Longtime EY agribusiness exec joins advisory Kearney

Rob Dongoski says he will also look for opportunities to work together with private equity firms in ways that were not possible as a member of SEC-regulated EY.

Longtime EY agribusiness executive Rob Dongoski has joined Chicago-headquartered consultancy Kearney as partner in its consumer industries and retail practice.

Kearny announced the hire in a statement that also noted the appointment of James Wilde as a partner in its consumer industries and retail practice. Wilde previously held an agribusiness focused role with EY Parthenon, a brand under which a number of EY member firms across the globe provide strategy consulting services.

Rob Dongoski
Rob Dongoski

Dongoski said his move to join Kearny came in part from a desire to try something new.

“I wasn’t too interested in continuing to do PowerPoint. I like the operational, real-world aspects of Kearny,” he told Agri Investor.

“I think of consumers sort of like the butterfly effect; they say they want to buy plant-based protein and that trickles all the way upstream.”

In addition, Dongoksi explained, the move away from his previous role allows him to pursue different opportunities, potentially including operating partner roles, which he had previously been prohibited from pursing.

“In the EY, SEC oversight world, there are some regulations that don’t allow you to do board work, or certain things in private equity. For me, moving to an unregulated environment was pretty important,” he said.

Leslie Parker, Americas lead for the consumer industries and retail practice at Kearney, said in a statement: “Rob’s deep knowledge of consumer food trends will play a vital role in deepening our firm’s abilities to help consumer goods companies regenerate their businesses and focus on consumers changing needs while also being planet-friendly and using regenerative agriculture practices. He brings extensive experience in agribusiness across seeds, crop protection, livestock, dairy and grain processing to Kearny’s growing agribusiness capabilities.”

The statement described Dongoski’s experience as including building the Global Agribusiness Center of a “Big Four consultancy” where he led a global team offering services including growth strategy, M&A, innovation and operating model improvement. According to his LinkedIn profile, Dongoski first joined EY as a Boston-based partner in 1996, a position he held until 2004 before a two-year stint at Fidelity Investments that was followed by a return to EY in 2006.

The profile describes a subsequent 17 years in Chicago-based positions that culminated in nine years as partner, and in a food and agribusiness leader position involving advisory, tax and transaction work.

At Kearney, Dongoski said, he expects his work to focus largely on the same groups of clients he has been working with at EY, including primary and secondary actors, crop input players, ag manufacturers and investment firms pursing commercial diligence on mergers and integration. All such clients, he added, have incentive to understand consumer trends.

“When you think about potential disruption in grocery and retail; changing format, changing customer access, that is going to be tied directly into what we do in supply chain. If all of a sudden, QSRs [quick eservice restaurants] are going to put out food trucks, then the question is: how are you going to get inventory to these food trucks?” he offered by example.

“On the other end of the value chain, when you think about something like regenerative agriculture, you have the potential to almost de-commoditize certain commodities. That will bifurcate a supply chain on that end as well, so we will be thinking through with those clients around storage, distribution and pricing.”