The Impact of Brexit on Executive Search

The Brexit “leave” vote was something of a surprise; now, we must wade through the short-term economic slide.

Sectors like financial services will undoubtedly see some companies’ European operations relocating away from the UK to locations within the EU single market. For the executive search industry, this is challenging situation — but challenge also provides opportunity. 

Certainly, within our industry, search, organizational design, and other leadership advisory services all will feel the impact of change. And, they’ll have the opportunity to benefit from it as well. In this current climate, businesses are quite likely to delay decisions on permanent hires and instead take a shorter-term approach. That means interim managers — a situation that will allow experienced professionals to come aboard and keep critical initiatives going, without representing a significant investment for the company. For managers experienced in such interim situations, this can be an ideal chance to demonstrate skill at navigating change within a company that is adapting to new sets of rules and processes.

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The UK’s economic prosperity relies on diversity, including talent imported from abroad. At the most senior levels, 70 percent of FTSE20 chairmen and 50 percent of CEOs are non-British, and the growing emphasis has been on attracting experience from growing markets, rather than from the more mature markets of Continental Europe. Withdrawal from the EU is unlikely to interrupt the ongoing recruitment of top-level leaders from other parts of Europe.

The most favorable news is that British business is adaptable and resilient; that’s a lesson of history. Around the globe, world leaders will wish to trade with us, and we absolutely should not shut our doors to them. After all, it’s primarily the political element of the EU that’s unpopular, not the economic one. Overall, the UK faces the option of sinking or swimming — and the former is entirely alien to the British psyche. It’s imperative that we focus on positives and fresh opportunities, and the executive search industry must play its own role in helping the UK prosper in an unexpected, uncertain future.   

Jonathan Hime is group managing partner, Marlin HawkMarlin Hawk is a leadership advisory and executive search firm that delivers the next generation of global business leaders. Covering three broad sectors -- commerce & industry, wholesale & retail, financial services, and professional services -- the firm focuses on Board, NED, C-suite, and senior executives. In addition to executive search and interim management, services include market intelligence & benchmarking, partnership programs, talent mapping & analysis, and leadership assessment & coaching. The emphasis is on insight, discovery, culture matching, and business transformation.

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