Industry News

By Paul Thompson, Principal at Azura Search

An Update From Amsterdam

Paul Thompson is a Principal at Azura Search in our Amsterdam office, leading our international executive search business from our European hub. We learn what the Azura Search Amsterdam office has been working on this year, what lies ahead for 2020, and what trends Paul has observed in the international search space.


Paul Thompson
Paul Thompson, Principal at Azura Search

Why did Azura Search choose to open an Amsterdam office?

Amsterdam is a very popular choice for larger international companies to house their European headquarters, due to its excellent links to continental Europe. Having an operation in Amsterdam helps us work with our global clients’ European operations. Amsterdam also has a thriving scale-up scene too, most of whom are looking for senior finance professionals to help them build a robust finance function, contribute to growth or manage an exit process. 

What has your focus been here in the Netherlands this past year?

Since I joined the business a year ago, my focus has been on building a portfolio of clients and working on retained searches to source CFO-level candidates. There have also been several interesting searches in the digital, ecommerce and data. My focus here is international, sourcing candidates for senior leadership roles in Europe, Asia and even the Dutch Caribbean!

Although our group business, Altum Consulting, is 6 years old, the Azura Search brand is new to the market here, so I have also been raising awareness of our brand in the Netherlands and in our international markets. Prior to this role, my positions were more UK focused, so being able to do business internationally has been challenging, exciting and very rewarding. 

What has the reaction been to Azura Search?

I have been really pleased to see how positive the reception has been from international clients based in the Netherlands and further afield. Much like the UK, here in the Netherlands the larger recruitment consultancies are very well established, but companies are moving away from that traditional approach and are looking to boutique executive search firms like ours to get a personal touch, agility and speed. Our clients enjoy the sense that they’re working directly with the people leading the business, rather than being handed over to others to handle the search. They also appreciate the fact that our business is based in both London and Amsterdam - we have a truly international presence. The plan for 2020 will be to continue raising awareness of Azura Search and continue to grow the business.

What trends are affecting business here in the Netherlands?

 A number of international companies with European headquarters in the Netherlands have been through significant restructuring and transformation. Many have outsourced parts of their finance team. The big challenge this creates from a hiring perspective is in maintaining a proper recruitment process when filling senior roles, and not just giving the role to the first candidate that comes across the desk. 

Despite Brexit fears, the finance market is quite buoyant in the Netherlands. Many businesses here and across the continent are focusing on their finance but also digital strength and hiring in e-commerce and data at a senior level. At the CFO level, it’s a very competitive market with good opportunities for candidates in their job search. Clients need to present themselves as an attractive proposition to source the best candidates.

The technology, media and retail sectors are very buoyant at present, as are the many scale-ups based here in Amsterdam. It’s a big market, with lots of opportunity. 

What can we learn back in the UK from what you’re doing over here?

In the Netherlands, employment law is quite different to the UK, and many professionals are initially contracted on a one-year term. This creates a fluid market and attracts a very transient, international talent pool. That’s what strikes me most about Amsterdam as a city - just how international its population is. Companies here seem to have a far greater appetite for attracting international talent, particularly at the senior level. This makes for a far more diverse talent pool and is something I think companies in the UK could learn from.