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’.
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 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.