The Role of the Researcher

Jessica iddon role of a researcher

Insight

By Jessica Iddon, Associate at Azura Search

The Role of the Researcher

Azura Search has a centralised research team which plays a key role in delivering our partner-led approach and real value for our clients. What does it mean to be a researcher at Azura Search? We ask Jessica Iddon, who joined the team in 2017.

Jessica iddon role of a researcher
Jessica Iddon, Associate at Azura Search

How would you describe your role?

I’m a researcher here at Azura Search, and it’s an exciting role because every day is different. I support the partners at every stage of their searches for our clients. I join them at briefings with the client, so I can understand what they’re looking for and capture that in our search. I help conduct the search, leveraging our network and database as well as market mapping to find the right talent. I assist with the interviews on the phone and in person, as well as writing up shortlist notes and preparing presentations to share back with the client. It’s a full delivery process and being involved throughout helps me to add value in what I do.

I also lead on market research for some clients. Recently I worked on a report that explored the calibre of candidate pool that a client was looking to hire from. It shared various graphs with them to highlight the type of people who might be interested in working for them, their market rate, skill repertoire, where they are based and so on.

On an ongoing basis, I keep in touch with all the people I’ve met, so we can act consultatively for them. I might broker an informal coffee meeting for a candidate we know is looking, together with someone we know might be interested in working with them.

It’s a fast-paced role - sometimes towards the end of the day, I look at the clock and wonder how on earth it’s 5:30 pm. 

What do you enjoy about the role?

Working alongside the partners every day is a great opportunity because you can learn so much from them. Development is important here at Azura Search – the partners really make sure you’re learning. Being part of the executive search process from start to end allows me to really understand what the client’s needs are. Every search is different, and you must deal with it as such. It’s very rewarding being able to see the value you bring to the clients and the impact you’re making on their business.

What skills do you need in your role?

The approach at Azura Search is very personable, and the nature of our service makes this avery people-oriented role. The ability to build relationships with very high calibre individuals is essential. You meet some great people in this role and it’s a fantastic opportunity being able to support them. When working on multiple searches at any one time, attention to detail, the ability to prioritise and be process-driven ensures that everything runs smoothly and we satisfy our clients. The role appeals completely to my skillset.

How do you support the wider team?

Everyone at Azura Search is acting as one team – we all play a crucial part and without each other, the wheel wouldn’t turn. The support I offer to the team is an essential part of the value we deliver to our clients, and I understand how my work can make the best impact. We researchers aren’t tucked away in a back office – we’re alongside the partners, representing the brand and finding every opportunity to enhance the service for our clients.

What’s it like to work for Azura Search?

This is a really great team to work with. Everyone works hard, and we support each other. If someone is struggling, we pitch in, and if someone is strong at something, we learn from them. The people at Azura Search are great and the purpose of the business in terms of supporting our charitable foundation; The Altum Foundation makes it all worthwhile. We all really get on and there’s a good family feel. That’s part of our success.

 

To learn more about Azura Search and our team, visit our home page. If you’re interested in the career opportunities that Azura Search has to offer, get in touch.

The Modern Leader

the modern leader

Insight

By Melanie Clark, Managing Director at Azura Search

The Modern Leader

The world of business has changed. Digital transformation, globalisation and changing economic and political environments have created unprecedented challenges and opportunities for organisations. So what does the modern leader need to succeed? What are companies looking for from their next CEO or CFO? Melanie Clark, Managing Director of Azura Search shares the insights she has acquired from managing the executive searches for some of the world’s leading brands.

Melanie Clark, Managing Director at Azura Search

A change in culture

Most organisations have shifted their culture away from a traditional, ‘top-down’ approach to one which is far more collaborative. As a result, the role of a leader has also changed, and those who can demonstrate their ability to lead by example and empower a team are increasingly attractive. For individuals hoping to secure a CFO position, this is particularly important. As an increasingly vital business partner, the CFO now finds themselves at the forefront of an organisation’s growth and transformation. It has become even more essential for finance professionals looking for a senior management role to demonstrate their ability to lead and collaborate. 

Skills and experience in demand

Technology has changed the business landscape, particularly in finance, where automation has freed up capacity for teams to offer a more consultative service. Firms expect senior leaders across all divisions to be more technologically advanced and have a good understanding of how to leverage progress for the benefit of the company. However, it is the softer skills which are increasingly important for today’s executive search. Companies want leaders who can:

  • Inspire others
  • Manage a range of personalities
  • Influence key stakeholders
  • Debate constructively
  • Be a true partner to the CEO

The trend points towards leadership ability being the top priority. We hear from many clients that so long as a candidate is an inspirational leader and have the required experience, they can be taught the nuances of the industry and still make a success of the role. This opens the door to more organisations hiring their senior management from outside the industry, particularly in listed businesses. An added benefit of doing so is that these candidates also offer a fresh perspective to the company. In terms of experience, companies are particularly keen to see finance professionals who have ‘war stories’ and experience of change. They want passionate people with a hunger to progress, but who have already been through periods of substantial transition and all the challenges that come with it. 

Filling the skills gap

It has become increasingly popular for senior-level professionals to use coaches to help them hone their leadership skills. Businesses themselves are taking leadership development more seriously, and where possible, candidates should take advantage of any consultancy or training available on subjects such as team development, hiring for success and resilience. More often than not, today’s modern leader acts as ‘an agent of engagement’, where their role is as much about enabling the right people to connect to solve the problem as it is about strategy. While it is essential for a CFO to have a good awareness of the latest digital trends, the business does need specialist knowledge in the form of a Head of E-Commerce or a Chief Digital Officer, to improve technology and the use of it commercially. This draws on their ability to orchestrate and enable others. The rewards of digital transformation are obvious - 56% of CEOs surveyed by Gartner say their digital improvements have already increased profits. But there’s an increasing awareness that this transformation isn’t just about technology - it’s about people.

The way of working

Working arrangements are certainly evolving, especially for women. There’s no longer an expectation that all staff must be in the office, 9am - 6pm, Monday - Friday, there’s much more opportunity to be flexible, thanks to technology. Some of the people we work with are able to work from home one day a week, or come in early and leave early. However, at a senior management level, there is no denying that leaders still need to be visible in the office to be inspiring managers

A change in the recruitment process

Despite all the change we’ve seen to office culture and leadership style, little progress has been made in the recruitment process for most organisations – it is still quite antiquated. At Azura Search, we’re trying to make the process more agile. Increasingly, we find that we arepartnering with businesses who also have an appetite to break the mould. Our entrepreneurial approach is a great match for theirs, and we’re receiving great support for the way we work. These inspirational, personable leaders have an increasingly modern approach, as do we.

 

If you are considering your next leadership role, or you’d like to discuss your company’s needs, please don’t hesitate to email me: [email protected]

An Update From Amsterdam

Amsterdam update

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.

Advancing my career at Azura Search

Career Stories

By Melanie Clark, Managing Director

Advancing my career at Azura Search

Melanie Clark is Managing Director of Azura Search. In our interview with Melanie, we learn about the path that brought her here, what she’s achieved so far and what it’s really like to progress your career at Azura Search.

Melanie Clarke, Managing Director at Azura Search

Tell me about your role here

As Managing Director of Azura Search, it’s my role to build a brand for an executive search business that has been successfully operating for six years within the Altum Group. I want Azura Search to be well known in the industry as a highly reputable international search firm and maximise our potential to give back to our charitable foundation; Altum Foundation.

What were you doing before this?

Before I joined Azura Search I was the Business Director of the executive search division within a FTSE 250 recruitment consultancy. I was keen to build on my experience of working in a larger company, the rigour that brings, and use it in a boutique environment. My previous employer also had an entrepreneurial culture that stood me in very good stead to join and scale a fast-growing boutique firm.

"The opportunity to build a new brand from what was already a hugely successful practice was one I couldn’t pass up."

Our Charitable Foundation

Why did you decide to progress your career at Azura Search?

I had known Altum Group’s co-founder, David for many years, and he came to me and sold me the vision of what he wanted to create for the business. I was wowed by the success they’d already seen in their first six years - they had a truly international scope and a huge number of leading brands among their clients. The opportunity to build a new brand from what was already a hugely successful practice was one I couldn’t pass up.

On meeting more of the team, I realised the people here are essential to that success. I really believed in what we could create together - I could see myself forging a successful career within Azura Search and contributing to the wider Altum Group as a board member.

What have been the challenges since you came onboard?

The first challenge was deciding on a visual brand that reflected who we want to be. We identified with the Northern Lights because they’re so rare - our modern approach in the traditional world of executive search is similarly unique.

The next challenge for me was in bringing some rigour in the way we deliver for our clients in a relatively young business. I worked really hard for the first few months to make sure we had an efficient engine room so that we could get searches right first time, and at pace. It was essential to do that without stifling our entrepreneurial spirit, so I had to find a balance.

What have the highlights been for you, since you came on board?

The biggest highlight was beating our targets in the first quarter - we really exceeded expectations, and that was a big achievement so early in my tenure here.

It’s been amazing to see the buy-in that we’ve had from everyone we’ve met - they really believe in our story, our purpose and our approach. The feedback we’re getting is that this is the right time to be offering a fresh approach to executive search - that kind of response is exciting.

It’s also been great to work with such big brands on their senior-level roles. To secure a great CFO for a very well-known company so soon after joining was very rewarding.

What does 2020 have in store for you?

2020 will be all about getting the Azura brand out in the market. We want to see some real buzz about the great service we provide and hear people talking about the way we’re shaking up the executive search industry.

We’re growing the business, so we’re also looking to take on new executive search consultants who want to make their career at Azura Search. I’m genuinely excited about growing the business and doing that with all the values I hold dear, alongside some very talented people.

Who would do well in a career at Azura Search?

It’s a lovely culture - everyone works hard here, but we have a giggle. The talent we’ve been able to attract has blown me away, and I think it’s down to the culture we’ve fostered here.

At Azura Search, we work as a team and people genuinely want to help each other.  As a result, it’s a fun and supportive environment.

There really is a clear and achievable progression route to partner here. We have an Operations Director who is dedicated to offering learning and development opportunities and she’s one of the best trainers I’ve ever met in our industry. The training and support you’ll receive at Azura Search is incredible, and I think that’s quite rare in a boutique firm.

To learn more about the team and the opportunities we have available at Azura Search contact Mel via email at [email protected]

The rise of the boutique executive search firms

Industry News

By Melanie Clark, Managing Director

The rise of the boutique executive search firms

Learn why boutique executive search firms like Azura Search are becoming increasingly popular in the hunt for leadership talent.

“Against the rising tide of technological advances, executive search remains a people industry. Hiring managers continue to seek the professional advice of a consultant they can trust to fill their senior leadership roles. Yet, a subtle shift is moving many of those hiring managers away from the traditional big-name firms."

Melanie Clark, Managing Director of Azura Search.

The popularity of boutique executive search firms

Increasingly, organisations are looking to boutique executive search firms to source talent for their most senior positions. Clients explain to us that they’re looking for a more personalised service - the ‘one size fits all’ process of the past no longer fits them. Boutique firms, which have the agility and flexibility to adapt more closely to their needs, are now in demand.

Efficient solutions

The boutique executive search firms also offer a compelling advantage in this highly competitive market - speed. Larger firms working with many clients often have more protracted searches, as well as stringent processes that allow little flexibility on timings. Clients demand swift results, and expect to pay on performance, rather than according to a fixed timescale.

"Boutique firms, which have the agility and flexibility to adapt more closely to clients’ needs, are now in demand.”

Melanie Clark, Managing Director of Azura Search.

Managing budget

With a raft of increasingly intelligent online tools available to any internal hiring manager, the decision to take recruitment in-house is a consideration for many companies. However, the time saving from using a boutique executive search firm is a substantial benefit, which in many cases can offset any financial savings made from clients undertaking their own recruitment. It takes specialist expertise to source the right person for a senior role, and these positions are ones that a business cannot afford to get wrong.  The boutique search firms also have long standing relationships with industry leaders, this is our world, and we are ready to make proactive approaches as a result.

A consultative approach

Increasingly we find that clients seek advice on a broader range of business matters. Being positioned to offer a more personalised service affords the boutique executive search firm the ability to consult to clients on their organisational structure and succession planning, for example. This personalised approach means boutique firms can truly understand the client’s business, to hear their needs and maintain the relationship needed to build an effective partnership.

The Azura Search difference

Azura Search wanted to offer something truly unique to the boutique executive search firm landscape. We have a partner-led approach with a central delivery team. Each client is served by a dedicated Partner who takes care of their search, from receiving instruction through to placing the candidate.

This structure allows us to deliver searches in the UK and internationally at speed. We don’t hand the search to a local team, who might lose the message or misinterpret the client’s needs. We’re able to serve our international businesses in a much smarter way.

With a very selective number of clients, we have fewer restrictions on the candidates we can source, meaning we can offer a far more diverse pool of talent, on a global basis. Diversity is important to Azura Search, and we have programmes in place to research and map new talent around the globe for our clients.

Looking ahead

We’re an international search firm, that makes us very resilient to what could potentially happen in the UK around issues like Brexit. With our experience placing 150 roles in 26 countries, we’re well placed to support some of the largest and newest businesses alike.”

For more industry insights, visit our News & Insights section. If you have an exec level position that you’d like to fill, please get in touch.