform, materials and resources to ensure new colleagues are effectively integrated into the Company with reduced ramp-up time to full productivity. We are also taking a programmatic approach to onboarding through our Talent Academy and StartUp early career training.

 

Career Paths and Mobility—Under the Korn Ferry enterprise-wide career model, we created an integrated career framework, called Career Architecture, that encompasses all the roles at Korn Ferry differentiated by focus, accountability and complexity. Career Architecture is supported by Success Profiles that define the key responsibilities and capabilities of roles. These profiles allow for comparisons among roles so that employees can determine what they may need to develop to move into different jobs across the organization. With this framework and our global promotions processes, we enable and encourage talent mobility across all areas of our business. In fiscal 2020, we promoted more than 1,200 colleagues across our four segments.

 

Talent Development—Our growth plans require a learning, agile organization. To facilitate this, we use a learning management system (iAcademy) to serve as a Center of Excellence focused on the growth and development of our colleagues through rich, personalized content.

 

Mentoring—As our firm continues to expand in size and offerings, our colleagues face increasingly complex client and career issues, all while learning how to work together as One Korn Ferry. The need to connect, collaborate and help each other has never been more pronounced. This past year we launched a firm-wide mentorship program to empower our colleagues to learn, connect and advance. Paired through the Korn Ferry Advance platform, Mentors and Mentees are matched based on proximity, career goals and focus.

 

Benefits—We offer competitive benefits across the globe that are customized within each country we operate in based on market prevalence and cultural relevance. The Korn Ferry Cares benefits strategy focuses on keeping our colleagues and their families healthy – physically, emotionally, financially, and socially. Our progressive benefit offerings in the U.S. helped us earn top recognitions as a best employer by Working Mother Magazine and the Human Rights Campaign.

Pursue Transformational Opportunities at the Intersection of Talent and Strategy

We have developed a core competency in identifying, acquiring and integrating M&A targets that have the potential to further our strategic objectives and enhance shareholder value. Our disciplined approach to M&A considers strategic alignment and cultural fit along with economics that deliver a return in excess of our cost of capital. M&A will continue to play a critical role in the ongoing evolution of Korn Ferry into an industry specialized, business outcomes-oriented solution provider at the intersection of talent and strategy. While we will continue to execute on our targeted organic growth pathways, M&A will be a vital component of our future growth and capital deployment strategies.

OUR ORGANIZATION

The Company operates through four global segments: Consulting, Digital, Executive Search, and RPO & Professional Search. Consulting, Digital, and RPO & Professional Search are managed on a global basis with operations in North America, Europe, the Middle East and Africa (“EMEA”), Asia Pacific and Latin America. Our Executive Search business is managed and reported on a geographic basis across four regions: North America, EMEA, Asia Pacific and Latin America.

Consulting

Overview—Korn Ferry helps clients design their organization—the structure, roles and responsibilities—and shows them the best way to develop, motivate and compensate their people. Our focus is on making change happen and helping people and organizations exceed their potential. Through our talented colleagues, robust solutions and IP, our consultants can solve the most disruptive and challenging organizational and talent problems facing clients.

Our Consulting team is comprised of top leadership and organizational consultants and thought leaders, working in 85 cities in 50 countries. Our consultants are predominately recruited from local markets, so they are sensitive to local issues, but work together in global teams, resulting in larger opportunities with greater client and commercial impact. Within Consulting, we offer the following core go-to-market solutions:

Organizational Strategy: We provide end-to-end support to organizations that want to transform their business. Strategy becomes operationalized by aligning the tangible elements of the organization—people, structure and process—and the intangible elements—motivations, relationships and culture.

Assessment and Succession: We provide actionable, research-backed insight and products that allow organizations to understand the talent they have, benchmarked against the talent they need to deliver on the business strategy, and we help them close any gaps.

Leadership and Professional Development: We develop leaders at all levels along every stage of their career journey

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with a spectrum of intensive high-touch and scalable high-tech development experiences. Our combination of data, development content and coaching with forward-thinking, creative design builds leadership experiences that help entry-to senior-level leaders develop and deliver superior results.

Rewards and Benefits: We help organizations design rewards to achieve their strategic objectives, to pay their people fairly for doing the right things—with rewards they value—at a cost the organization can afford. Our advice is backed by the quality and quantity of our pay data and widely used job evaluation methodology.

These solutions are often bundled into integrated market offerings (e.g., Digital Transformation, M&A) that include  our IP and data and reflect our best thinking across our solutions, enabling us to develop innovative and differentiated approaches to our clients’ most pressing business challenges.

We partner with some of the world’s most admired organizations in the creation, assisting and execution of talent strategy. We accomplish this through consulting solutions that address how people work and show how to nurture them so that their strategies succeed. We capitalize on the breadth of our IP, service offerings and expertise to do what is right for the client—transforming ideas into actionable insights. Clients can depend on our solutions to be data backed, market tested and agile.

We are widely recognized by our clients and industry experts for the excellence of our work. Some highlights from fiscal 2020 include:

 

Overall leader, Baker’s Dozen Customer Satisfaction Ratings: Employee Engagement (HRO Today)

 

Leader, Organization Strategy Consulting (ALM Intelligence)

 

Leader, Talent and Leadership Consulting and #1 in Depth Capability (ALM Intelligence)

 

Gold Medal, UK’s Leading Management Consultants: People and Performance (Financial Times)

 

Choice Award, Measurement, Testing & Assessment (Training Magazine Network)

 

Best Consulting Firms in HR Consulting (Vault)

 

Best RPO Provider in Greater China - MNC (HRoot)

 

Golden HR Award for Outstanding Achievements in South China Property – Shimao (Guangzhou HRO)

Korn Ferry is known for creating and owning one of the most comprehensive and up-to-date people and organization databases in the world. We can benchmark clients against the best, but more critically, can help them make the changes to achieve their optimal performance. These insights are embedded into every consulting project and are a powerful differentiator for our clients, who have come to depend on Korn Ferry for our informed and data-driven point of view.

Consulting fee revenue was $543.1 million, $568.3 million and $540.5 million in fiscal 2020, 2019 and 2018, respectively. This represented 28%, 30% and 31% of the Company’s total fee revenue in fiscal 2020, 2019 and 2018, respectively.

Client Base—During fiscal 2020, the Consulting segment partnered with approximately 4,800 clients across the globe and 22% of Consulting’s fiscal 2020 fee revenue was referred from Korn Ferry’s Executive Search, Digital and RPO & Professional Search segments. Our clients come from the private, public and not-for-profit sectors, across every major industry and represent diverse business challenges.

Competition—The people and organizational consulting market is extremely competitive, as companies are increasingly seeking ways to synchronize their strategy and talent to drive superior business performance. Our competitors include consulting organizations affiliated with accounting, insurance, information systems, executive search and staffing firms, as well as strategy consulting firms. Some of our main competitors are Ernst & Young, McKinsey, Willis Towers Watson and Deloitte. Although these firms are our largest competitors, we also compete with smaller boutique firms that specialize in specific regional, industry or functional aspects of leadership and HR consulting.

Digital

Overview—As the world changes at lightning speed, to compete, organizations need to be agile, decisive, and to act and scale fast. Korn Ferry Digital empowers leaders to reach their goals by optimizing the potential of their people.

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The subscription-based platform that powers our Digital business combines our bank of employee data and Korn Ferry methodology to benchmark where individuals and teams are now, and then identifies the best structure, roles, capabilities and behaviors and rewards needed to drive organizational effectiveness. Digital delivers clear insight with the training and tools needed to align organizational structure with business strategy.

The recent acquisitions of the Acquired Companies allow us to further complement our offering with tools, training and content aimed specifically at driving client challenges related to the acceleration of revenue growth, enhanced customer experience, and professional development.

Our Digital solutions cover the talent journey:

 

Korn Ferry Assess: our post-hire assessment solution to help you develop and leverage your existing talent

 

 

Korn Ferry Listen: customized employee engagement programs that determine how engaged and enabled employees are and help clients understand why

 

Korn Ferry Pay: market-leading compensation data and tools for employee rewards programs

 

Korn Ferry Recruit: AI-enabled talent acquisition tools that streamline hiring

 

Korn Ferry Select: our pre-hire assessment to help you find and hire the best talent

Our Digital team is comprised of top leadership and organizational consultants and thought leaders, located in 71 cities in 48 countries. Our consultants are predominately recruited from local markets, so they are sensitive to local issues, but work together in global teams, resulting in larger opportunities with greater client and commercial impact. Digital fee revenue was $292.4 million, $252.7 million and $244.5 million in fiscal 2020, 2019 and 2018, respectively.

Client Base—During fiscal 2020, the Digital segment partnered with approximately 9,000 clients across the globe and 6% of Digital’s fiscal 2020 fee revenue was referred from Korn Ferry’s Executive Search, Consulting and RPO & Professional Search segments. Our clients come from the private, public and not-for-profit sectors, across every major industry and represent diverse business challenges.

CompetitionThe competitor landscape is fragmented. We compete with specialist suppliers, boutique and large consulting companies in each solution area. Some of our main competitors are AON, Mercer, Willis Towers Watson, SHL, Fuel 50, SkillSoft, Criteria, Predictive Index, Prevue Hire and Textio. Despite this, one of our advantages is the way we have linked our data, IP, and the technology platform that allows us to provide an end-to-end view of talent. We are able to show what success looks like across almost 4,000 roles, and our Accountability, Capability, & Identity Success Profile model provides a holistic way to look at a job from multiple angles and provide connectivity from people to strategy.

Executive Search

Overview—Korn Ferry helps clients attract and hire leaders who fit with their organization and make it stand out. Our services are typically used to fill executive-level positions, such as board directors, chief executive officers, chief financial officers, chief operating officers, chief information officers, chief human resource officers and other senior executive officers.

Our Executive Search services concentrate on searches for positions with average annual cash compensation of $360,000 or more, or comparable compensation in foreign locations. The industry is comprised of retained and contingency recruitment firms. Retained firms, such as Korn Ferry, typically charge a fee for their services equal to approximately one-third of the first-year annual cash compensation for the position being filled regardless of whether the position is filled. Contingency firms generally work on a non-exclusive basis and are compensated only upon successfully placing a recommended candidate.

As part of being retained by a client to conduct a search, we assemble a team of consultants with appropriate geographic, industry and functional expertise. We utilize a standardized and differentiated approach to placing talent that integrates our research-based IP with our practical experience. Our search consultants serve as management advisors who work closely with the client in identifying, assessing and placing qualified candidates. In fiscal 2020, we executed 6,064 new executive search assignments.

Industry Specialization—Consultants organized in six broad industries groups bring an in-depth understanding of the market conditions and strategic management issues faced by clients within their specific industries and geographies. We are continually looking to expand our specialized expertise through internal development and strategic hiring in targeted growth areas.

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Percentage of Fiscal 2020 Assignments Opened by Industry Specialization

 

Global Industries:

 

 

 

 

Industrial

 

 

31

%

Financial Services

 

 

20

%

Life Sciences/Healthcare Provider

 

 

16

%

Consumer

 

 

15

%

Technology

 

 

13

%

Regional Specialties (U.S.):

 

 

 

 

Education/Not-for-Profit

 

 

5

%

 

Functional Expertise—We have organized executive search centers of functional expertise, composed of consultants who have extensive backgrounds in placing executives in certain functions, such as board directors, CEOs and other senior executive officers. Our Board & CEO Services group, for example, focuses exclusively on placing CEOs and board directors in organizations around the world. This is a dedicated team from the most senior ranks of the Company. Their work is with CEOs and in the boardroom, and their expertise is in organizational leadership and governance. They conduct hundreds of engagements every year, tapping talent from every corner of the globe. This work spans all ranges of organizational scale and purpose. Members of functional groups are located throughout our regions and across our industry groups.

Percentage of Fiscal 2020 Assignments Opened by Functional Expertise

 

Board Level/CEO/CFO/Senior Executive and General Management

 

 

70

%

Finance and Control

 

 

10

%

Marketing and Sales

 

 

6

%

Information Systems

 

 

6

%

Manufacturing/Engineering/Research and Development/Technology

 

 

5

%

Human Resources and Administration

 

 

3

%

 

Regions

North America—In fiscal 2020, the region generated fee revenue of $434.6 million and opened 2,557 new engagements with an average of 253 consultants.

EMEA—In fiscal 2020, the region generated fee revenue of $170.3 million and opened 1,863 new engagements with an average of 173 consultants.

Asia Pacific—In fiscal 2020, the region generated fee revenue of $98.1 million and opened 1,107 new engagements with an average of 96 consultants.

Latin America—In fiscal 2020, the region generated fee revenue of $29.4 million and opened 537 new engagements with an average of 38 consultants.

Client Base—Our 3,968 Search engagement clients in fiscal 2020 include many of the world’s largest and most prestigious public and private companies.

Competition—In Executive Search, we compete with other global executive search firms (i.e. Egon Zehnder, Heidrick & Struggles International, Inc., Russell Reynolds Associates and Spencer Stuart). Although these firms are our largest competitors, we also compete with smaller boutique firms that specialize in specific regional, industry or functional searches. We believe our brand name, differentiated business model, systematic approach to client service, cutting-edge technology, unique IP, global network, prestigious clientele, strong specialty practices and high-caliber colleagues are recognized worldwide. We also believe our long-term incentive compensation arrangements, as well as other executive benefits, distinguish us from most of our competitors and are important in attracting and retaining our key consultants.

RPO & Professional Search

Overview—Korn Ferry combines people, process expertise and IP-enabled technology to deliver enterprise talent acquisition solutions to our clients. Our recruiting solutions have breadth, including all functional talent segments—IT, Marketing, R&D, Commercial Sales, HR, Healthcare, Supply Chain, Finance and Legal. We also have depth, with the ability to deliver transaction sizes ranging from single professional searches to team, department and line of business projects, and enterprise global professional recruiting solutions. Our global capabilities deliver 1-10,000 or more new hires to address our clients’ employment needs.

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RPO: In fiscal 2020, Korn Ferry was recognized as one of the top RPO providers in the Baker’s Dozen list, marking our 13th consecutive year on the list. We were also named a leader on the Everest PEAK Matrix for three years running and achieved star performer status in 2020. Through decades of experience, we have enhanced our RPO solution to deliver quality candidates that drive our clients’ business strategies. We leverage proprietary IP and data sets to guide clients on the critical skills and competencies to look for, compensation information to align with market demand, and assessment tools to ensure candidate fit.

We combine traditional recruitment expertise with a multi-tiered portfolio of talent acquisition solutions. Consultants, based in 33 countries, have access to our databases of pre-screened, mid-level professionals. Our global candidate pool complements our international presence and multi-channel sourcing strategy to provide speed, efficiency and quality service for clients worldwide.

Project Recruitment: We can deliver the same talent acquisition services as we would in an end-to-end RPO solution, but within a defined project start and end date. Our Project Recruitment solution is seamless and aligned with the client’s broader talent acquisition strategy. Clients enjoy the same benefits around reduced time to hire, reduced cost per hire and improved candidate quality that they would with a full RPO solution, but via an on-demand model to manage short-term or specialized needs.

Professional Search: We are positioned to help organizations identify and attract professionals at the middle to upper levels of management in single-search engagements. We focus on:

 

INDUSTRIES:

Consumer

FUNCTIONAL EXPERTISE:

Finance & Accounting

Financial Services

Human Resources

Industrial

Information Technology

Life Sciences/Healthcare

Sales, Marketing & Digital

Technology

Supply Chain Management

Education/Not-for-Profit/Government

 

 

Our innovative search process mirrors our Executive Search solution, offering access to active and passive candidate pools, the industry’s richest data on salaries and employee engagement, and proprietary tools in Korn Ferry Digital. A wealth of assessment data defines the traits needed for success in each role we recruit and matches candidates against best-in-class profiles while also gauging cultural fit. Our newest offering, Korn Ferry Recruit, a nimble solution, provides a fully integrated end-to-end technology solution for high-volume hiring of repeatable roles.

Client Base—During fiscal 2020, the RPO & Professional Search segment partnered with 2,202 clients across the globe and 43% of RPO & Professional Search’s fiscal 2020 fee revenue was referred from Korn Ferry’s Executive Search Consulting and Digital segments.

Competition—We primarily compete for RPO business with other global RPO providers and compete for search assignments with regional contingency recruitment firms and large national retained recruitment firms. We believe our competitive advantage is distinct. We are strategic, working with clients to hire best-fit candidates using our assessment IP, proprietary technology and professional recruiters. Our Talent Delivery Centers provide our teams with increased scalability, multilingual capabilities, global reach and functional specialization. We also work under the One Korn Ferry umbrella to help clients plan for their broader talent acquisition needs as part of their business strategy planning.

Professional Staff and Employees

We have assembled a wealth of talent that is rewarded based on performance. Our Company brings together a wide range of disciplines and professions—everything from academic research and technology development to executive recruiting, consulting, and business leadership. We are also a culturally diverse organization. Our people come from all over the world and speak a multitude of languages. For us, this diversity is a key source of strength. It means we have people who are able to challenge convention, offer unique perspectives, and generate innovative ideas. Equally important, it means we can think and act globally—just like our clients.

As of April 30, 2020, we had a total of 8,198 full-time employees. Of this, 1,686 were Executive Search employees consisting of 556 consultants and 1,130 associates, researchers, administrative and support staff. Our Consulting segment had 2,058 employees as of April 30, 2020, consisting of 1,671 consultants and execution staff and 387 associates, researchers, administrative and support staff. Our Digital segment had 1,413 employees as of April 30, 2020, consisting of 421 consultants and 992 associates, researchers, administrative and support staff. Our RPO & Professional Search segment had 2,891 employees as of April 30, 2020, consisting of 331 consultants and 2,560 administrative and support staff. Corporate had 150 professionals as of April 30, 2020. We are not party to a collective bargaining agreement and consider our relations with our employees to be good. Korn Ferry is an equal opportunity employer.

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Item 1A. Risk Factors

The discussion below describes the most significant factors, events, and uncertainties that make an investment in our securities risky. It does not address all of the risks that we face, and additional risks not presently known to us or that we currently deem immaterial may also impair our business operations. Our business, financial condition or results of operations could be materially adversely affected by any of these risks.

Risks Related to Our Business

The global coronavirus (“COVID-19”) pandemic has been negatively impacting our operations and financial performance, as well as the operations and financial performance of many of the clients in the industries we serve. The ultimate magnitude of this impact will depend on a variety of factors, including the duration of the impact, restrictions and operational requirements that apply to our business and the businesses of our clients, and the state of the global economy as a result of the pandemic, none of which can be predicted at this time.

In December 2019, COVID-19 was reported to have surfaced in Wuhan, China. Since then, COVID-19 has spread across the globe, including all or most of the countries in which we and our clients operate. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused, and is expected to continue to cause, a global slowdown in economic activity, a decrease in demand for a broad variety of goods and services, disruptions in global supply chains, and significant volatility and disruption of financial markets. Because the severity, magnitude and duration of the pandemic and its economic consequences are uncertain, vary by region, are rapidly changing and difficult to predict, its full impact on our operations and financial performance, as well as its impact on our near-term ability to successfully execute our strategic objectives, remains similarly uncertain and difficult to predict. Further, the pandemic’s ultimate impact depends in part on many factors not within our control and which may vary by region (heightening the uncertainty as to the ultimate impact COVID-19 may have on our operations and financial performance), including (1) restrictive governmental and business actions that have been and continue to be taken in response (including travel restrictions, work from home requirements, and other workforce limitations), (2) economic stimulus, funding and relief programs and other governmental economic responses, (3) the effectiveness of governmental actions, (4) economic uncertainty in key global markets and financial market volatility, (5) levels of economic contraction or growth, (6) the impact of the pandemic on health and safety, (7) the pace of recovery if and when the pandemic subsides, and (8) how significantly the number of cases increases as economies begin to open up and the restrictive governmental and business actions referred to above are relaxed.

Further, the COVID-19 pandemic has subjected our operations and financial performance to a number of risks, including those discussed below:

 

Operations-related risks: Across all of our businesses, we are facing increased operational challenges including a heightened need to protect employee health and safety, office shutdowns, workplace disruptions, and restrictions on the movement of people, both at our own offices and at those of our clients and our suppliers. We are also experiencing, and expect to continue experiencing, lower demand and volume for products and services, client requests for engagement deferrals or other contract modifications, and other factors related directly and indirectly to the COVID-19 pandemic that adversely impact our businesses. We expect that the longer the period of economic disruption continues, the more severe the negative impact will be on our operations and financial performance.

 

Client-related risks: Our clients have been and will be disrupted by quarantines and restrictions on employees’ ability to work and office closures. Such disruptions have and may continue to restrict our ability to provide products and services to our clients and have also and may continue to reduce demand for our products and services. In addition, COVID-19 has adversely affected the global economy and the economies and financial markets of many countries, which may result in further economic downturn that could affect demand for our products and services and impact our operations.

 

Employee-related risks: We have experienced and will experience disruptions to our operations resulting from quarantines, self-isolations, or other movement and restrictions on the ability of our employees to perform their jobs that may impact our ability to deliver our products and services in a timely manner or meet milestones or customer commitments.

 

Liquidity- and funding-related risks: While we have significant sources of cash and liquidity and access to committed credit lines, a prolonged period of generating lower revenue could adversely affect our cash flow and liquidity. Conditions in the financial and credit markets may also limit our ability to draw on our revolving credit line, as well as the availability of additional funding or increase the cost of funding, if it were to become necessary.

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As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to negatively impact our operations, it may also have the effect of heightening many of the other risks described in this Risk Factor section of our 10-K. In particular, see the risk factors titled:

 

“We may not be able to align our cost structure with our revenue level”,

 

“Our financial results could suffer if we are unable to achieve or maintain adequate utilization and suitable billing rates for our consultants”,

 

“Foreign currency exchange rate risks affect our results of operations”,

 

“Our indebtedness could adversely affect our financial condition”,

 

“We may be unable to service our indebtedness”,

 

“A decline in our operating results or available cash could cause us to experience difficulties in complying with covenants contained in more than one agreement”,

 

“We are increasingly dependent on third parties for the execution of critical functions”,

 

“As a result of our acquisitions, we have substantial amounts of goodwill and intangible assets, and changes in business conditions could cause these assets to become impaired, requiring write-downs that would adversely affect our operating results”,

 

“We are a cyclical company whose performance is tied to local and global economic conditions”,

 

“We face risks associated with social and political instability, legal requirements and economic conditions in our international operations”,

 

“You may not receive the level of dividends provided for in the dividend policy our Board of Directors has adopted or any dividends at all”, and

 

“Our inability to successfully recover should we experience a disaster or other business continuity problem could cause material financial loss, loss of human capital, regulatory actions, reputational harm or legal liability”.

Further, the COVID-19 pandemic may also affect our operations and financial results in a manner that is not presently known to us or that we currently do not expect to present significant risks to our operations or financial results.

As a result of the decrease in fee revenue worldwide, the Company developed and implemented a plan that included (i) a reduction in workforce which resulted in $40.5 million of restructuring charges in fiscal 2020 (ii) the temporary furlough of certain employees, (iii) subject to certain exceptions and legal requirements, salary reductions across the organization, and (iv) other cost saving measures relating to general and administrative expenses. There is no guarantee that such plan will be successful and achieve the expected cost efficiencies.

Our inability to successfully recover should we experience a disaster or other business continuity problem could cause material financial loss, loss of human capital, regulatory actions, reputational harm or legal liability.

Should we experience a disaster or other business continuity problem, such as an earthquake, hurricane, terrorist attack, security breach, power loss, telecommunications failure or other natural or man-made disaster, our continued success will depend, in part, on the availability of our personnel, our office facilities, and the proper functioning of our computer, telecommunication and other related systems and operations. In such an event, we could experience near-term operational challenges with regard to particular areas of our operations. In particular, our ability to recover from any disaster or other business continuity problem will depend on our ability to protect our technology infrastructure against damage from business continuity events that could have a significant disruptive effect on our operations. We could potentially lose client data or experience material adverse interruptions to our operations or delivery of services to our clients in a disaster. A disaster on a significant scale or affecting certain of our key operating areas within or across regions, or our inability to successfully recover should we experience a disaster, pandemic or other business continuity problem, could materially interrupt our business operations and cause material financial loss, loss of human capital, regulatory actions, reputational harm, damaged client relationships or legal liability.

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We are limited in our ability to recruit candidates from certain of our clients due to off-limit agreements with those clients and for client relation and marketing purposes; such limitations could harm our business.

Either by agreement with clients, or for client relations or marketing purposes, we are required to or elect to refrain from, for a specified period of time, recruiting candidates from a client when conducting searches on behalf of other clients. These off-limit agreements can generally remain in effect for up to two years following the completion of an assignment and cause us to lose search opportunities to our competition. The duration and scope of the off-limit agreement, including whether it covers all operations of the client and its affiliates or only certain divisions of a client, generally are subject to negotiation or internal policies and may depend on factors such as the scope, size and complexity of the client’s business, the length of the client relationship and the frequency with which we have been engaged to perform executive and professional searches for the client. If a prospective client believes that we are overly restricted by these off-limit agreements from recruiting employees of our existing clients, these prospective clients may not engage us to perform their executive searches. Therefore, our inability to recruit candidates from these clients may make it difficult for us to obtain search assignments from, or to fulfill search assignments for, other companies in that client’s industry. We cannot ensure that off-limit agreements will not impede our growth or our ability to attract and serve new clients, or otherwise harm our business.

We face significant competition; Competition in our industries could result in lost market share, reduced demand for our services, and/or require us to charge lower prices for our services, which could adversely affect our operating results and future growth.

We continue to face significant competition to each of our services and product offerings. The human resource consulting market has been traditionally fragmented and a number of large consulting firms, such as Ernst & Young, McKinsey, Willis Towers Watson and Deloitte are building businesses in human resource consulting to serve these needs. Our consulting business line has and continues to face competition from human resource consulting businesses. Many of these competitors are significantly larger than Korn Ferry and have considerable resources at their disposal, allowing for potentially significant investment to grow their human resource consulting business. Digital Products in the human resource market has been traditionally fragmented and a number of firms such as AON, Mercer, Willis Towers Watson, SHL, Fuel 50, SkillSoft, Criteria, Predictive Index, Prevue Hire and Textio offer competitive products. Competitors in the digital marketplace are a combination of large well capitalized firms and niche players who have received multiple rounds of private financing. Increased competition, whether as a result of professional and social networking website providers, traditional executive search firms, sole proprietors and in-house human resource professionals (as noted above) or larger consulting firms building human resources consulting businesses, may lead to pricing pressures that could negatively impact our business. For example, increased competition could require us to charge lower prices, and/or cause us to lose market share, each of which could reduce our fee revenue.

Our executive search services face competition from both traditional and non-traditional competitors that provide job placement services, including other large global executive search firms, smaller specialty firms and web-based firms. In recent years, we have also begun facing increased competition from sole proprietors and in-house human resource professionals whose ability to provide job placement services has been enhanced by professional profiles made available on the internet and enhanced social media-based search tools. The continued growth of the shared economy and related freelancing platform sites may also negatively impact demand for our services by allowing employers seeking services to connect with employees in real time and without any significant cost. Traditional executive search competitors include Egon Zehnder, Heidrick & Struggles International, Inc., Russell Reynolds Associates and Spencer Stuart. In each of our markets, one or more of our competitors may possess greater resources, greater name recognition, lower overhead or other costs and longer operating histories than we do, which may give them an advantage in obtaining future clients, capitalizing on new technology and attracting qualified professionals in these markets. Additionally, specialty firms can focus on regional or functional markets or on particular industries and executive search firms that have a smaller client base are subject to fewer off-limits arrangements. There are no extensive barriers to entry into the executive search industry and new recruiting firms continue to enter the market.

We believe the continuing development and increased availability of information technology will continue to attract new competitors, especially web-enabled professional and social networking website providers, and these providers may be facilitating a company’s ability to insource their recruiting capabilities. Competitors in these fields include SmashFly, iCIMS, Yello, Indeed, Google for Jobs and Jobvite. As these providers continue to evolve, they may develop offerings similar to or more expansive than ours, thereby increasing competition for our services or more broadly causing disruption in the executive search industry. Further, as technology continues to develop and the shared economy continues to grow, we expect that the use of freelancing platform sites will become more prevalent. As a result, companies may turn to such sites for their talent needs, which could negatively impact demand for the services we offer.

Our RPO & Professional Search services primarily compete for business with other RPO providers such as Cielo, Alexander Mann Solutions, IBM, Allegis and Kelly Services, and compete for mid-level professional search

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assignments with regional contingency recruitment firms and large national retained recruitment firms such as Robert Half, Michael Page, Harvey Nash and the Lucas Group. In addition, some organizations have developed or may develop internal solutions to address talent acquisition that may be competitive with our solutions. This is a highly competitive and developing industry with numerous specialists. To compete successfully and achieve our growth targets for our talent acquisition business, we must continue to support and develop assessment and analytics solutions, maintain and grow our proprietary database, deliver demonstrable return on investment to clients, support our products and services globally, and continue to provide consulting and training to support our assessment products. Our failure to compete effectively could adversely affect our operating results and future growth.

Consolidation in the industries that we serve could harm our business.

Companies in the industries that we serve have and may continue to achieve economies of scale and other synergies by combining with or acquiring other companies. If two or more of our clients merge or consolidate and combine their operations, we may experience a decrease in the amount of services we perform for these clients. If one of our clients merges or consolidates with a company that relies on another provider for its services, we may lose work from that client or lose the opportunity to gain additional work. The increased market power of larger companies could also increase pricing and competitive pressures on us. Any of these possible results of industry consolidation could harm our business, results of operations and financial condition.

Failure to attract and retain qualified and experienced consultants, could result in a loss of clients which in turn could cause a decline in our revenue and harm to our business.

We compete with other executive and professional search and consulting firms for qualified and experienced consultants. These other firms may be able to offer greater compensation and benefits or more attractive lifestyle choices, career paths or geographic locations than we do. Attracting and retaining consultants in our industry is particularly important because, generally, a small number of consultants have primary responsibility for a client relationship. Because client responsibility is so concentrated, the loss of key consultants may lead to the loss of client relationships. In fiscal 2020, our top three consultants in each of Executive Search and Consulting segment had generated business equal to approximately 1% of our total fee revenues. Furthermore, our top ten consultants in each of Executive Search and Consulting segment had generated business equal to approximately 3% of our total fee revenues. This risk is heightened due to the general portability of a consultant’s business: consultants have in the past, and will in the future, terminate their employment with our Company. Any decrease in the quality of our reputation, reduction in our compensation levels relative to our peers or restructuring of our compensation program, whether as a result of insufficient revenue, a decline in the market price of our common stock or for any other reason, could impair our ability to retain existing consultants or attract additional qualified consultants with the requisite experience, skills and established client relationships. Our failure to retain our most productive consultants, whether in Executive Search, Consulting, Digital or RPO & Professional Search, or maintain the quality of service to which our clients are accustomed, as well as the ability of a departing consultant to move business to his or her new employer, could result in a loss of clients, which could in turn cause our fee revenue to decline and our business to be harmed. We may also lose clients if the departing Executive Search, Consulting, Digital or RPO & Professional Search consultant has widespread name recognition or a reputation as a specialist in his or her line of business in a specific industry or management function. We could also lose additional consultants if they choose to join the departing Executive Search, Consulting, Digital or RPO & Professional Search consultant at another executive search or consulting firm. Failing to limit departing consultants from moving business or recruiting our consultants to a competitor could adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.

We incur substantial costs to hire and retain our professionals, and we expect these costs to continue and to grow.

Our success depends on attracting and retaining professional employees. To attract and retain such employees in a competitive marketplace, we must provide a competitive compensation package. As such, we often pay hiring bonuses and annual retention bonuses to secure the services of new hires and retain our professional employees. Such payments have taken the form of long-term deferred compensation, restricted stock, and unsecured cash payments in the form of promissory notes. The aggregate amount of these awards to employees is significant and as competition in our industry intensifies, we expect to continue issuing these types of long-term incentive awards. The deterioration in the national and global economy and labor markets as a result of COVID-19 has and may continue to put negative pressure on demand for our services, thereby negatively affecting our generation of future revenues, but we nonetheless continue to incur the cost of these long-term awards, resulting in lower results of operations.

Failing to retain our executive officers and key personnel or integrate new members of our senior management who are critical to our business may prevent us from successfully managing our business in the future.

Our future success depends upon the continued service of our executive officers and other key management personnel. Competition for qualified personnel is intense, and we may compete with other companies that have greater financial and other resources than we do. If we lose the services of one or more of our executives or key employees, or if one or more of them decides to join a competitor or otherwise compete directly or indirectly with us,

15


or if we are unable to integrate new members of our senior management who are critical to our business, we may not be able to successfully manage our business or achieve our business objectives.

Failing to maintain our professional reputation and the goodwill associated with our brand name could seriously harm our business.

We depend on our overall reputation and brand name recognition to secure new engagements and to hire qualified professionals. Our success also depends on the individual reputations of our professionals. We obtain a majority of our new engagements from existing clients or from referrals by those clients. Any client who is dissatisfied with our services can adversely affect our ability to secure new engagements.

If any factor, including poor performance or negative publicity, whether or not true, hurts our reputation, we may experience difficulties in competing successfully for both new engagements and qualified consultants, which could seriously harm our business.

As we develop new services, clients and practices, enter new lines of business, and focus more of our business on providing a full range of client solutions, the demands on our business and our operating risks may increase.

As part of our corporate strategy, we are attempting to leverage our research and consulting services to sell a full range of services across the life cycle of a policy, program, project or initiative, and we are regularly searching for ways to provide new services to clients. This strategy, even if effectively executed, may prove insufficient in light of changes in market conditions, technology, competitive pressures or other external factors. In addition, we plan to extend our services to new clients and into new lines of business and geographic locations. As we focus on developing new services, clients, practice areas and lines of business; open new offices; and engage in business in new geographic locations, our operations are exposed to additional as well as enhanced risks.

In particular, our growth efforts place substantial additional demands on our management and staff, as well as on our information, financial, administrative and operational systems. We may not be able to manage these demands successfully. Growth may require increased recruiting efforts, opening new offices, increased business development, selling, marketing and other actions that are expensive and entail increased risk. We may need to invest more in our people and systems, controls, compliance efforts, policies and procedures than we anticipate. Therefore, even if we do grow, the demands on our people and systems, controls, compliance efforts, policies and procedures may exceed the benefits of such growth, and our operating results may suffer, at least in the short-term, and perhaps in the long-term.

Efforts involving a different focus and/or new services, clients, practice areas, lines of business, offices and geographic locations entail inherent risks associated with our inexperience and competition from mature participants in those areas. Our inexperience may result in costly decisions that could harm our profit and operating results. In particular, new or improved services often relate to the development, implementation and improvement of critical infrastructure or operating systems that our clients may view as “mission critical,” and if we fail to satisfy the needs of our clients in providing these services, our clients could incur significant costs and losses for which they could seek compensation from us. As our business continues to evolve and we provide a wider range of services, we will become increasingly dependent upon our employees, particularly those operating in business environments less familiar to us. Failure to identify, hire, train and retain talented employees who share our values could have a negative effect on our reputation and our business.

We are subject to potential legal liability from clients, employees, candidates for employment, stockholders and others. Insurance coverage may not be available to cover all of our potential liability and available coverage may not be sufficient to cover all claims that we may incur.

We are exposed to potential claims with respect to the executive search process and our consulting services. For example, a client could assert a claim for matters such as breach of an off-limit agreement or recommending a candidate who subsequently proves to be unsuitable for the position filled. Further, the current employer of a candidate whom we placed could file a claim against us alleging interference with an employment contract; a candidate could assert an action against us for failure to maintain the confidentiality of the candidate’s employment search; and a candidate or employee could assert an action against us for alleged discrimination, violations of labor and employment law or other matters. Also, in various countries, we are subject to data protection laws impacting the processing of candidate information and other regulatory requirements that could give rise to liabilities/claims. Client dissatisfaction with the consulting services provided by our consultants may also lead to claims against us.

Additionally, as part of our consulting services, we often send a team of leadership consultants to our clients’ workplaces. Such consultants generally have access to client information systems and confidential information. An inherent risk of such activity includes possible claims of misuse or misappropriation of client IP, confidential information, funds or other property, as well as harassment, criminal activity, torts, or other claims. Such claims may

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result in negative publicity, injunctive relief, criminal investigations and/or charges, payment by us of monetary damages or fines, or other material adverse effects on our business.

From time to time, we may also be subject to legal actions or claims brought by our stockholders, including securities, derivative and class actions, for a variety of matters related to our operations, such as significant business transactions, cybersecurity incidents, volatility in our stock, and our responses to stockholder activism, among others. Such actions or claims and their resolution may result in defense costs, as well as settlements, fines or judgments against us, some of which are not, or cannot be, covered by insurance. The payment of any such costs, settlements, fines or judgments that are not insured could have a material adverse effect on our business. In addition, such matters may affect the availability or cost of some of our insurance coverage, which could adversely impact our results of operations and expose us to increased risks that would be uninsured.

We cannot ensure that our insurance will cover all claims or that insurance coverage will be available at economically acceptable rates. Our ability to obtain insurance, its coverage levels, deductibles and premiums, are all dependent on market factors, our loss history and insurers’ perception of our overall risk profile. Our insurance may also require us to meet a deductible. Significant uninsured liabilities could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.

Risks Related To Our Profitability

We may not be able to align our cost structure with our revenue level, which in turn may require additional financing in the future that may not be available at all or may be available only on unfavorable terms.

We continuously evaluate our cost base in relation to projected near to mid-term demand for our services in an effort to align our cost structure with the current realities of our markets. When actual or projected fee revenues are negatively impacted by weakening customer demand, we have and may again find it necessary to take cost cutting measures so that we can minimize the impact on our profitability. In fiscal 2020, due to the decrease in fee revenue as a result of COVID-19, the Company developed and implemented a plan that included (i) a reduction in workforce which resulted in $40.5 million of restructuring charges in fiscal 2020 (ii) the temporary furlough of certain employees, (iii) subject to certain exceptions and legal requirements, salary reductions across the organization, and (iv) other cost saving measures relating to general and administrative expenses. There is, however, no guarantee that such measures will properly align our cost structure to our revenue level. Failing to maintain a balance between our cost structure and our revenue could adversely affect our business, financial condition, and results of operations and lead to negative cash flows, which in turn might require us to obtain additional financing to meet our capital needs. If we are unable to secure such additional financing on favorable terms, or at all, our ability to fund our operations could be impaired, which could have a material adverse effect on our results of operations.

Our financial results could suffer if we are unable to achieve or maintain adequate utilization and suitable billing rates for our consultants.

Our profitability depends, to a large extent, on the utilization and billing rates of our professionals. Utilization of our professionals is affected by a number of factors, including:

 

the number and size of client engagements;

 

the timing of the commencement, completion and termination of engagements (for example, the commencement or termination of multiple RPO engagements could have a significant impact on our business, including significant fluctuations in our fee revenue, since these types of engagements are generally larger, in terms of both staffing and fee revenue generated, than our other engagements);

 

our ability to transition our consultants efficiently from completed engagements to new engagements;

 

the hiring of additional consultants because there is generally a transition period for new consultants that results in a temporary drop in our utilization rate;

 

unanticipated changes in the scope of client engagements;

 

our ability to forecast demand for our services and thereby maintain an appropriate level of consultants; and

 

conditions affecting the industries in which we practice as well as general economic conditions.

The billing rates of our consultants that we are able to charge are also affected by a number of factors, including:

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our clients’ perception of our ability to add value through our services;

 

the market demand for the services we provide;

 

an increase in the number of clients in the government sector in the industries we serve;

 

the introduction of new services by us or our competitors;

 

our competition and the pricing policies of our competitors; and

 

current economic conditions.

If we are unable to achieve and maintain adequate overall utilization, as well as maintain or increase the billing rates for our consultants, our financial results could materially suffer. In addition, our consultants oftentimes perform services at the physical locations of our clients. Natural disasters, pandemics, disruptions to travel and transportation or problems with communications systems negatively impact our ability to perform services for, and interact with, our clients at their physical locations, which could have an adverse effect on our business and results of operations.

The profitability of our fixed-fee engagements with clients may not meet our expectations if we underestimate the cost of these engagements when pricing them.

When making proposals for fixed-fee engagements, we estimate the costs and timing for completing the engagements. These estimates reflect our best judgment regarding the efficiencies of our methodologies and consultants as we plan to deploy them on engagements. Any increased or unexpected costs or unanticipated delays in connection with the performance of fixed-fee engagements, including delays caused by factors outside our control, could make these contracts less profitable or unprofitable, which would have an adverse effect on our profit margin. For the years ended April 30, 2020, 2019, and 2018, fixed-fee engagements represented 25%, 27%, and 28% of our revenues, respectively.

Risks Related To Accounting and Taxation

Changes in our accounting estimates and assumptions could negatively affect our financial position and results of operations.

We prepare our consolidated financial statements in accordance with U.S. generally accepted accounting principles (“GAAP”). These accounting principles require us to make estimates and assumptions that affect the reported amounts of assets and liabilities and the disclosure of contingent assets and liabilities at the date of our financial statements. We are also required to make certain judgments that affect the reported amounts of revenues and expenses during each reporting period. We periodically evaluate our estimates and assumptions, including those relating to revenue recognition, restructuring, deferred compensation, goodwill and other intangible assets, contingent consideration, annual performance-related bonuses, allowance for doubtful accounts, share-based payments and deferred income taxes. Actual results could differ from the estimates we make based on historical experience and various assumptions believed to be reasonable based on specific circumstances, and changes in accounting standards could have an adverse impact on our future financial position and results of operations.

Foreign currency exchange rate risks affect our results of operations.

A material portion of our revenue and expenses are generated by our operations in foreign countries, and we expect that our foreign operations will account for a material portion of our revenue and expenses in the future. Most of our international expenses and revenue are denominated in foreign currencies. As a result, our financial results are affected by changes in foreign currency exchange rates or weak economic conditions in foreign markets in which we have operations, among other factors. Fluctuations in the value of those currencies in relation to the U.S. dollar have caused and will continue to cause dollar-translated amounts to vary from one period to another. Such variations expose us to both adverse as well as beneficial movements in currency exchange rates. Given the volatility of exchange rates, we are not always able to manage effectively our currency translation or transaction risks, which has and may continue to adversely affect our financial condition and results of operations.

Unfavorable tax laws, tax law changes and tax authority rulings may adversely affect results.

We are subject to income taxes in the U.S. and in various foreign jurisdictions. Domestic and international tax liabilities are subject to the allocation of income among various tax jurisdictions. Our effective tax rate could be adversely affected by changes in the mix of earnings among countries with differing statutory tax rates or changes in tax laws. The amount of our income taxes and other taxes are subject to ongoing audits by U.S. federal, state and local tax authorities and by non-U.S. authorities. If these audits result in assessments different from estimated amounts recorded, future financial results may include unfavorable tax adjustments.

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Future changes in tax laws, treaties or regulations, and their interpretations or enforcement, may be unpredictable, particularly as taxing jurisdictions face an increasing number of political, budgetary and other fiscal challenges. Tax rates in the jurisdictions in which we operate may change as a result of macroeconomic and other factors outside of our control, making it increasingly difficult for multinational corporations like ourselves to operate with certainty about taxation in many jurisdictions. As a result, we have been and may again be materially adversely affected by future changes in tax law or policy (or in their interpretation or enforcement) in the jurisdictions where we operate, including the U.S., which could have a material adverse effect on our business, cash flow, results of operations, financial condition, as well as our effective income tax rate.

We have deferred tax assets that we may not be able to use under certain circumstances.

If we are unable to generate sufficient future taxable income in certain jurisdictions, or if there is a significant change in the time period within which the underlying temporary differences become taxable or deductible, we could be required to increase our valuation allowances against our deferred tax assets. This would result in an increase in our effective tax rate, and an adverse effect on our future operating results. In addition, changes in statutory tax rates may also change our deferred tax assets or liability balances, with either a favorable or unfavorable impact on our effective tax rate. Our deferred tax assets may also be impacted by new legislation or regulation.

Risks Related to Our Financing/Indebtedness

Our indebtedness could adversely affect our financial condition, our ability to operate our business, react to changes in the economy or our industry, prevent us from fulfilling our obligations under our indebtedness and could divert our cash flow from operations for debt payments.

As of April 30, 2020, we had approximately $400.0 million in total indebtedness outstanding, and $646.0 million of availability under our $650.0 million five-year senior secured revolving credit facility (the “Revolver”) provided for under our Credit Agreement (the “Credit Agreement”) that we entered into on December 16, 2019, with a syndicate of banks and Bank of America, National Association as administrative agent. Subject to the limits contained in the Credit Agreement that govern our Revolver and the indenture governing our $400.0 million principal amount of the 4.625% Senior Unsecured Notes due 2027 (the “Notes”), we may be able to incur substantial additional debt from time to time to finance working capital, capital expenditures, investments or acquisition, or for other purposes. If we do so, the risks related to our debt could increase.

Specifically, our level of debt could have important consequences to us, including the following:

 

it may be difficult for us to satisfy our obligations, including debt service requirements under our outstanding debt;

 

 

our ability to obtain additional financing for working capital, capital expenditures, debt service requirements, acquisitions or other general corporate purposes may be impaired;

 

 

requiring a substantial portion of cash flow from operations to be dedicated to the payment of principal and interest on our indebtedness, including the Notes, therefore reducing our ability to use our cash flow to fund our operations, capital expenditures, future business opportunities and other purposes;

 

 

we are more vulnerable to economic downturns and adverse industry conditions and our flexibility to plan for, or react to, changes in our business or industry is more limited;

 

 

our ability to capitalize on business opportunities and to react to competitive pressures, as compared to our competitors, may be compromised due to our high level of debt and the restrictive covenants in the Credit Agreement and the indenture governing our Notes;

 

 

our ability to borrow additional funds or to refinance debt may be limited;

 

 

COVID-19 could impact our ability to draw on the revolver or result in a credit downgrade; and

 

 

it may cause potential or existing customers to not contract with us due to concerns over our ability to meet our financial obligations, such as insuring against our professional liability risks, under such contracts.

Furthermore, our debt under our Revolver bears interest at variable rates.

Despite our indebtedness levels, we and our subsidiaries may still incur substantially more debt, which could further exacerbate the risks associated with our substantial leverage.

We and our subsidiaries may incur substantial additional indebtedness in the future. The Credit Agreement and the indenture governing our Notes contain restrictions on the incurrence of additional indebtedness, but these restrictions are subject to several qualifications and exceptions, and the indebtedness that may be incurred in compliance with

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these restrictions could be substantial. If we incur additional debt, the risks associated with our leverage, including those described above, would increase. Further, the restrictions in the indenture governing the Notes and the Credit Agreement will not prevent us from incurring obligations, such as trade payables, that do not constitute indebtedness as defined in such debt instruments. As of April 30, 2020, we had $646.0 million of availability to incur additional secured indebtedness under our Revolver.

Our variable rate indebtedness subjects us to interest rate risk, which could cause our indebtedness service obligations to increase significantly.

Interest rates fluctuate. As a result, interest rates on the Revolver or other variable rate debt offerings could be higher or lower than current levels. If interest rates increase, our debt service obligations on our variable rate indebtedness would increase even though the amount borrowed remained the same, and our net income and cash flows, including cash available for servicing our indebtedness, would correspondingly decrease. In addition, a transition away from the London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) as a benchmark for establishing the applicable interest rate may affect the cost of servicing our debt under the Revolver. The Financial Conduct Authority of the U.K. has announced that it plans to phase out LIBOR by the end of calendar year 2021. Our borrowing arrangements provide for alternative base rates, but such alternative base rates may or may not be related to LIBOR, and the consequences of the phase out of LIBOR cannot be entirely predicted at this time. For example, if any alternative base rate or means of calculating interest with respect to our outstanding variable rate indebtedness leads to an increase in the interest rates charged, it could result in an increase in the cost of such indebtedness, impact our ability to refinance some or all of our existing indebtedness or otherwise have a material adverse impact on our business, financial condition and results of operations.

We may be unable to service our indebtedness.

Our ability to make scheduled payments on and to refinance our indebtedness depends on and is subject to our financial and operating performance, which in turn is affected by general and regional economic, financial, competitive, business and other factors, all of which are beyond our control, including the availability of financing in the international banking and capital markets. Lower total revenue generally will reduce our cash flow. We cannot assure you that our business will generate sufficient cash flow from operations or that future borrowings will be available to us in an amount sufficient to enable us to service our debt, to refinance our debt or to fund our other liquidity needs.

If we are unable to meet our debt service obligations or to fund our other liquidity needs, we will need to restructure or refinance all or a portion of our debt, which could cause us to default on our debt obligations and impair our liquidity. Our ability to restructure or refinance our debt will depend on the condition of the capital markets and our financial condition at such time. Any refinancing of our indebtedness could be at higher interest rates and may require us to comply with more onerous covenants that could further restrict our business operations.

Moreover, in the event of a default, the holders of our indebtedness, including the Notes, could elect to declare all the funds borrowed to be due and payable, together with accrued and unpaid interest, if any. The lenders under the Revolver could also elect to terminate their commitments thereunder, cease making further loans, and institute foreclosure proceedings against their collateral, and we could be forced into bankruptcy or liquidation. If we breach our covenants under the Revolver, we would be in default thereunder. The lenders could exercise their rights, as described above, and we could be forced into bankruptcy or liquidation.

The agreements governing our debt impose significant operating and financial restrictions on us and our subsidiaries, which may prevent us from capitalizing on business opportunities.

The Credit Agreement and the indenture governing the Notes impose significant operating and financial restrictions on us. These restrictions limit our ability and the ability of our subsidiaries to, among other things:

 

incur or guarantee additional debt or issue capital stock;

 

 

pay dividends and make other distributions on, or redeem or repurchase, capital stock;

 

 

make certain investments;

 

 

incur certain liens;

 

 

enter into transactions with affiliates;

 

 

merge or consolidate;

 

 

enter into agreements that restrict the ability of subsidiaries to make dividends, distributions or other payments to us or the guarantors;

 

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in the case of the indenture governing our Notes, designate restricted subsidiaries as unrestricted subsidiaries; and

 

 

transfer or sell assets.

We and our subsidiaries are subject to covenants, representations and warranties in respect of the Revolver, including financial covenants as defined in the Credit Agreement. See “Note 10 – Long-Term Debt” of our notes to our consolidated financial statements included in this Annual Report on Form 10-K.

As a result of these restrictions, we are limited as to how we conduct our business, and we may be unable to raise additional debt or equity financing to compete effectively or to take advantage of new business opportunities. The terms of any future indebtedness we may incur could include more restrictive covenants. We cannot assure you that we will be able to maintain compliance with these covenants in the future and, if we fail to do so, that we will be able to obtain waivers from the lenders and/or amend the covenants.

Our failure to comply with the restrictive covenants described above and/or the terms of any future indebtedness from time to time could result in an event of default, which, if not cured or waived, could result in our being required to repay these borrowings before their due date. If we are forced to refinance these borrowings on less favorable terms or cannot refinance these borrowings, our results of operations and financial condition could be adversely affected.

A decline in our operating results or available cash could cause us to experience difficulties in complying with covenants contained in more than one agreement, which could result in our bankruptcy or liquidation.

If we sustain a decline in our operating results or available cash, we could experience difficulties in complying with the financial covenants contained in the Credit Agreement. The failure to comply with such covenants could result in an event of default under the Revolver and by reason of cross-acceleration or cross-default provisions, other indebtedness may then become immediately due and payable. In addition, should an event of default occur, the lenders under our Revolver could elect to terminate their commitments thereunder, cease making loans and institute foreclosure proceedings against our assets, and we could be forced into bankruptcy or liquidation. If our operating performance declines, we may in the future need to obtain waivers from the lenders under our Revolver to avoid being in default. If we breach our covenants under our Revolver and seek a waiver, we may not be able to obtain a waiver from the lenders thereunder. If this occurs, we would be in default under our Revolver, the lenders could exercise their rights, as described above, and we could be forced into bankruptcy or liquidation.

Risks Related to Technology, Cybersecurity and Intellectual Property

Social media platforms present risks and challenges that can cause damage to our brand and reputation.

The inappropriate and/or unauthorized use of social media platforms, including weblogs (or blogs), social media websites and other forms of Internet-based communications, which allow individuals access to a broad audience of consumers and other interested persons by our clients or employees could increase our costs, cause damage to our brand, lead to litigation or result in information leakage, including the improper collection and/or dissemination of personally identifiable information of candidates and clients. In addition, negative or inaccurate posts or comments about us on any social networking platforms could damage our reputation, brand image and goodwill.

Technological advances may significantly disrupt the labor market and weaken demand for human capital at a rapid rate.

Our success is directly dependent on our customers’ demands for talent. As technology continues to evolve, more tasks currently performed by people have been and may continue to be replaced by automation, robotics, machine learning, artificial intelligence and other technological advances outside of our control. The human resource industry has been and continues to be impacted by significant technological changes, enabling companies to offer services competitive with ours. Many of those technological changes may (i) reduce demand for our services, (ii) enable the development of competitive products or services, or (iii) enable our current customers to reduce or bypass the use of our services, particularly in lower-skill job categories. Additionally, rapid changes in artificial intelligence and block chain-based technology are increasing the competitiveness landscape. We may not be successful in anticipating or responding to these changes and demand for our services could be further reduced by advanced technologies being deployed by our competitors. The effort to gain technological expertise and develop new technologies in our business may require us to incur significant expenses. In some cases, we depend on key vendors and partners to provide technology and other support. If these third parties fail to perform their obligations or cease to work with us, our ability to execute on our strategic initiatives could be adversely affected.

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Limited protection of our IP could harm our business, and we face the risk that our services or products may infringe upon the IP rights of others.

We cannot guarantee that trade secrets, trademark and copyright law protections are adequate to deter misappropriation of our IP (which has become an important part of our business). Existing laws of some countries in which we provide services or products may offer only limited protection of our IP rights. Redressing infringements may consume significant management time and financial resources. Also, we cannot detect all unauthorized use of our IP and take the necessary steps to enforce our rights, which may have a material adverse impact on our business, financial condition or results of operations. We cannot be sure that our services and products, or the products of others that we offer to our clients, do not infringe on the IP rights of third parties, and we may have infringement claims asserted against us or our clients. These claims may harm our reputation, result in financial liability and prevent us from offering some services or products.

We have invested in specialized technology and other IP for which we may fail to fully recover our investment, or which may become obsolete.

We have invested in developing specialized technology and IP, including proprietary systems, processes and methodologies, such as Korn Ferry Advance and Talent Hub, that we believe provide us a competitive advantage in serving our current clients and winning new engagements. Many of our service and product offerings rely on specialized technology or IP that is subject to rapid change, and to the extent that this technology and IP is rendered obsolete and of no further use to us or our clients, our ability to continue offering these services, and grow our revenues, has been and may continue to be adversely affected. There is no assurance that we will be able to develop new, innovative or improved technology or IP or that our technology and IP will effectively compete with the IP developed by our competitors. If we are unable to develop new technology and IP or if our competitors develop better technology or IP, our revenues and results of operations could be adversely affected.

We rely heavily on our information systems, and if we lose that technology, or fail to further develop our technology, our business could be harmed.

Our success depends in large part upon our ability to store, retrieve, process, manage and protect substantial amounts of information. To achieve our strategic objectives and to remain competitive, we must continue to develop and enhance our information systems. This may require the acquisition of equipment and software and the development of new proprietary software, either internally or through independent consultants. If we are unable to design, develop, implement and utilize, in a cost-effective manner, information systems that provide the capabilities necessary for us to compete effectively, or for any reason any interruption or loss of our information processing capabilities occurs, this could harm our business, results of operations and financial condition. We cannot be sure that our current insurance against the effects of a disaster regarding our information technology or our disaster recovery procedures will continue to be available at reasonable prices, cover all our losses or compensate us for the possible loss of clients occurring during any period that we are unable to provide business services.

We are subject to risk as it relates to software that we license from third parties.

We license software from third parties, much of which is integral to our systems and our business. The licenses are generally terminable if we breach our obligations under the license agreements. If any of these relationships were terminated or if any of these parties were to cease doing business or cease to support the applications we currently utilize, we may be forced to spend significant time and money to replace the licensed software. However, we cannot assure you that the necessary replacements will be available on reasonable terms, if at all.

We are dependent on third parties for the execution of certain critical functions.

We do not maintain all of our technology infrastructure, and we have outsourced certain other critical applications or business processes to external providers, including cloud-based services. The failure or inability to perform on the part of one or more of these critical suppliers or partners could cause significant disruptions and increased costs. We are also dependent on security measures that some of our third-party vendors and customers are taking to protect their own systems and infrastructures. If our third-party vendors do not maintain adequate security measures, do not require their sub-contractors to maintain adequate security measures, do not perform as anticipated and in accordance with contractual requirements, or become targets of cyber-attacks, we may experience operational difficulties and increased costs, which could materially and adversely affect our business.

Cyber security vulnerabilities and incidents have and may again lead to the improper disclosure of information obtained from our clients, candidates and employees, which could result in liability and harm to our reputation.

We use information technology and other computer resources to carry out operational and marketing activities and to maintain our business records. We rely on information technology systems to process, transmit, and store electronic information and to communicate among our locations around the world and with our clients, partners, and employees. The breadth and complexity of this infrastructure increases the risk of security breaches which could lead to potential unauthorized disclosure of confidential information. Reliance on trained professionals to configure and operate this infrastructure creates the potential for human error, leading to potential exposure of sensitive or confidential information.

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Our systems and networks are vulnerable to computer viruses, malware, worms, hackers and other security issues, including physical and electronic break-ins, router disruption, sabotage or espionage, disruptions from unauthorized access and tampering (including through social engineering such as phishing attacks), impersonation of authorized users and coordinated denial-of-service attacks. For example, in the past we have experienced cyber security incidents resulting from unauthorized access to our systems, which to date have not had a material impact on our business or results of operations; however, there is no assurance that such impacts will not be material in the future.

The continued occurrence of high-profile data breaches against various entities and organizations provides evidence of an external environment that is increasingly hostile to information security. This environment demands that we continuously improve our design and coordination of security controls across our business groups and geographies in order to protect information that we develop or that is obtained from our clients, candidates and employees. Despite these efforts, given the ongoing and increasingly sophisticated attempts to access the information of entities, our security controls over this information, our training of employees, and other practices we follow have not and may not prevent the improper disclosure of such information. Our efforts and the costs incurred to bolster our security against attacks cannot provide absolute assurance that future data breaches will not occur. We depend on our overall reputation and brand name recognition to secure new engagements. Perceptions that we do not adequately protect the privacy of information could inhibit attaining new engagements, qualified consultants and could potentially damage currently existing client relationships.

Data security, data privacy and data protection laws, such as the European Union General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”), and other evolving regulations and cross-border data transfer restrictions, may limit the use of our services, increase our costs and adversely affect our business.

We are subject to numerous U.S. and foreign jurisdiction laws and regulations designed to protect client, colleague, supplier and company data, such as the GDPR, which became effective in May 2018, and requires companies to meet stringent requirements regarding the handling of personal data, including its use, protection and transfer and the ability of persons whose data is stored to correct or delete such data about themselves. Complying with the enhanced obligations imposed by the GDPR has resulted and may continue to result in additional costs to our business and has required and may further require us to amend certain of our business practices. Failure to meet the GDPR requirements could result in significant penalties, including fines up to 4% of annual worldwide revenue. The GDPR also confers a private right of action on certain individuals and associations.

Laws and regulations in this area are evolving and generally becoming more stringent. For example, the New York State Department of Financial Services has issued cybersecurity regulations that outline a variety of required security measures for protection of data. Some U.S. states, including California, have also enacted cybersecurity laws requiring certain security measures of regulated entities that are broadly similar to GDPR requirements, and we expect that other states will continue to do so. As these laws continue to evolve, we may be required to make changes to our services, solutions and/or products so as to enable the Company and/or our clients to meet the new legal requirements, including by taking on more onerous obligations in our contracts, limiting our storage, transfer and processing of data and, in some cases, limiting our service and/or solution offerings in certain locations. Changes in these laws, or the interpretation and application thereof, may also increase our potential exposure through significantly higher potential penalties for non-compliance. The costs of compliance with, and other burdens imposed by, such laws and regulations and client demand in this area may limit the use of, or demand for, our services, solutions and/or products, make it more difficult and costly to meet client expectations, or lead to significant fines, penalties or liabilities for noncompliance, any of which could adversely affect our business, financial condition, and results of operations.

In addition, due to the uncertainty and potentially conflicting interpretations of these laws, it is possible that such laws and regulations may be interpreted and applied in a manner that is inconsistent from one jurisdiction to another and may conflict with other rules or our practices. Any failure or perceived failure by us to comply with applicable laws or satisfactorily protect personal information could result in governmental enforcement actions, litigation, or negative publicity, any of which could inhibit sales of our services, solutions and/or products.

Further, enforcement actions and investigations by regulatory authorities related to data security incidents and privacy violations continue to increase. It is possible that future enactment of more restrictive laws, rules or regulations and/or future enforcement actions or investigations could have an adverse impact on us through increased costs or restrictions on our businesses and noncompliance could result in regulatory penalties and significant legal liability.

Risks Related to Acquisitions

Acquisitions, or our inability to effect acquisitions, may have an adverse effect on our business.

We have completed several strategic acquisitions of businesses in the last several years, including our acquisition of the Acquired Companies in fiscal 2020 and Hay Group in fiscal 2016. Targeted acquisitions have been and continue to be part of our growth strategy, and we may in the future selectively acquire businesses that are complementary to our existing service offerings. However, we cannot be certain that we will be able to continue to identify appropriate acquisition candidates or acquire them on satisfactory terms. Our ability to consummate such acquisitions on satisfactory terms will depend on:

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the extent to which acquisition opportunities become available;

 

our success in bidding for the opportunities that do become available;

 

negotiating terms that we believe are reasonable; and

 

regulatory approval, if required.

Our ability to make strategic acquisitions may also be conditioned on our ability to fund such acquisitions through the incurrence of debt or the issuance of equity. Our Credit Agreement limits us from consummating acquisitions unless we are in pro forma compliance with our financial covenants, and our pro forma domestic liquidity after giving effect to the acquisition is at least $50.0 million, and certain other conditions are met. If we are required to incur substantial indebtedness in connection with an acquisition, and the results of the acquisition are not favorable, the increased indebtedness could decrease the value of our equity. In addition, if we need to issue additional equity to consummate an acquisition, doing so would cause dilution to existing stockholders.

If we are unable to make strategic acquisitions, or the acquisitions we do make are not on terms favorable to us or not effected in a timely manner, it may impede the growth of our business, which could adversely impact our profitability and our stock price.

We may not be able to successfully integrate or realize the expected benefits from our acquisitions.

Our future success depends in part on our ability to complete the integration of acquisition targets successfully into our operations. The process of integrating an acquired business subjects us to a number of risks, including:

 

diversion of management attention;

 

amortization of intangible assets, adversely affecting our reported results of operations;

 

inability to retain and/or integrate the management, key personnel and other employees of the acquired business;

 

inability to properly integrate businesses resulting in operating inefficiencies;

 

inability to establish uniform standards, disclosure controls and procedures, internal control over financial reporting and other systems, procedures and policies in a timely manner;

 

inability to retain the acquired company’s clients;

 

exposure to legal claims for activities of the acquired business prior to acquisition; and

 

incurrence of additional expenses in connection with the integration process.

If our acquisitions are not successfully integrated, our business, financial condition and results of operations, as well as our professional reputation, could be materially adversely affected.

Further, we cannot assure you that acquisitions will result in the financial, operational or other benefits that we anticipate. Some acquisitions may not be immediately accretive to earnings and some expansion may result in significant expenditures.

Businesses we acquire may have liabilities or adverse operating issues that could harm our operating results.

Businesses we acquire may have liabilities or adverse operating issues, or both, that we either fail to discover through due diligence or underestimate prior to the consummation of the acquisition. These liabilities and/or issues may include the acquired business’ failure to comply with, or other violations of, applicable laws, rules or regulations or contractual or other obligations or liabilities. As the successor owner, we may be financially responsible for, and may suffer harm to our reputation or otherwise be adversely affected by, such liabilities and/or issues. An acquired business also may have problems with internal controls over financial reporting, which could in turn cause us to have significant deficiencies or material weaknesses in our own internal controls over financial reporting. These and any other costs, liabilities, issues, and/or disruptions associated with any past or future acquisitions, and the related integration, could harm our operating results.

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As a result of our acquisitions, we have substantial amounts of goodwill and intangible assets, and changes in business conditions could cause these assets to become impaired, requiring write-downs that would adversely affect our operating results.

All of our acquisitions have been accounted for as purchases and involved purchase prices well in excess of tangible asset values, resulting in the creation of a significant amount of goodwill and other intangible assets. As of April 30, 2020, goodwill and purchased intangibles accounted for approximately 22% and 4%, respectively, of our total assets. Under U.S. GAAP, we do not amortize goodwill and intangible assets acquired in a purchase business combination that are determined to have indefinite useful lives, but instead review them annually (or more frequently, if impairment indicators arise) for impairment. In fiscal 2019, the Company began to offer substantially all of the Company’s current products and services using the “Korn Ferry” name, branding and trademarks, and has sunset substantially all sub-brands, including Futurestep, Hay Group and Lominger, among others. The Hay Group and Lominger brands came to the Company through acquisitions and, in connection with the accounting for those acquisitions, $106.6 million of the purchase price was allocated to indefinite lived tradename intangible assets. On June 12, 2018, the Company concluded that as a result of the decision to discontinue the use of such sub-brands in the near term, the Company was required under U.S. GAAP to record in the first quarter of fiscal 2019 a one-time, non-cash intangible asset impairment charge of $106.6 million. The discontinuation of such brands could adversely affect our business. Further, future events or changes in circumstances that result in an impairment of goodwill or other intangible assets would have a negative impact on our profitability and operating results.

An impairment in the carrying value of goodwill and other intangible assets could negatively impact our consolidated results of operations and net worth.

Goodwill is initially recorded as the excess of amounts paid over the fair value of net assets acquired. While goodwill is not amortized, it is reviewed for impairment at least annually or more frequently, if impairment indicators are present. In assessing the carrying value of goodwill, we make qualitative and quantitative assumptions and estimates about revenues, operating margins, growth rates and discount rates based on our business plans, economic projections, anticipated future cash flows and marketplace data. There are inherent uncertainties related to these factors and management’s judgment in applying these factors. Goodwill valuations have been calculated using an income approach based on the present value of future cash flows of each reporting unit and a market approach. We could be required to evaluate the carrying value of goodwill prior to the annual assessment if we experience unexpected, significant declines in operating results or sustained market capitalization declines. These types of events and the resulting analyses could result in goodwill impairment charges in the future. Impairment charges, such as the impairment charge that we recorded in the first quarter of fiscal 2019 related to the discontinuation of the Hay Group and Lominger brands, could substantially affect our results of operations and net worth in the periods of such charges.

Risks Related to Global Operations

We are a cyclical company whose performance is tied to local and global economic conditions.

Demand for our services is affected by global economic conditions and the general level of economic activity in the geographic regions and industries in which we operate. When conditions in the global economy, including the credit markets deteriorate, or economic activity slows, many companies hire fewer permanent employees and some companies, as a cost-saving measure, choose to rely on their own human resources departments rather than third-party search firms to find talent, and under these conditions, companies have cut back on human resource initiatives, all of which negatively affects our financial condition and results of operations. We also experience more competitive pricing pressure during periods of economic decline. If the geopolitical uncertainties result in a reduction in business confidence, if the national or global economy or credit market conditions in general deteriorate, the unemployment rate increases or any changes occur in U.S. trade policy (including any increases in tariffs that result in a trade war), such uncertainty or changes put negative pressure on demand for our services and our pricing, resulting in lower cash flows and a negative effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations. In addition, some of our clients experience reduced access to credit and lower revenues, resulting in their inability to meet their payment obligations to us.

We face risks associated with social and political instability, legal requirements and economic conditions in our international operations.

We operate in 53 countries and, during the year ended April 30, 2020, generated 55% of our fee revenue from operations outside of the U.S. We are exposed to the risk of changes in social, political, legal and economic conditions inherent in international operations. Examples of risks inherent in transacting business worldwide that we are exposed to include:

 

uncertainties and instability in economic and market conditions caused by the United Kingdom’s (the “U.K.”) exit from the E.U. (“Brexit”);

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uncertainty regarding how the U.K.’s access to the E.U. Single Market and the wider trading, legal, regulatory and labor environments, especially in the U.K. and E.U., will be impacted by Brexit, including the resulting impact on our business and that of our clients;

 

changes in and compliance with applicable laws and regulatory requirements, including U.S. laws affecting the activities of U.S. companies abroad, including the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977 and sanctions programs administered by the U.S. Department of the Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control, and similar foreign laws such as the U.K. Bribery Act, as well as the fact that many countries have legal systems, local laws and trade practices that are unsettled and evolving, and/or commercial laws that are vague and/or inconsistently applied;

 

difficulties in staffing and managing global operations, which could impact our ability to maintain an effective system of internal control;

 

difficulties in building and maintaining a competitive presence in existing and new markets;

 

social, economic and political instability;

 

differences in cultures and business practices;

 

statutory equity requirements;

 

differences in accounting and reporting requirements;

 

repatriation controls; 

 

differences in labor and market conditions;

 

potential adverse tax consequences;

 

multiple regulations concerning immigration, pay rates, benefits, vacation, statutory holiday pay, workers’ compensation, union membership, termination pay, the termination of employment, and other employment laws; and

 

the introduction of greater uncertainty with respect to trade policies, tariffs, disputes or disruptions, the termination or suspension of treaties, boycotts and government regulation affecting trade between the U.S. and other countries.

One or more of these factors has and may in the future harm our business, financial condition or results of operations.

The United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the E.U. may adversely impact our operations in the United Kingdom and elsewhere.

In fiscal 2020, 10.6% of our fee revenue was recognized in the U.K. On January 31, 2020, the U.K. left the E.U. and is now in a transition period through December 31, 2020. Although the U.K. will remain in the E.U. single market and customs union during the transition period, the long-term nature of the U.K.’s relationship with the E.U. is unclear and there is considerable uncertainty as to whether any agreement will be reached and implemented. The political and economic instability created by Brexit has caused and may continue to cause significant volatility in global financial markets and uncertainty regarding the regulation of data protection in the U.K. In particular, although the U.K. enacted a Data Protection Act in May 2018 that is consistent with the GDPR, uncertainty remains regarding how data transfers to and from the U.K. will be regulated. Brexit could also have the effect of disrupting the free movement of goods, services, and people between the U.K., the E.U., and elsewhere. Brexit could lead to legal uncertainty and potentially divergent national laws and regulations as the U.K. determines which E.U. laws to replace or replicate. Further, uncertainty around these and related issues could lead to adverse effects on the economy of the U.K. and the other economies. At this time, we cannot predict the impact Brexit will have on our business generally and our U.K. and European operations more specifically, and no assurance can be given that our operating results, financial condition and prospects would not be adversely impacted by the result. Brexit and any uncertainty with respect thereto could adversely impact customer demand and create significant currency fluctuations. In addition, we could be adversely impacted by changes in trade policies, labor, tax or other laws and regulations, IP rights and supply chain logistics. We may incur additional costs as it addresses any such changes. All or any one of these factors could adversely affect our business, revenue, financial condition and results of operations.

26


The challenges that continue to surround the timing and terms of the U.K.’s exit from the EU and its consequences could adversely impact customer and investor confidence and relationships, result in additional market volatility and adversely affect our businesses and results of operations. These effects could derive from delays or reductions in contract awards, canceled contracts, increased costs, fluctuations in exchange rates, difficulty in recruiting or in gaining permission to employ existing staff, or less favorable payment terms.

The interest rates under our Credit Agreement may be impacted by the phase-out of LIBOR.

LIBOR is the basic rate of interest used in lending between banks on the London interbank market and is widely used as a reference for setting the interest rates on loans globally. We generally use LIBOR as a reference rate to calculate interest rates under our credit facility. In 2017, the U.K.’s Financial Conduct Authority, which regulates LIBOR, announced that it intends to phase out LIBOR by the end of 2021. It is unclear if LIBOR will cease to exist at that time or if new methods of calculating LIBOR will be established such that it continues to exist after 2021. The U.S. Federal Reserve, in conjunction with the Alternative Reference Rates Committee, a steering committee comprised of large U.S. financial institutions, is considering replacing U.S. dollar LIBOR with a new index, the Secured Overnight Financing Rate (“SOFR”), calculated using short-term repurchase agreements backed by U.S. Treasury securities. Whether or not SOFR, or another alternative reference rate, attains market traction as a LIBOR replacement tool remains in question. If LIBOR ceases to exist, we may need to amend our Credit Agreement to replace LIBOR with an agreed upon replacement index, and certain of the interest rates under our Credit Agreement may change. The new rates may not be as favorable to us as those in effect prior to any LIBOR phase-out.

Risks Related to our Dividend Policy

You may not receive the level of dividends provided for in the dividend policy our Board of Directors has adopted or any dividends at all.

We are not obligated to pay dividends on our common stock. Despite our history of paying dividends, the declaration and payment of all future dividends to holders of our common stock are subject to the discretion of our Board of Directors, which may amend, revoke or suspend our dividend policy at any time and for any reason, including earnings, capital requirements, financial conditions and other factors our Board of Directors may deem relevant. The terms of our indebtedness may also restrict us from paying cash dividends on our common stock under certain circumstances. See below “—Our ability to pay dividends is restricted by agreements governing our debt, including our Credit Agreement and the indenture governing our Notes, and by Delaware law.”

Over time, our capital and other cash needs may change significantly from our current needs, which could affect whether we pay dividends and the level of any dividends we may pay in the future. If we were to use borrowings under our Revolver to fund our payment of dividends, we would have less cash and/or borrowing capacity available for future dividends and other purposes, which could negatively affect our financial condition, our results of operations, our liquidity and our ability to maintain and expand our business. Accordingly, you may not receive dividends in the intended amounts, or at all. Any reduction or elimination of dividends may negatively affect the market price of our common stock.

Our ability to pay dividends is restricted by agreements governing our debt, including our Credit Agreement and indenture governing our Notes, and by Delaware law.

Both our Credit Agreement and the indenture governing our Notes restrict our ability to pay dividends. See “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations—Liquidity and Capital Resources,” where we describe the terms of our indebtedness, including provisions limiting our ability to declare and pay dividends. As a result of such restrictions, we may be limited in our ability to pay dividends unless we redeem our Notes and amend our Credit Agreement or otherwise obtain a waiver from our lenders. In addition, as a result of general economic conditions, conditions in the lending markets, the results of our business or for any other reason, we may elect or be required to amend or refinance our Revolver, at or prior to maturity, or enter into additional agreements for indebtedness. Any such amendment, refinancing or additional agreement may contain covenants that could limit in a significant manner or entirely our ability to pay dividends to you.

Additionally, under the Delaware General Corporation Law (“DGCL”), our Board of Directors may not authorize payment of a dividend unless it is either paid out of surplus, as calculated in accordance with the DGCL, or if we do not have a surplus, out of net profits for the fiscal year in which the dividend is declared and/or the preceding fiscal year.

If, as a result of these restrictions, we are required to reduce or eliminate the payment of dividends, a decline in the market price or liquidity, or both, of our common stock could result. This may in turn result in losses by you.

27


Our dividend policy may limit our ability to pursue growth opportunities.

If we pay dividends at the level currently anticipated under our dividend policy, we may not retain a sufficient amount of cash to finance growth opportunities, meet any large unanticipated liquidity requirements or fund our operations in the event of a significant business downturn. In addition, because a portion of cash available will be distributed to holders of our common stock under our dividend policy, our ability to pursue any material expansion of our business, including through acquisitions, increased capital spending or other increases of our expenditures, will depend more than it otherwise would on our ability to obtain third party financing. We cannot assure you that such financing will be available to us at all, or at an acceptable cost. If we are unable to take timely advantage of growth opportunities, our future financial condition and competitive position may be harmed, which in turn may adversely affect the market price of our common stock.

Risks Related to our Stockholders

We may be subject to the actions of activist stockholders.

Our Board of Directors and management team are committed to acting in the best interest of all our stockholders. We value constructive input from investors and regularly engage in dialogue with our stockholders regarding strategy and performance. Activist stockholders who disagree with the composition of the Board of Directors, our strategy or the way the Company is managed may seek to effect change through various strategies and channels. Responding to stockholder activism can be costly and time-consuming, disrupt our operations, and divert the attention of management and our employees from our strategic initiatives. Activist campaigns can create perceived uncertainties as to our future direction, strategy, or leadership and may result in the loss of potential business opportunities, harm our ability to attract new employees, investors, and customers, and cause our stock price to experience periods of volatility or stagnation. COVID-19 has caused a market dislocation which generally tends to increase this risk.

Our business could be disrupted as a result of actions of certain stockholders.

If any of our stockholders commence a proxy contest, advocate for change, make public statements critical of our performance or business, or engage in other similar activities, then our business could be adversely affected because we may have difficulty attracting and retaining clients due to perceived uncertainties as to our future direction and negative public statements about our business; responding to proxy contests and other similar actions by stockholders is likely to result in us incurring substantial additional costs and significantly divert the attention of management and our employees; and, if individuals are elected to our Board of Directors with a specific agenda, the execution of our strategic plan may be disrupted or a new strategic plan altogether may be implemented, which could have a material adverse impact on our business, financial condition or results of operations. Further, any of these matters or any such actions by stockholders may impact and result in volatility of the price of our common stock.

We have provisions that make an acquisition of us more difficult and expensive.

Anti-takeover provisions in our Certificate of Incorporation, our Bylaws and under Delaware law make it more difficult and expensive for us to be acquired in a transaction that is not approved by our Board of Directors. Some of the provisions in our Certificate of Incorporation and Bylaws include:

 

limitations on stockholder actions;

 

advance notification requirements for director nominations and actions to be taken at stockholder meetings; and

 

the ability to issue one or more series of preferred stock by action of our Board of Directors.

These provisions could discourage an acquisition attempt or other transaction in which stockholders could receive a premium over the current market price for the common stock.

Item 1B. Unresolved Staff Comments

Not applicable.

Item 2. Properties

Our corporate office is in Los Angeles, California. We lease our corporate office and all 111 of our offices located in North America, EMEA, Asia Pacific and Latin America, all of which are used by all of our business segments. As of April 30, 2020, we leased an aggregate of approximately 1.3 million square feet of office space. The leases generally have remaining terms of 1 to 10 years and contain customary terms and conditions. We believe that our facilities are adequate for our current needs, and we do not anticipate any significant difficulty replacing such facilities or locating additional facilities to accommodate any future growth.

28


From time to time, we are involved in litigation both as a plaintiff and a defendant, relating to claims arising out of our operations. As of the date of this report, we are not engaged in any legal proceedings that are expected, individually or in the aggregate, to have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition or results of operations.

Item 4. Mine Safety Disclosures

Not applicable.

Information about our Executive Officers

 

Name

 

Age as of April 30, 2020

 

 

Position

Gary D. Burnison

 

 

59

 

 

President and Chief Executive Officer

Robert P. Rozek

 

 

59

 

 

Executive Vice President, Chief Financial Officer and Chief Corporate Officer

Mark Arian

 

 

59

 

 

Chief Executive Officer, Consulting

Byrne Mulrooney

 

 

59

 

 

Chief Executive Officer, RPO Professional Search & Digital

 

Our executive officers serve at the discretion of our Board of Directors. There is no family relationship between any executive officer or director. The following information sets forth the business experience for at least the past five years for each of our executive officers.

Gary D. Burnison has been President and Chief Executive Officer since July 2007. He was Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer from March 2002 until June 30, 2007, and Chief Operating Officer from November 2003 until June 30, 2007. Prior to joining Korn Ferry, Mr. Burnison was Principal and Chief Financial Officer of Guidance Solutions, a privately held consulting firm, from 1999 to 2001. Prior to that, he served as an executive officer and a member of the Board of Directors of Jefferies and Company, Inc., the principal operating subsidiary of Jefferies Group, Inc. from 1995 to 1999. Earlier, Mr. Burnison was a Partner at KPMG Peat Marwick. Mr. Burnison earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Southern California.

Robert P. Rozek joined the Company in February 2012 as our Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer and, in December 2015, also became our Chief Corporate Officer. Prior to joining Korn Ferry, he served as Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of Cushman & Wakefield, Inc., a privately held commercial real estate services firm, from June 2008 to February 2012. Prior to joining Cushman & Wakefield, Inc., Mr. Rozek served as Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of Las Vegas Sands Corp., a leading global developer of destination properties (integrated resorts) that feature premium accommodations, world-class gaming and entertainment, convention and exhibition facilities and many other amenities, from 2006 to 2008. Prior to that, Mr. Rozek held senior leadership positions at Eastman Kodak, and spent five years as a Partner with PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP. Mr. Rozek is a graduate of Canisius College in New York with a bachelor’s degree in accounting.

Mark Arian joined the Company as Chief Executive Officer of Korn Ferry’s Advisory segment in April 2017 and is now the Chief Executive Officer of Consulting. Prior to Korn Ferry, Mr. Arian served as a Managing Principal at Ernst and Young LLP, a multinational professional services firm that provides audit, tax, business risk, technology and security risk services, and human capital services worldwide, from March 2014 until March of 2017. In that capacity, he led the People Advisory Services—Financial Services Sector, and his responsibilities included commercial, people and key account leadership. Between 2008 and 2014, Mr. Arian held various leadership positions at AON and AON Hewitt, a provider of insurance, reinsurance, human capital and management consulting services, serving as an Executive Vice President and leading its strategic Mergers and Acquisitions (“M&A”) and business transformation offering globally. Mr. Arian has also held various leadership positions at Towers Perrin (now Wills Towers Watson) including serving as the Global M&A and Global Change Management leader, and Hewitt Associates, where Mr. Arian built and led the Corporate Restructuring and Change Practice. Mr. Arian is a graduate of Duke University and holds a juris doctorate from Columbia University.

Byrne Mulrooney joined the Company in April 2010 as Chief Executive Officer of RPO & Professional Search and in March 2017 also became the Chief Executive Officer of Digital. Prior to joining Korn Ferry, he was President and Chief Operating Officer of Flynn Transportation Services, a third-party logistics company, from 2007 to 2010. Prior to that, he led Spherion’s workforce solutions business in North America, which provides workforce solutions in professional services and general staffing, including recruitment process outsourcing and managed services, from 2003 to 2007. Mr. Mulrooney held executive positions for almost 20 years at EDS and IBM in client services, sales, marketing and operations. Mr. Mulrooney is a graduate of Villanova University in Pennsylvania. He holds a master’s degree in management from Northwestern University’s J.L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management.

29


PART II.

Item 5. Market for Registrant’s Common Equity, Related Stockholder Matters and Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities

Common Stock

Our common stock is listed on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol ‘KFY’. On July 8, 2020, there were approximately 15,258 stockholders of record of the Company’s common stock.

Performance Graph

We have presented below a graph comparing the cumulative total stockholder return on the Company’s shares with the cumulative total stockholder return on (1) the Standard & Poor’s 500 Stock Index and (2) a company-established peer group. Cumulative total return for each of the periods shown in the performance graph is measured assuming an initial investment of $100 on April 30, 2015 and the reinvestment of any dividends paid by the Company and any company in the peer group on the date the dividends were paid.

Our peer group is comprised of a broad number of publicly traded companies, which are principally or in significant part involved in either professional staffing or consulting. The peer group is comprised of the following 12 companies: CBIZ, Inc. (CBZ), FTI Consulting, Inc. (FCN), Heidrick & Struggles International, Inc. (HSII), Huron Consulting Group Inc. (HURN), ICF International, Inc. (ICFI), Insperity, Inc. (NSP), Kelly Services, Inc. (KELYA), Kforce Inc. (KFRC), Resources Connection, Inc. (RECN), Robert Half International, Inc. (RHI), Willis Towers Watson Plc (WLTW) and TrueBlue, Inc. (TBI). We previously included Navigant Consulting, Inc. in our peer group, but as a result of it ceasing to be a public company on October 14, 2019 as a result of its acquisition by Guidehouse, we have removed it from our peer group and is no longer included in the table below. We believe this group of professional services firms is reflective of similar sized companies in terms of our market capitalization, revenue or profitability, and therefore provides a more meaningful comparison of stock performance. The returns of each company have been weighted according to their respective stock market capitalization at the beginning of each measurement period for purposes of arriving at a peer group average.

The stock price performance depicted in this graph is not necessarily indicative of future price performance. This graph will not be deemed to be incorporated by reference by any general statement incorporating this Annual Report on Form 10-K into any filing by us under the Securities Act of 1933 or the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, except to the extent we specifically incorporate this information by reference and shall not otherwise be deemed soliciting material or deemed filed under the Securities Act of 1933 or the Securities Exchange Act of 1934.

COMPARISON OF 5 YEAR CUMULATIVE TOTAL RETURN(*)

Among Korn Ferry, the S&P 500 Index, and a Peer Group

Copyright© 2020 Standard & Poor's, a division of S&P Global. All rights reserved.

 

(*)

$100 invested on April 30, 2015 in stock or index, including reinvestment of dividends. Fiscal year ended April 30, 2020.

30


Capital Allocation Approach

The Company and its Board of Directors endorse a balanced approach to capital allocation. The Company’s first priority is to invest in growth initiatives, such as the hiring of consultants, the continued development of IP and derivative products and services, and the investment in synergistic accretive M&A transactions that earn a return superior to the Company's cost of capital. Next, the Company’s capital allocation approach contemplates the planned return of a portion of excess capital to stockholders, in the form of a regular quarterly dividend, subject to the factors discussed below under “Dividends” and in more detail in the “Risk Factors” section of this Annual Report on Form 10-K. Additionally, the Company considers share repurchases on an opportunistic basis and subject to the terms of our Credit Agreement. See Note 10— Long Term Debt for a description of the Credit Agreement.

Dividends

On December 8, 2014, the Board of Directors adopted a dividend policy, reflecting an intention to distribute to our stockholders a regular quarterly cash dividend of $0.10 per share.

The declaration and payment of future dividends under the quarterly dividend policy will be at the discretion of the Board of Directors and will depend upon many factors, including the Company’s earnings, capital requirements, financial conditions, the terms of the Company’s indebtedness and other factors that the Board of Directors may deem to be relevant. The Board of Directors may amend, revoke or suspend the dividend policy at any time and for any reason.

Stock Repurchase Program

On March 6, 2019, the Board of Directors approved an increase in the Company’s stock repurchase program of approximately $200 million, which brought our available capacity to repurchase shares in the open market or privately negotiated transactions to approximately $250 million. Common stock may be repurchased from time to time in open market or privately negotiated transactions at the Company’s discretion subject to market conditions and other factors. The Company repurchased approximately $92.4 million, $37.4 million and $33.1 million of the Company’s common stock during fiscal 2020, 2019 and 2018, respectively. Any decision to execute on our stock repurchase program will depend on our will depend on our earnings, capital requirements, financial condition and other factors considered relevant by our Board of Directors. The Credit Agreement, dated  December 16, 2019,  permits us to pay dividends to our stockholders and make share repurchases so long as there is no default under the Credit Agreement, the consolidated net leverage ratio, which uses adjusted EBITDA is no greater than 4.25 to 1.00, and the pro forma liquidity is at least $50 million. Furthermore, our Notes allow the Company to pay $25.0 million of dividends per fiscal year with no restrictions plus an unlimited amount of dividends so long as the Company’s consolidated total leverage ratio is not greater than 3.50 to 1.00 and the Company is not in default under the indenture governing the Notes.

Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities

The following table summarizes common stock repurchased by us during the fourth quarter of fiscal 2020:

 

 

 

Total Number of

Shares

Purchased (1)

 

 

Average

Price Paid

Per Share

 

 

Total Number of

Shares

Purchased

as Part of

Publicly-

Announced

Programs (2)

 

 

Approximate

Dollar Value of

Shares that

May Yet be

Purchased

under the

Programs (2)

February 1, 2020 February 29, 2020

 

 

113,000

 

 

$

38.65

 

 

 

113,000

 

 

$178.3 million

March 1, 2020 — March 31, 2020

 

 

709,619

 

 

$

28.37

 

 

 

706,569

 

 

$158.3 million

April 1, 2020 — April 30, 2020

 

 

989

 

 

$

23.33

 

 

 

 

 

$158.3 million

Total

 

 

823,608

 

 

$

29.77

 

 

 

819,569

 

 

 

 

(1)

Represents withholding of 4,039 of restricted shares to cover taxes on vested restricted shares in addition to 819,569 shares repurchased as part of our publicly announced programs.

(2)

On March 6, 2019, our Board of Directors approved an increase to the share repurchase program to an aggregate of $250 million. The shares can be repurchased in open market transactions or privately negotiated transactions at the Company’s discretion. The share repurchase program has no expiration date.

31


Item 6. Selected Financial Data

The following selected financial data are qualified by reference to, and should be read together with, our “Audited Consolidated Financial Statements and Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements” and “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations” appearing elsewhere in this Annual Report on Form 10-K. The selected statements of income data set forth below for the fiscal years ended April 30, 2020, 2019 and 2018 and the selected balance sheets data as of April 30, 2020 and 2019 are derived from our audited consolidated financial statements, appearing elsewhere in this Annual Report on Form 10-K. The selected balance sheets data as of April 30, 2018, 2017 and 2016 and the selected statement of income data set forth below for the fiscal years ended April 30, 2017 and 2016 are derived from audited consolidated financial statements and notes thereto which are not included in this Annual Report on Form 10-K.

 

 

 

Year Ended April 30,

 

 

 

2020(1)

 

 

2019

 

 

2018

 

 

2017

 

 

2016

 

 

 

(in thousands, except per share data and other operating data)

 

Selected Consolidated Statements of Income Data:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fee revenue

 

$

1,932,732

 

 

$

1,926,033

 

 

$

1,767,217

 

 

$

1,565,521

 

 

$

1,292,112

 

Reimbursed out-of-pocket engagement expenses

 

 

44,598

 

 

 

47,829

 

 

 

52,302

 

 

 

56,148

 

 

 

54,602

 

Total revenue

 

 

1,977,330

 

 

 

1,973,862

 

 

 

1,819,519

 

 

 

1,621,669

 

 

 

1,346,714

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Compensation and benefits

 

 

1,297,994

 

 

 

1,311,240

 

 

 

1,199,057

 

 

 

1,065,659

 

 

 

891,472

 

General and administrative expenses

 

 

258,957

 

 

 

351,991

 

 

 

237,390

 

 

 

226,232

 

 

 

213,018

 

Reimbursed expenses

 

 

44,598

 

 

 

47,829

 

 

 

52,302

 

 

 

56,148

 

 

 

54,602

 

Cost of services

 

 

85,886

 

 

 

75,487

 

 

 

73,658

 

 

 

71,482

 

 

 

59,824

 

Depreciation and amortization

 

 

55,311

 

 

 

46,489

 

 

 

48,588

 

 

 

47,260

 

 

 

36,220

 

Restructuring charges, net (2)

 

 

58,559

 

 

 

 

 

 

78

 

 

 

34,600

 

 

 

33,013

 

Total operating expenses

 

 

1,801,305

 

 

 

1,833,036

 

 

 

1,611,073

 

 

 

1,501,381

 

 

 

1,288,149

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Operating income

 

 

176,025

 

 

 

140,826

 

 

 

208,446

 

 

 

120,288

 

 

 

58,565

 

Other (loss) income, net

 

 

(2,879

)

 

 

10,405

 

 

 

11,416

 

 

 

10,661

 

 

 

(4,778

)

Interest expense, net

 

 

(22,184

)

 

 

(16,891

)

 

 

(13,832

)

 

 

(14,607

)

 

 

(3,394

)

Income tax provision

 

 

43,945

 

 

 

29,544

 

 

 

70,133

 

 

 

29,104

 

 

 

18,960

 

Net income

 

 

107,017

 

 

 

104,796

 

 

 

135,897

 

 

 

87,238

 

 

 

31,433

 

Net income attributable to noncontrolling interest

 

 

(2,071

)

 

 

(2,145

)

 

 

(2,118

)

 

 

(3,057

)

 

 

(520

)

Net income attributable to Korn Ferry

 

$

104,946

 

 

$

102,651

 

 

$

133,779

 

 

$

84,181

 

 

$

30,913

 

Basic earnings per share

 

$

1.91

 

 

$

1.84

 

 

$

2.39

 

 

$

1.48

 

 

$

0.58

 

Diluted earnings per share

 

$

1.90

 

 

$

1.81

 

 

$

2.35

 

 

$

1.47

 

 

$

0.58

 

Basic weighted average common shares outstanding

 

 

54,342

 

 

 

55,311