Case Studies

NED / UK small-cap service business


The Challenge


Our client was an international industrial business in the FTSE Small Cap, seeking to strengthen its Board through the appointment of two Non-Executive Directors; one appointee was to replace a retiring Director and one would constitute an additional member of the Board.


Our Approach


Through detailed briefings with the Chairman, Senior Independent Director and Chief Executive we identified the ideal profile for the first non-executive. This process enabled us to understand the strategic priorities, opportunities and risks for the business. The Chairman had identified a specific skill set missing amongst the existing Board in this context. Through our own analysis we identified some additional skills and experience that would be beneficial. The combination of these formed the final person specification approved by the Board and on which we based our search. It became clear part way through the search process that there was a need for broader Board succession and as a result we agreed a second brief for the additional role.

The respective profiles we searched for were: a Senior Director with a track record of international growth combined with functional sales and marketing experience; and an experienced non-executive director, with international B2B services credentials. Through a vigorous and structured research process we identified candidates from relevant backgrounds, based in the UK and overseas. We approached potential candidates to ascertain appetite and capacity. After agreeing a shortlist of four candidates for the first role, interviews began. Shortly afterwards, a shortlist of two for the second role was agreed and interviews ran concurrently. The combined shortlist contained candidates from China, the US, Italy and the UK, and was 40% female. The shortlisted candidates met the Chairman and Senior Independent Director initially, who narrowed it down to a total of four candidates. Subsequent meetings then took place with the other Board members, the CEO and the CFO, from which the two preferred candidates were selected.


The Outcome


Two candidates were successfully appointed and both have joined the Board. The company is performing on target, with results in line with the Board’s expectations. It is benefitting from the fresh perspective and experience of its new Board members.

 

NED / CAC 40 industrial group


The Challenge


Our client was a CAC 40 French industrial group with global operations. The Board was largely comprised of French nationals and the Chairman wanted to internationalise the Board and to ensure sufficient gender diversity. This was the first time they had used head-hunters to recruit new Board members and they wanted very deliberately to look beyond the ‘usual suspects’.


Our Approach


We began the process by spending time individually with the Chairman and the Nominations Committee members to get their perspectives on the challenges the business faced and the optimal profile for the new Board member. We also met with key executives to familiarise ourselves further with the culture and commercial challenges of the business itself. Based on these inputs and our own thoughts, we drafted a brief for the role that was signed off by the Nominations Committee and formed the basis of the search.

The next challenge was to determine what particular skills, experiences and personal style would fit the Board. The brief was set deliberately wide and therefore judging personality fit was going to be crucial. It was unlikely to be a good opportunity for someone with little or no Board-level experience, but at the same time the successful candidate needed to bring a different mind-set and approach from the rest of the Board.

We therefore looked widely geographically, focusing on candidates with previous Board experience who were comfortable speaking their mind but sufficiently culturally aware to ensure they gained the respect of their Board colleagues. Strong finance credentials proved to be critical. Shortlisted candidates came from South Africa, Latin America, US, UK and Continental Europe.


The Outcome


The Chairman and the Nominations Committee were surprised by the quality and breadth of the candidates and three of the shortlist met the rest of the Board as they had difficulty deciding which one to take. In the end the Board decided to appoint two new Directors rather than the original brief of one.

 

NED / UK Government


The Challenge


Our client was the UK government and, in particular the Cabinet Office. The incoming coalition government was committed to setting up a new Department Board for each of the 17 government departments. Each Board would be chaired by the relevant Secretary of State and would be attended by junior ministers from the department, the Permanent Secretary and their senior team and four Independent Directors, mostly from the private sector.


Our Approach


We worked closely with Lord Browne, the Government Lead Independent Director, to define both the skills required in each department and the messages to be given to potential candidates. The government was keen for the Boards to be up and running as soon as possible, so speed was critical.

Focusing initially on the Lead Independent Director for each department, we contacted some of the most senior figures in UK business, explaining what the government was trying to do and the role of the new Boards. We then broadened the search out to cover a range of skills that each department required as we build a team for each department. All of this had to be done at extreme speed whilst being handled sensitively and respecting confidentiality.

We met regularly with Lord Browne and senior civil servants as the new teams of Independent Directors came together, ensuring that political and business agendas and timetables and priorities were matched effectively across dozens of appointments.


The Outcome


The new Departmental Boards were up and running quickly with Lead Independent Directors including the Chief Executives of Standard Chartered, Centrica and Kingfisher. The overall skill-set of each Board was mapped to the strategic needs of the department and diversity, particularly of gender, was a strong focus with 35% of the appointments being women.

Once the initial appointments had been made we continued to fill in gaps as well as replace Board members as they rotated off and advise on skill gaps as departmental priorities shifted.

Chairman / Not for profit


The Challenge


Our client was a UK-based not for profit organisation that promotes the work of a particular group of professionals and encourages young people to study the subject. The successful and long-serving Chairman was preparing to retire and the Board were looking for his replacement. The position was high-profile and reasonably time consuming but unremunerated.


Our Approach


As this was an unremunerated role, the core challenges were to work out an effective way of ‘selling’ the opportunity and the potential of the organisation to candidates and to use our network and knowledge of the plans of senior individuals to determine who might be interested and available.

Working with the Chief Executive, we put together a core group of messages for potential candidates that highlighted the attractions of the role. We also discussed extensively internally who might be right for it and how and who might most effectively approach them. We approached small number of potential candidates whom we knew would have the availability and potentially the appetite. There was a high hit rate and the client was able to meet a strong shortlist of five candidates which included figures from the world of academia, politics and business.


The Outcome


The new Chairman, who came from a commercial background and had run a multi-billion organisation, was the unanimous choice of the Board and the Nominations Committee. Since joining he has made a substantial impact on the organisation, raising its profile at the highest levels of government and business, reforming the governance structure and building a strong relationship with the Chief Executive. We continue to work with the organisation in the recruitment of new Board members.

 

Chairman / Fortune 100 telecoms business


The Challenge


Our client was a UK-based international Fortune 100 business, where the Chairman was planning to stand down. The business had performed well under his watch, although a couple of activist investors had recently taken modest stakes and questions were being raised about
the long-term strategy for and shape of
the group.

The Board was keen therefore to find a strong, surefooted successor to the Chairman role.


Our Approach


The business was one we knew well, having conducted its Board work over several years. Nevertheless, we started by speaking individually with the Senior Independent Director (who was leading the process), the Chairman, CEO and each Nominations Committee member to get their thoughts on the major challenges facing the business and the Board, their expectations of the role of, time commitment from and priorities for the new Chairman and, in that context, the desired profile, experience and capabilities of the optimal candidate.

Based on these discussions, we agreed a brief that was signed off by the full Board.

Given the scale and complexity of the business, the field of potential candidates was a relatively tight one. We used structured research and our own existing market experience to identify candidates in the UK, North America and Continental Europe with the capabilities and potential capacity to play the role. We approached them (initially on a ‘no-names’ basis, to preserve confidentiality) to gauge their appetite and interest for this sort of opportunity.

We then discussed our emerging longlist of possible candidates with the Nominations Committee and agreed a shortlist of five individuals formally to be approached. The shortlists contained candidates from the US, Germany and India, as well as from the UK.

The shortlisted candidates met initially with the Chairman and, separately with the CEO to check how well the chemistry between them worked. Based on his feedback, together with our initial references, three individuals were selected for interviews with the rest of the Nominations Committee.

From these interviews, the Committee unanimously selected a preferred candidate; he was then approved by the Board, who had been kept abreast of the process at every stage. When the appointment was announced; the name of the chosen Chairman (and the other shortlist candidates) had been successfully kept confidential throughout the process.


The Outcome


The new Chairman has now been in place for approaching three years, during which time the business has performed well in a challenging market.

Investors are happy with the progress being made on the key strategic issues, whilst the relationship between the Chairman and CEO – who did not previously know each other – is a constructive and productive one.

 

NED / FTSE 100 industrial business


The Challenge


Our client was an international FTSE 100 industrial business, looking to refresh and strengthen its Board with the addition of two new Non-Executive Directors to fill seats becoming vacant through planned retirements.


Our Approach


Our first step was to work with the Chairman, CEO and Nominations Committee to agree the desired profiles for the two roles. To do this, we had one-to-one briefings with each of them to synthesise the key challenges and priorities facing the business and hence crystallise the key capabilities the Board would require. We then analysed the Board composition and highlighted key gaps versus these capabilities and, based on these gaps, developed proposed briefs for the new Non-Executive directors. The Nominations Committee signed off these briefs, which then formed the basis for our subsequent search work.

Our search focused on two core profiles: a business leader with a strong engineering background and potential; and an experienced Plc leader, with international business-to-business credentials. For each role, we used structured research to identify candidates in the UK, North America, Continental Europe and Asia with the capabilities and potential capacity. We approached them (initially on a ‘no-names’ basis) to gauge their appetite and interest for this sort of opportunity. We then agreed with the Nominations Committee a shortlist of three to four candidates for each role to be interviewed. The shortlists contained candidates from the US, Germany and India, as well as from the UK.

The shortlisted candidates met initially with the Chairman and, separately, with the CEO. They narrowed the focus down to two lead candidates for each role who subsequently met with the rest of the Nominations Committee. From this, the Nominations Committee selected their preferred options for the two roles.


The Outcome


Both candidates have now joined the Board and are making a highly valued contribution to the business, which continues to outperform its sector peers.

NED / FTSE 250 consumer goods business


The Challenge


Our client was a FTSE 250 consumer goods company that needed to refresh and strengthen its Board through the recruitment of four new Non-Executive Directors over a 12 month period to replace recent or imminent retirees.

 

Our Approach


Our first step was to develop a clear sense of the collective capabilities required across the four appointments. To do this, we had one-to-one briefings with each Director to explore the key challenges and priorities facing the business and hence crystallise the key capabilities the Board would require. In addition, we agreed the personal characteristics that would make individuals a good fit with the Board. We then analysed the Board composition and highlighted key future gaps versus these capabilities and, based on these gaps, developed proposed briefs for the new Non-Executive directors. The Nominations Committee signed off these briefs, which then formed the basis for our subsequent search work.

Our search initially focused on two core profiles: a seasoned audit chair and an individual bringing current or recent international sector experience. For each role, we used structured research and informal referencing to identify candidates with the capabilities, potential capacity and cultural fit. We agreed shortlists for each of these two roles and supported the Nominations Committee’s interviews, from which they selected their preferred candidates.

Based on these initial two appointments, we then refined the desired profiles for the remaining two positions, focusing on a current or recent CEO with experience of leading international expansion and an individual with strong consumer and customer credentials. Given that one of the first two appointments had been of a woman, we were keen to ensure that one of this subsequent pair was also female, so that the Board was appropriately diverse and better matched its consumer base. Again we supported the Nominations Committee through the process, which led to the appointment of two excellent candidates.


The Outcome


The process of Board refreshment was successfully completed, with the new Directors adding valuable experience and fresh thinking but also maintaining the Board’s open, collegial but challenging culture. The business continues to see strong share price growth and is the most respected in its sector.