Azura Search Board Report

Jessica iddon role of a researcher

Azura Search Board Report

This is the first report produced by Azura Search examining the Executive and Non-Executive appointments made between November 2019 to October 2020. The research our team undertook covers a myriad of industries, only excluding the Financial Services, Insurance, and Investments industries.

As board diversity continues to  dominate the FTSE 350 agenda, we analyse the Executive and Non-Executive appointments that have been made by gender, ethnicity, and age, to give an insight into how inclusive the UK's biggest companies are.

Between November 2019 and October 2020 there were 241 board appointments in the FTSE 350 companies, comprising of 41 executive directors and 200 non-executive directors. Of those appointments 43% were female, 11% were Black, Asian or Minority Ethic (BAME) and 24% were under 50.

Thank you to the team that put this report together. To learn how we can help improve the effectiveness and performance of a board through our board advisory, board assessment and director recruitment services, please contact us today, [email protected]

Azura Search delivers Non-Executive Director Seminar

Jessica iddon role of a researcher

Azura Search Update

Azura Search delivers Non-Executive Director seminar

Earlier this month Azura Search hosted a virtual seminar that explored the route to achieving Non-Executive Director roles. The seminar was the first virtual event held by Azura and was attended by 26 aspiring non-executive directors.

The seminar was chaired by Melanie Clark, MD of Azura and had three guest speakers. First up was Liz Smith, Director at PwC, currently responsible for PwC’s FTSE 350 non-executive director programme, to share her insights with the attendees. Liz covered the practical element of the seminar including; where to look for non-exec appointments, what headhunters and Boards are looking for, how to present experience in a non-exec CV and the due diligence that needs to be done prior to accepting an appointment.

Next up we had Mark Smith and Lorna Tilbian sharing their experiences of being non-executive directors and how they progressed to Chair. They both provided valuable insight into what the roles entail, the importance of a strong network and the key skills that have enabled their success.

This seminar provided a lot of guidance into the process of becoming a non-exec. A key outcome was the evolution in the types of skills expected from a non-exec, including experience in digital, revenue, strategy, restructuring and transformation. Often a key requirement is being able to demonstrate outstanding leadership and humility, with mentoring being crucial for Chair positions.

 The Azura Search team has received fantastic feedback from the event, if you would like to learn more about our next event or how we can help you secure your first non-exec role please contact us [email protected].

Attendee feedback:

CEO – Leading Commercial Property Development, Management & Investment business: 
“The Azura Search Non-Exec Seminar was a very informative session for someone considering their first non-exec roles.  There was plenty of practical advice and guidance on the process of finding a suitable role and what life would be like as a non-exec.  This was combined with hearing first hand from 2 respected non-exec directors with multiple roles, which gave a good feel for the challenges and enjoyment non-exec roles bring.”

CEO – AIM listed Media Technology Consultancy:
“This was a very insightful seminar – very helpful in clarifying how these processes work, what Boards are specifically looking for, and appropriate types of companies to consider.  Time well spent!”.

 CEO – Global Media business:       
"I’ve been to a couple and thought this was by far the best - very practical and informative and thought-provoking for those considering a position alongside their exec role or building a portfolio career.  The accompanying booklet is very useful too.  Highly recommended.”

Ex EMEA CEO – Global Retailer:
“a brilliant breakfast seminar, really useful tips and the right balance ..congratulations”

CFO – Leading Telecommunications business:
“incredibly insightful and useful”

Azura Search grows team in Netherlands to keep pace with European demand

Jessica iddon role of a researcher

Azura Search Update

Azura Search grows team in Netherlands to keep pace with European demand

Azura Search, a leading modern executive search firm headquartered in London and Amsterdam, is pleased to announce the appointment of two strategic hires to strengthen the Netherlands team.

Azura Search is part of Altum Group which has had a presence in Amsterdam since 2016. In 2019, Azura Search expanded by opening its first overseas office in Amsterdam to partner with clients to deliver senior executive searches within Europe. Since the launch, the team has gone from strength to strength resulting in the expansion of the team to meet demand.

Natasja Lemmens joins Azura from sister company Alum Consulting. Natasja brings with her an extensive network and proven track record of delivering senior searches leading to a natural fit with Azura. Natasja will lead Azura’s focus on senior hires for clients in the growing NL Financial Services industry.

To further support the growth, Natasha Wint has been appointed to the centralised research and delivery team to help execute searches. Relocating from London, Natasha will be based in Amsterdam to coordinate executive searches within Azura’s board and finance practice areas.

Paul Thompson, Principal Europe, Azura Search said: “We are thrilled to have Natasja and Natasha join the Netherlands team. It further strengthens our established offering to the European market and will be key to delivering on client needs and objectives going forward.”

Over the last six months Azura Netherlands has delivered searches for numerous clients, including CFO, Commercial Finance Director, CTO, GM and Development Director within the FMCG and Technology sectors, proving that they are a trusted partner of choice throughout Europe.

For more information on how we partner with clients to deliver searches or to learn more about executive opportunities within Europe, please contact [email protected].

The time is now to approach leadership in a more human way

Jessica iddon role of a researcher

Industry Insight

The time is now to approach leadership in a more human way

The global pandemic has challenged businesses across all industries. It forced an abrupt disruption to how employees work, how customers and clients behave, how businesses perform, and it has ultimately challenged the way CEOs and senior executives lead.

During this time of increased uncertainty for businesses and their employees, the difference between a boss and a leader has emerged. Leaders are the ones who have recognised and connected to the human element and acted authentically, empathically, and ethically.

CEOs and senior executives face the challenge of balancing the needs of the business with the physical and mental wellbeing of their employees. Both are important for survival and success. Actively listening and including employees on the journey through the pandemic with openness, honesty and transparency will in the long run build trust, inspire a workforce and elicit loyalty.

In terms of leadership its likely there won’t be a return to normal, the pandemic has expedited the need for leading in a more human way. Successfully forging a new normality will rely on leaders collaborating with their employees to seek out the solutions for the best ways of working to increase productivity and ultimately profitability.

We need to stop hiring for culture fit.

Jessica iddon role of a researcher

Industry Insight

We need to stop hiring for
culture fit.

Azura Search partners with clients to help deliver their board and executive searches. The criteria for each search can vary wildly, however, a common requirement for a successful candidate is that they should be a good culture fit for the organisation.

On the surface this may appear a good strategy, however, hiring an executive that has the same set of values, expectations, and the same mindset as most of your leadership team could be problematic in the long run. Culture fit limits your candidate pool, often decreases diversity of thought in your workplace and can lead to your employee culture becoming stagnated.

Culture is a key differentiator for many organisations and needs to be strengthened with every key hire. A solution to this is implementing a ‘culture add’ strategy to your hiring process. Culture add evaluates the alignment between candidates and your organisation’s values, and seeks the value add from them joining your company. This approach inspires organisations to embrace innovation incrementally, allowing each new hire to be part of the culture building process. It also encourages organisations to challenge their unconscious bias’s by actively engaging with candidates from a variety of different backgrounds and demographics.

Azura Search champions a ‘culture add’ search process that also enables opportunity for leaders from differing backgrounds. When shortlisting board and executive candidates for clients, we pay attention to unique communication styles and thought processes, values, and interests that might help candidates add value above and beyond the current culture.

Please contact us today if you would like to learn more about adopting a culture add approach to your executive search, [email protected]

A Guide to Restructuring by Declan Guerin, Group Restructuring Officer / Divisional CFO, Rolls Royce Plc

Jessica iddon role of a researcher

Industry Insight

A Guide to  Restructuring 

By Declan Guerin, formerly Group Chief Restructuring Officer & Divisional CFO, Rolls Royce Plc

As the fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic continues to impact businesses many will need to adapt to survive. Melanie Clark, Managing Director of Azura Search recently spoke to Declan Guerin to gain his insight into how to go about restructuring during a crisis.

With over 25 years of international experience across capital goods and B2B services, Declan has a proven track record as an executive level business leader. In his most recent role as Group Chief Restructuring Officer at Rolls Royce Plc, Declan brought a long-term restructuring programme launched in early 2018 to a successful conclusion having substantially delivered on its objectives. 

Often when people think restructure, they immediately jump to cost cutting, however, there is much more to it than just cutting cost. In recent years there has been a big movement towards also restructuring culture and innovation.

“Rolls Royce Marine business dropped 50% in revenue and lost 35% of its people 2013 to 2017 but went from lowest employee engagement to highest”

In this restructuring guide Declan outlines his four stages of the restructuring process.

Assess situation:

1. What are the immediate mitigations?

a) Reduce cost expenditure / cash position fast;
      a. stopping all discretionary spending,
      b. stop / delay capital expenditure outlays,
      c. working capital actions; accelerate receivables collection, delay payments where contractually
      possible, review inventory replenishment levels etc.
      d. elevated approvals

b) Manage labour costs tightly:
      a. immediate hiring freeze, potential actions on working time reduction, deferred and
      reduced pay
      b. utilise government support schemes available e.g. furlough
      c. reduce contractor /agency levels and external spend on consultants etc.

c) Assess and manage immediate liquidity position
      a. Short term forecasts of cash in/out e.g. 13 week forecast,
      b. Medium-term assessment of available liquidity e.g. 3 year plan and address any shortfalls via new
      debt or equity funding (and a first view on potential structural actions needed)

d) Align executive team and Board around current situation, actions needed, implications, risks and trade-offs.

e) Set up dedicated team / control tower to provide clear visibility and daily management

2. Understanding the new normal

a) What are the impacts on your industry sector short-term / medium-term / long-term e.g. COVID-19 impact on tourism heavily negative short-term but probably neutral medium-term, impact on aerospace heavily negative short to medium term, online retailers heavily positive short-term etc.

b) Understanding these will drive decisions / actions needed and will be different per industry sector e.g. what is the expected sales outlook, what this means for profitability, is furlough labour enough vs. permanent job reductions, production capacity adjustments needed +/-, are there opportunities to grow organically or via M&A

c) Talent assessment : do you have the right leadership bench to deal with the new reality e.g. if turnaround do you have the gritty and more directive operational turnaround skills, if an opportunity to expand do you have market development skills etc.

Survival plan:

1. To understand the cure a proper diagnostic is needed
a) Market intelligence: what is the market situation short / medium / long-term and your position within that market i.e. structural changes to market, growth outlook, your market share relative to other players, pricing environment / pressures, channel development, potential disruption etc. This should result in a set of top line / sales scenario for you.

b) Business implications: the top line / sales scenario will give you a view of what cost position is needed to be viable going forward. This will then determine what scale of action is needed to direct costs, overhead costs, footprint, employee levels etc.

c) Internal assessment: poor performance often falls into the “self-help” category and the diagnostic should also address; management capabilities / bench-strength, financial management, sales efficiency, operations efficiency, culture etc.

2. Mobilising for action i.e. a coherent plan of execution
a) Develop an execution plan encompassing needed workstreams, workstream resources, key execution milestones etc. this will be granular and encompass job reductions, footprint, working capital, sales optimization, investment needs, cash/liquidity actions etc.
      i. Consider internal and external inter-dependencies i.e. between workstreams, customer and supply
      chain impacts etc. e.g. likely key customer and suppliers will be distressed too and important to avoid
      being used / squeezed as a “bank”.
      ii. Be holistic to ensure plan covers more than just cost i.e. are enabling investments needed, change
      management, people and culture, organization design etc.
      iii. Have an integrated financial plan covering all aspects of business as usual, restructuring actions and
      associated investments to ensure clear line of sight to progress and importantly, to liquidity (and
      potentially covenant) headroom

b) Appoint a CRO and establish a dedicated team / PMO to provide clear visibility on committed targets and daily / weekly management

c) Align executive team and Board around current situation, actions needed, implications, risks and trade-offs.

d) Manage other stakeholders appropriately e.g. investors, debt providers, government, customers, key suppliers, partners.

e) Tight governance essential: CEO owns and seen to own plan, role of CFO and CHRO important too, consider establishing a tight steering group to ensure decision and execution pace.

f) Communications internal (bring employee with you) and external (manage expectations etc.)

Re-Launch:

A longer-term viable path for the business should be developed in parallel with developing a survival plan. This is essentially a strategic exercise and will be around leveraging core capabilities, investment to new growth areas to capitalize on market growth and increase market share. The feasibility of this plan is linked to the ability of the organization to turn itself around and should not distract management attention from this.

The immediate crisis will also present opportunities to accelerate change through retiring older legacy product, accelerated digitalization, new business models, new technologies, ways of working, automation etc.

In terms of investor language this could also be called having a coherent “equity story”.

We hope you found this guide to restructuring useful. Thank you to Declan for putting it together and sharing his insights. If you have any questions for Declan or would like our help with your talent assessments please get in contact with Melanie today on [email protected].

The Altumate Experience: a year on from running the Sierra Leone Marathon

Jessica iddon role of a researcher

News Update

Azura Search

The Altumate Experience:
a year on from running the
Sierra Leone Marathon

This time last year 20 Altum Group team members had just crossed the finish line of the Sierra Leone Marathon.

This was an inspiring experience and one we will never forget. The challenge of running 26.2 miles across uneven terrain in 34-degree heat and 87% humidity was something none of us thought we would achieve, yet we all succeeded and the opportunity was made possible by the Altum Foundation and our long-term charity partner Street Child

On this trip we were able to see first-hand the amazing work Street Child does and visit the Altum Academy which was funded by the previous Altum Experience. It was eye-opening to see where all the funds our team had been raising was going and the impact it would have on the communities within Sierra Leone. Through the incredible support from our clients, candidates, friends, and family we raised over £37,000 for Street Child which has helped them to continue the remarkable work they do.

To read more about our marathon please visit: https://altumfoundation.org/altumate-experience-2019/

We documented the whole experience on film – it has brought back incredible memories which are helping us get through lockdown!

We hope you enjoy it !

Azura Search is part of Altum Group.

Azura Search Market Update – ten weeks into lockdown!

Jessica iddon role of a researcher

Market Update

Update from Melanie Clark

Azura Search Market Update  ten weeks into lockdown!

We celebrated the first year anniversary of our Azura Search brand this month. Azura Search is part of Altum Group which has been established for seven  years, however this was the first year since launching the new brand and what a fantastic year it has been. We have been overwhelmed by the support we have received from new and existing clients. The Azura team have made placements in 26 countries, completed 164 searches and have doubled in size.

Then Covid-19 hit and our team had to pull together to ensure we were still supporting our clients and candidates whilst working from home. It has been nine weeks now and we have got it down! 

During that time it was clear the first six weeks were crisis management,  businesses and their workforce's were trying to adapt and plan for the unknown, this meant searches  were on hold. We have noticed that we have now entered a new phase which is seeing businesses implementing their survival plans having now adapted to their new normal. As a result our team has seen an increase in activity with the signing of new retained searches, some existing searches pick up momentum and we have had an increase in the need for interim solutions.

Market update from each Azura practice;

Board Practice
    • During phase two of the lockdown we have seen an increase in enquiries for board and leadership assessments. From discussions this is due to the need for boards to assess if they have the experience to navigate through the new norm and often because the business is also needing to restructure or become more diverse with better digital offerings. We do this by assessing; Individual Performance, Leadership Succession, Strategy & Innovation and Stakeholder Management.
    • Some businesses are beginning to re-ignite board level searches due to sudden exits
    • There has also been a lot if interest in our Non-Exec Development support as board level executives ponder on weather their experience can help businesses during this period of change and beyond. In conjunction with PwC we are hosting our next bi-annual Non-Exec Development breakfast seminar in September, to help determine when, if and how to look for your first NED assignment or build a portfolio.
Finance Practice
    • Whilst CFO searches have begun to re-ignite, some at the level below are still on hold or moving very slowly. From client conversations we see this changing in the next month as many people will be staying at home for a lot longer and CFO’s are experiencing hugely increased work-loads. From discussions this will be a mix of permanent and interim hires as people can meet virtually and meet at a distant outside, depending on where they live.
    • Technology led and SME Founder owned or VC backed businesses are the main companies still hiring at executive level as they have weathered the storm, have investment to spend and feel more comfortable with continuing their growth or transformation
    • Jason Shaw, Head of TMT at Azura Search has added “businesses operating with a subscription based model are proving to be most resilient as the economy contracts due to coronavirus.  Whilst there are companies that are seeing positive growth, those who aren’t still have a large existing subscriber base to fall back
Interim Practice
    • We have seen an increase in a need for interim solutions at all levels and believe we will see this continue to do so. The delay of IR35 has helped both clients and candidates hire at speed but there is still an appetite for fixed term contracts. There have been CEO changes and quick exits which often require an interim change of CFO and as businesses transform and change we have seen requirements for restructuring experience, especially property restructuring specialists.
International:- Amsterdam, Europe

Update from Paul Thompson, Principal, Amsterdam:

When we hosted our ‘A Digital Boardroom’ lunch seminar in Amsterdam on 4th March we did not realise how relevant the topic would be. The recent shift from office working to home working has emphasised the need for businesses to be digitally savvy not only in the way they offer their products and services but also the way in which its employees operate and interact. 

    • Through conversations with CEOs, CFOs and Advisors in the Netherlands and other European countries we have heard a wide range of views on how the Covid-19 crisis has impacted business. For example, content streaming and food retail businesses have flourished whilst industries reliant on B2B trade have been negatively impacted. Moreover, this crisis has presented a range of unique challenges around travel and the ability to relocate senior hires from overseas. This has in turn led to an emphasis on senior finance hires from local markets, particularly on an interim basis.
    • During the lockdown Azura Search Amsterdam office has successfully placed a CFO for a prestigious media agency in Amsterdam and a Global Finance Director for a high growth technology company. Our sister company Altum Consulting has also continued to make placements at the Business & Financial Controller level on both an interim and permanent basis.
    • Azura has successfully signed new retained searches so there a clearly signs the market is rebounding. Something that has really stood out is the response our network has had to our business during this challenging time. We have tried to remain in contact with as many of you as possible through a desire to offer support wherever we can.  As ever, thank you to all our contacts, new and old, for the support us during this challenging time.
Completed searches during Covid-19
    • Denmark CFO – Global Travel Tech Firm
    • Netherlands CFO – Global Marketing Agency
    • UK Divisional CFO – Global Marketing Network
    • UK Director of Transformation & Control – Global Marketing Network
    • Finance Director – PE owned UK based growing Real Estate business
    • Global Finance Director (Amsterdam) – Tech 
New searches
    • Finance Director – Founder owned technology firm
    • Group Financial Controller – Fast growth technology business
    • CFO – Charity
    • Finance Director – Charity
    • Revenue planning Manager – Media technology
    • Group Controller – Amsterdam – Internet
    • Global FP&A Director – Global Technology business
    • Divisional CFO – Global Technology Services

If you have any upcoming recruitment requirements or would like to speak to our team about their view of the market, please get in contact with us - [email protected].

Businesses are facing new challenges – do interim professionals provide a solution?

Jessica iddon role of a researcher

News Update

Update from Azura Search

Businesses are facing new challenges – do interim professionals provide a solution?

The escalating impact of Covid-19 and the increasing government restrictions to tackle the crisis have resulted in one of the greatest challenges to our economy in the last century.

The ongoing uncertainty has brought the need for change and agility in many businesses.
Companies that haven’t previously required it are having to transform their supply chain, manage cash, transform their workforce, or lead various turnaround and change programmes. If this specialist expertise isn’t already in a company’s arsenal, developing it at pace can provide a challenge for business leaders.

The interim market provides an ideal solution to acquiring expertise quickly. Through this market, businesses can tap into an experienced group of professionals who can lead, support, coach and advise a business through these challenges, with no long-term financial commitment.

Each interim professional has a specialist skillset that they can utilise to support businesses in both leadership and supporting roles. Due to the temporary nature of their roles, these professionals can impact change and implement strategy rapidly. This is vital for businesses either in crisis or overstretched from demand, as it is uncertain how long the current restrictions will be in place and how long we will be seeing the affects after they are lifted.

In recognition of the crucial role the interim workforce will play over the coming months, the government has delayed the IR35 reforms due to be implemented this year to 2021.

It is during times of uncertainty and rapid change when the interim professional comes into their own.

Azura Search has an extensive network of interim professionals ready and available to support your business needs.

The Azura team supports charity partner to deliver their programme remotely

Jessica iddon role of a researcher

News Update

Update from Azura Search

The Azura team supports charity partner to deliver their programme remotely

Through our charitable foundation, Altum Foundation, our team at Azura Search has been supporting our charity partner Resurgo to continue to deliver their SPEAR programme remotely.

The SPEAR programme was set up by Resurgo to help young people facing disadvantage into the workplace. The programme aims to equip them with confidence, motivation and the vital skills they need to succeed in long-term employment. The programme involves coaching, practical training and a year support.

Azura Search has been supporting the SPEAR programme with particle training, which includes mock interviews and office visits, for several years. As the Government restrictions have come into place, Resurgo has had to deliver their training programme virtually.

Last week our team held virtual mock interviews with the young people. This was the first time our team in Amsterdam were able to get involved with support Resurgo which is a UK based charity. It was also the first time the Resurgo SPEAR programme had an International mock interview!

Erin Wilson, Senior Consultant based in Amsterdam shared her experience:

Last week I had the pleasure of being a part of Resurgo’s 4-week programme supporting young adults facing disadvantage getting into the workplace.

As part of their final week of the SPEAR programme, I conducted two mock interviews over the phone with one of the trainees who had Asperger Syndrome. The idea of this exercise was to build the trainee’s confidence by developing interview techniques and to prepare them for what real interviews would be like.
Having never worked with Resurgo before this was such an enlightening experience that I was glad to have been a part of. It allowed me to understand how much these young people truly value and require the support that this charity offers them through building confidence in areas such as small talk, teaching them how to engage with people they haven’t met before and offering essential interview techniques, that will aid the trainees in securing their first job.

Overall, it was a fantastic opportunity for both myself and the trainee and I am so glad that we live in a digital era that enables charities such as Resurgo (SPEAR) to continue the amazing work they are already doing.