Case Studies

CEO/COO / Family office


The Challenge


Our client was the principal of one of the wealthiest families in Europe and in the Forbes top 50 globally. We had got to know him through his time as a corporate board member. What had resonated with him was that we said what we thought was in the best interests of the client, and not just what was easiest to say or what they wanted to hear. Having sold the family-owned operating company, he spent around two thirds of his time running a financial holding company. He needed a CEO quality individual, happy to be a COO and propose strategy to the board, and run the businesses day to day without needing to take the limelight.


Our Approach


Not many of our assignments are more dependent on personal chemistry than this one; importantly, someone too much in the principal’s own image was not suitable either. Thus, we spent considerable time with both the principal and his closest advisors at the beginning of the assignment to educate ourselves on the personality and culture of the family as best as possible.

Our brief was to identify an individual of the highest institutional standard, to help the financial holding company develop a world beating business. It comprised five firms, each of which had mature, entrepreneurial business leaders in their own right. When this was combined with the need for no one to outshine the principal, it required a character prepared to take all of the responsibility but none of the credit.

In our research of the market, financial firms were given consideration as they were arguably the most relevant to the business today; however, there was a natural bias to the industrial/commercial world because this was the direction of travel over a three to five year period. This was also partly as we wanted to avoid appointing someone that would try to replicate or fulfil any of the roles of the respective business leaders.

After an extensive search and considerable interviews, we narrowed it to a final three candidates. Firstly, a CFO that had grown up in one of the world’s largest conglomerates and had expertise aligned to the heritage operating company’s sector, where many of the future investments would be. Secondly, the COO of a family run financial firm with breadth across the sector. Finally, the COO of a nearly 300 year old family holding company with interests in diverse sectors.

The third individual played back to us what the role probably entailed, giving a clearer summary of the brief than either we or the principal were able to convey. He also brought with him the structured approach and authority that the relatively new, organically growing financial holding company needed. Importantly, as the candidate and principal were very different personalities, they were complementary and it fostered a mutual respect. The principal was won around when he decided the candidate would induce him to make the changes that he might not always want to make, but knew he probably should – in the best interests of future generations of his family.

The lead independent director of the holding company board worked with us on the financial negotiations with the candidate to avoid any potential clash with the principal. Independent third parties were also used to conduct impartial valuations of some of the candidate’s existing financial interests to ensure complete objectivity.


The Outcome


The new COO was appointed and he has since developed a manner of diplomatically but successfully confronting what were previously perceived as unapproachable dilemmas within the organisation in a fair and decisive style. In addition, he has involved one or two of the other family members more than before and made the activities of the holding company more inclusive. This has better represented the interests of all family members and acted as a healthy, natural check and balance on occasion. While the principal had before felt overly consumed with having to tend to the day to day management of the businesses, he now has an inherent trust that they are well tended to, and can be more selective on when and where to be involved.

 

General Counsel


The Challenge


One of the largest global banking groups, an existing board level client of many years, discussed with us that it would need to start succession for its General Counsel in the relatively near future. At the same time, we were undertaking a search to find a Washington literate independent director to join their board.


Our Approach


What we had learnt from advising other global banks, was that it was no longer enough to approach strategic questions in entirely the same way as they had previously.

A few years before, on a top level legal search, we had met a candidate from the US Treasury with an outstanding legal mind and training, plus presence and authority. On that occasion, we concluded his background was too orientated toward the global financial system; and in the event he was also unusually asked to remain in situ, post the change in Presidential administration. This individual was now actively seeking a new executive assignment and we arranged for him to meet the Chairman of our client, partially to help give context to the non-executive candidates, but also as prospective General Counsel.

Through the bank board and being an independent director of another international group with significant US exposure, the Chairman had a sophisticated sense of what the US business environment can demand in extreme circumstances. When he met the individual in question, they clicked – the Chairman recognised that because he was from a different world to the bankers, he was complementary to them and could translate for them a Washington language that they did not fully understand.

The Chairman agreed that our candidate should meet the CEO, as the General Counsel was a part of his executive team; the CEO immediately saw the potential value that this individual could bring to the board’s government and regulatory questions. However, the CEO rightly needed reassurance that the business’ legal risks would also be managed, and needed to make the comparison with what he would get from individuals that had spent some, or all of their career, as a bank General Counsel.

We researched the market and agreed four candidates for the CEO to meet: two existing Group General Counsels of European headquartered global banks, an American in a very senior role with a global European-headquartered bank with diverse experience across the Americas and Asia; and an existing US bank Group General Counsel with a background in the White House.

Our initial candidate had benchmarked well against them; however, his political connections could prove a double-edged sword, and the role would have to be reconstructed to accommodate his credentials (namely, that he had no prior in house banking or corporate experience). In order to satisfy the bank that there would not be any adverse political reaction, we engaged a political risk consultancy. Their probing of their high level contacts gave us confidence that there would be no negative consequences from the appointment.

For the second aspect, we drafted a brief which focused the role on advice to the CEO and board, which gained approval from the Chairman and CEO. While the role retained oversight for the legal function, an existing member of the legal team was elevated to holding responsibility for day to day management of legal for all the businesses and operations.


The Outcome


The initial candidate was appointed with the authority of a mandate won in an open contest with the global marketplace. After successfully navigating a steep learning curve in the first year, the new General Counsel has flourished as an integral and invaluable member of the top team.

 

Manufacturing Director / Privately owned group


The Challenge


Our client was a mid-sized manufacturing group with an outstanding heritage and ambitious growth plans for the future. However, their recent rapid expansion had left their factory itself struggling to keep up with demand and the operations needed to be modernised without compromising on quality or losing the skilled and long-serving workforce.


Our Approach


The first challenge was to understand the group’s growth plans and whether the manufacturing facility could realistically deliver the demands that were going to be placed on it. This included visiting the plant and getting a feel for the culture and approach of the workforce, many of whom had worked with the group for years.

We then drew up a specification for the role which made clear the specific challenges the group was facing and the softer as well as hard skills that were required. We were deliberately open about the manufacturing sector candidates could come from as it was clear that the challenge was going to be to find someone who would fit into a very particular culture which prized quality at the expense of virtually everything else, including efficiency.

We then began our search, sourcing heavily into companies that had strong traditions but which had been able to adapt to a more modern automated high volume approach without compromising quality along the way. This included but was not limited to areas such as aerospace and luxury automotive.


The Outcome


The shortlist of candidates came from a wide-range of industry sectors. However, all had been through exactly the sort of cultural transformation that our client needed to go through and all understood how to keep a workforce engaged and motivated during a major change programme. The successful candidate came from the automotive sector and was able to help our client modernise and improve efficiency whilst retaining both the focus on quality and the people and skills the business still needed.

 

Women in Finance / Global banking group


The Challenge


The client was a leading global banking group where the Group CFO wanted to build stronger succession planning for the Finance Management Committee, particularly focusing on enhancing the overall bench strength and providing a greater degree of diversity of thought via a pipeline of female talent. This was part of a broader agenda at the Bank to increase diversity, and the Group CFO in particular wanted to make Finance the pinnacle for gender diversity within the organisation.


Our Approach


Critical for this type of project is to establish the key credentials and experience required by the Bank a priori of gender. We then sought to translate these into a brief so as to reassure female candidates that their potential appointment would not be tokenism. As part of this process, we encouraged the Client to think about specific areas within Finance that were of particular interest, be it functional, divisional or geographic. Whilst relatively broadly defined, we combined these criteria with some core skill sets beyond technical abilities: including leadership potential, change management experience and influencing skills, all of which were key for the journey the Bank was on. We consulted the client on the different approaches of targeting women within areas where they already had momentum to build on, or focusing on areas where they felt particularly exposed from a diversity perspective.

Next, we started developing a ‘rolling’ shortlist of relevant and interested candidates, which we continued to update on a quarterly basis with a view to developing a pipeline of talent. To identify such a pool of female candidates, we searched the available marketplace and developed a shortlist of ‘best in class’ individuals drawn from competitor and other relevant organisations globally. We gathered detailed information on their career history, responsibilities, capabilities and future potential, through informal referencing and interviews.

Beyond merely establishing the quality of the candidates’ credentials, we utilised our extensive knowledge of the institution, both strategically and culturally to ascertain their potential fit and likelihood of building a long-term career with the Bank. Drawing on our existing deep relationships within the institution, both at Board level and through the executive ranks, we were able to attract women to the table who had not previously engaged in an external dialogue. Moreover, we found that the longer-term nature of the engagement, both with us and with the client, made them more comfortable compared to a shorter, more transactional interaction would have done.

This enabled us to put forward candidates in two separate ways:

In some cases, we were able to attract talent relatively quickly, because of the flexibility and buy-in from across the organisation, which allowed us to help refine the role description and remit to suit the individual candidate’s experience. We sought to attract individuals into roles where they could have immediate impact. While developing a network across the business, the individual candidates would be engaged in a parallel dialogue around which additional strings they would like to add to their bow. We would also ensure that the candidates felt comfortable that they would be given the needed sponsorship and mentorship by the Group CFO alongside a sense of the timeline for their career progression.

As part of a longer term agenda, we established and maintained a dialogue with individuals we thought suitable for the Bank, but not immediately available, in some cases over a one to three year period; as a consequence we gradually created a pipeline of candidates enabling us, and the Bank, to respond quickly, as and when a relevant position or urgent need arose.


The Outcome


The Group CFO was impressed by the quality of talent attracted through this process. Several hires have been made, including at Finance Management Committee level, and the early hires are already showing their potential, having taken on expanded remits within short time frames.

 

CEO / Fortune 100 telecoms business


The Challenge


Our client was a multinational Fortune 100 business where the CEO had decided to stand down, although this was neither known nor anticipated in the market. The Board had a strong internal candidate to succeed him but not all were convinced that he was ready for the role; they were keen therefore to take a comprehensive global look externally to find the best person to take the business forward at a pivotal point in its evolution.


Our Approach


We kicked off the process by spending time individually with the Chairman, the CEO and each of the Nominations Committee members to get their perspectives on the challenges the business faced and the optimal profile for the incoming CEO. At the same time, we arranged background briefings with selected analysts and experts to deepen our understanding of industry dynamics and their implications. Based on these inputs, we crystallised a brief for the role that was signed off by the Nominations Committee.

Next, we developed a shortlist of external candidates with the right profile who could be interested. To do this, we used our existing authority and knowledge of the market, together with global research in both our client’s broadly defined industry as well as in adjacent and analogous sectors, to develop a comprehensive audit of the external landscape and to identify possible candidates. We then approached our longlist of candidates to gauge their possible interest in such a role – without disclosing our client’s identity – and interviewed them to assess their detailed fit with the desired profile. From this, we developed and agreed with the Nominations Committee a recommended shortlist of three candidates to approach formally and prepared detailed reports on each, highlighting their experience and capabilities.

In parallel, we conducted a detailed assessment of the internal candidate. We briefed him to produce a structured CV together with a note outlining his vision for what he would do as CEO. We then interviewed him across two 2-hour sessions to probe his experience and credentials for the role. Based on this, we produced a comprehensive report on him for the Nominations Committee, laying out his credentials for the role, benchmarking his strengths and weaknesses against the external candidates and highlighting the key issues for them to explore in their own discussions.

The Chairman and Nominations Committee then met with the internal and lead external candidates to form their own perspectives on each candidate’s fit with the brief and what the business needed and identify their preferred option.


The Outcome


The Nominations Committee were excited by and aligned with the vision the internal candidate laid out and, with the help of our assessment, gained the confidence that he would rapidly grow into the role. They therefore decided to choose him and his succession was duly announced, without any prior external comment that a process had been underway. Since his appointment, the business has performed consistently well, with its share price outperforming its two key sector peers by 40% and 60% respectively.

CEO / FTSE 100 financial services business


The Challenge


Our client was a prestigious FTSE 100 financial services organisation looking for a new CEO. The business had been struggling to establish a clear sense of strategic direction and to maintain performance momentum in a complex and fast-changing market, where competitive boundaries where being redefined. The Board were clear therefore that the choice of the new CEO was an absolutely pivotal one. They had three internal candidates but wanted in parallel to explore the best external options that they could attract.

 

Our Approach


We kicked off the process by spending time individually with the Chairman, the outgoing CEO and each of the Nominations Committee members to get their perspectives on the challenges the business faced and the optimal profile for the new CEO. At the same time, we arranged background briefings with selected analysts and experts to deepen our understanding of industry dynamics and their implications. Based on these inputs, we crystallised a brief for the role that was signed off by the Nominations Committee.

We then conducted structured global research and sourcing both in our client’s sector as well as in adjacent parts of the financial services industry, to develop a comprehensive audit of the external landscape and to identify interesting individuals. We then approached our potential candidates to gauge their possible interest in such a role – without disclosing our client’s identity – and conducted detailed competency-based interviews with over 25 of them to assess their detailed fit with the desired profile. From this, we developed and agreed with the Nominations Committee a recommended shortlist of five candidates to approach formally and prepared detailed reports on each, highlighting their experience and capabilities; these were an Italian, a Lebanese, a Frenchman, a South African and an Englishman. The Chairman conducted initial interviews and agreed two lead candidates to proceed to interviews with the rest of the Nominations Committee.

In parallel, we conducted a detailed assessment of the internal candidates. We briefed them to produce structured CVs together with notes outlining their vision for what they would do as CEO. We then interviewed them across to probe their experience and credentials for the role. Based on this, we produced a comprehensive report on each for the Nominations Committee, benchmarking strengths and weaknesses against the external candidates and highlighting the key issues to explore in their own discussions.

The Chairman and Nominations Committee then met with the internal and lead external candidates to form their own perspectives on each candidate’s fit with the brief and what the business needed and identify their preferred option. Based on these discussions, they concluded that both external candidates were significantly stronger than the internal options and selected the one that they feltw would provide the transformational leadership required.


The Outcome


The preferred candidate accepted their offer to become CEO and he has proved to be an excellent appointment. The business has become a proactive shaper of its industry landscape, making a number of bold strategic moves to reshape its footprint, whilst significantly enhancing operational performance. Its share price has outperformed the FTSE 100 index by 75% since his appointment.

 

CFO / Fortune 100 pharmaceutical business


The Challenge


Our client was a Swiss-based Fortune 100 business and leader in its sector, looking to find a new CFO to replace a long-standing and externally highly respected incumbent. The Chairman and CEO were convinced that they had no compelling internal candidates. They asked a leading international search firm to help them but were unhappy with the quality of the candidates they came up with and so they came to us to lead a new global search for the best external option.

 

Our Approach


We kicked off the process by spending time individually with the Chairman, the CEO and the CHRO to get their perspectives on the challenges the business in general and the Finance function in particular faced and in that context to explore the optimal profile for the incoming CFO. Based on this, we agreed the brief for the role.

Having understood the candidates that had already been covered by the first search, we conducted comprehensive global research both in our client’s industry as well as in analogous sectors, to develop a full audit of the external landscape and to identify potential new candidates. We then approached the most promising individuals to gauge their possible interest in such a role and willingness to relocate to Switzerland – without disclosing our client’s identity at this stage – and interviewed about 20 candidates to assess their detailed fit with the desired profile. From this, we developed our longlist of most attractive options.

We discussed this longlist with the CEO and CHRO and agreed a shortlist of six candidates that he wanted to meet; of these, three were from outside the sector and there was a broad spread of nationalities (three Germans, one American, one Dutchman and one Englishman). Having spoken to the candidates to reveal who our client was and to confirm their continued interest, we then arranged initial interviews and provided detailed reports on each candidate.

The CEO quickly honed in on two individuals that he was most excited by, both of whom then met the Chairman. They mutually agreed their preferred candidate and we then supported them through an extensive and delicate process of securing his release from his existing contract with a DAX 30 industrial business in Germany, as well as working through the practicalities of relocation for the new CFO and his family.


The Outcome


The CFO has settled in well, making a particularly strong impact with investors whilst quickly establishing himself as the strategic business partner that the CEO was looking for.

 

CMO / FTSE 100 financial services business


The Challenge


Our client was an international FTSE 100 business, looking to strengthen its marketing capabilities. One of our partners has deep experience of designing marketing organisations across sectors, and so we were asked for our advice on the pros and cons of different organisational options.

After a number of discussions, the client decided to establish its first real Group Marketing team and asked us to recruit for them a Chief Marketing Officer.


Our Approach


Our first task was to help crystallise the role and responsibilities of this new role, and to develop an agreed profile for the optimal candidate. We explored, with the CEO and all members of his executive team, how the new team could add value, and then worked with the Group HR Director to define the job scope and accountabilities.

We also discussed with two top team members who had recently joined from outside into group roles, their perspectives on the cultural characteristics successful candidates would need. Based on these inputs, we finalised our brief for the role.

We used our broad and deep knowledge of top marketing talent around the world, supplemented by targeted research in both our client’s broadly defined industry as well as in sectors with similar marketing challenges and roles, to identify possible candidates.

We had an interim review with the CEO and Group HR Director to review examples of different types of candidate, and used this to refine our primary areas of focus.

We then approached our target candidates and interviewed them to assess their detailed fit with the desired profile. From this, we developed and agreed a recommended shortlist of four candidates for the Group HR Director and the CEO to meet and prepared detailed reports on each, highlighting their experience and capabilities, as well as conducting extensive referencing on them. This shortlist comprised two British candidates, one American and one Italian.

We provided support throughout the process of interviews, providing feedback to the candidates as well as relaying any concerns or issues the candidates had to the client, and advised the client on their final selection of their preferred candidate. We then helped in the contract negotiations to ensure that this candidate was successfully landed.


The Outcome


The appointment has been seen as having highly positive impact, with a major rebranding programme delivered and significant steps takento enhance the marketing skills across the Group. The successful candidate has subsequently gone on to be recognised as one of the leading figures in the Marketing Community.

 

Company Secretary / Fortune 100 telecoms business


The Challenge


Our client was an international Fortune 100 business, looking to hire a new Company Secretary. The existing Company Secretary, who was retiring, was also the General Counsel but the business felt that the combined role was now too big for one individual and so launched two searches – one, with us, for the Company Secretary role and another, with a different firm, for a General Counsel.

 

Our Approach


We started by gaining input from the Chairman, CEO and CHRO on their expectations of the new Company Secretary and hence the optimal candidate profile; we also spoke to the retiring Company Secretary/General Counsel. In these discussions, it became clear that whilst the Chairman and the incumbent felt the role should be split, the CEO was ambivalent, acknowledging that the combined role was challenging but seeing real value in having someone with oversight across the two areas. We therefore did some research that highlighted, in each quartile of the FTSE 100, how often these roles were combined and what the trends were. From this analysis, he concluded that the case for separation was not clear cut.

Nevertheless, we focused on a search for a new Company Secretary as requested. We used our existing broad and deep knowledge of this marketplace, supplemented by targeted further research, quickly to identify a longlist of possible candidates, including rising stars in big companies looking for the first no.1 role, proven Company Secretaries from smaller businesses and heavyweight candidates who had played the combined role in big multinationals.

We reviewed this longlist with the Chairman and CEO and agreed four candidates for the client to interview; two of these were heavyweight options who were willing to consider the pure Company Secretary role but with the credentials to make a broader contribution. It quickly became clear to both the Chairman and the CEO that one of these was an outstanding candidate, who could comfortably fulfil the combined role and so they decided to offer her this position.


The Outcome


Since joining the business, the new Company Secretary/General Counsel has gone from strength to strength, not only injecting new energy and authority across both halves of her brief, but expanding her role over time to include other related areas. She is regarded as a pivotal voice on the Executive Committee and a source of wise counsel to the Board.

 

HR Director / Private Equity B2B Services business


The Challenge


Our client was a Private Equity-backed B2B services business that needed to hire a new HR Director, initially to help drive the transformation of its core UK operation but then to expand the role to include action as the CHRO of the total enterprise.

 

Our Approach


We started by gaining input from the Private Equity owner, the Group CEO and the UK MD on the challenges facing the business, the priorities for the new HR Director and the optimal candidate profile. These discussions not only enabled us to crystallise and agree the brief but also to ‘sell’ the opportunity in the most compelling way possible in the marketplace.

We then began our research, drawing both on our broad existing knowledge of leading HR talent together with structured mapping and sourcing both in our client’s sector as well as in adjacent and analogous areas. Based on this, we interviewed nearly 30 potential options, using depth competency-based discussions to gauge their fit with the brief. We presented a longlist of 10 lead candidates to the client and agreed a shortlist of 5 for them to interview. These candidates brought a range of sectoral experience and profiles, ranging from proven CHROs attracted by the PE environment to rising stars, keen on the challenges of a no.1 role and a transformational agenda.

We produced detailed reports on each of these 5 individuals and provided support throughout the process of interviews, giving feedback to the candidates as well as relaying any concerns or issues they had. The client came down to a choice of two options and we argued strongly for the selection of a young rising star; we then helped in the contract negotiations to ensure that this candidate was successfully landed.


The Outcome


Since joining the business, the new HR Director has done extremely well, quickly having real impact in the UK and stepping up to the broader group role. His combination of blue-chip functional expertise and real commercial savvy is proving extremely effective.