Azura Search enhances Professional & Financial Services Practice with new appointment

Jessica iddon role of a researcher

Azura Search Announcement

Azura Search enhances Professional & Financial Services Practice with new appointment

Azura Search, a leading executive search firm headquartered in London and Amsterdam, is pleased to announce the appointment of Lucy Hartley to the role of Partner heading up the Professional & Financial Services Practice.

Lucy Hartley is stepping into this role to support Azura’s ongoing growth initiative with responsibility for supporting and developing our Professional & Financial Services Practice globally.

Lucy is an experienced executive search professional with a proven track record of successful talent acquisition across financial and professional services in competitive markets throughout the UK, Europe, Middle East and Asia. She brings with her a wealth of multi-function search experience at senior level across law firms, banks, and corporate, with expertise in the complexities and challenges of lateral partner and functional board level hiring.

During her extensive search career, Lucy has worked for several leading global search firms including Whitehead Mann, Heidrick & Struggles and Norman Broadbent working on Board and SLT roles as well as gaining in-house talent acquisition experience with several international law firms.

Lucy Hartley said: “I am thrilled to be joining Azura Search to support the growth of their Professional & Financial Services Practice. Azura already has a robust track record in the industry, and I am excited to have the opportunity to help enhance it. I was particularly drawn to Azura’s dedication to strengthening diversity & inclusion and next generation talent on an international scale.”

Melanie Clark, Managing Director said: “I would like to welcome Lucy to Azura. Lucy comes with a wealth of experience in Legal Partner and Board level hiring and signals an exciting period in Azura’s growth of a new Professional and Financial Services Global Practice. I wish Lucy and her team the best of luck ad am thrilled to have her on board.”

Next Generation Board Talent in Executive Search – A Researcher’s Perspective

Jessica iddon role of a researcher

Executive Search Insights

Next Generation Board Talent in Executive Search –
A Researcher’s Perspective

Increasingly our team have been asked about hiring next generation talent by our clients. As businesses consider their development, they are keen to understand how to attract the best senior leadership talent in finance, digital and commercial functions who have the potential to step into board roles in the future.

We spoke to Natasha Wint, research lead in our Amsterdam office, to gain her insight on the executive search process and how Azura sources next generation talent.

What is it that clients look for in next generation talent?
In my experience clients tend to look for someone with drive, ambition, and a desire to grow, coupled with humility. Someone needs to know what value they can add whilst also being aware of the gaps in their experience and areas they may need training in as an up-and-coming talent.

Of course, clients also look for candidates with a strong professional background, clear progression, relevant educational background, and transferrable industry experience.

A theme that I see consistently in terms of what clients are looking for is longevity in a role/company. Even at a senior leadership level, it is a good indicator of commitment and project success within roles as well as progression, and relationship building.

Many of the briefs we are currently working on, also have an element of transformation and turnaround, with some being newly created roles. It’s these opportunities that are extremely relevant for ‘Next Generation Talent’ because often they can provide a fresh approach to these challenges, a sort of positive disruption.

What kind of roles are you currently researching?
Currently, I am researching board level and senior roles in finance and digital. These include COO, CTO, CFO, and Regional Finance Director, across various industries such as Media, Medical Devices, Technology and Manufacturing.

There is a preference in some of the searches to find next generation talent where the candidate has the potential to become a board member in the future.

You are based in Amsterdam, is this where all the roles you are researching are based?
Not at all. We are a very global search firm in terms of the clients we represent and interestingly, all of the roles I am currently working on are based outside of Amsterdam. Although, I just rounded off research for a CTO search here in Europe. I am currently researching roles based in Europe, US, LATAM and APAC.

Azura Search has a very international scope and from a research perspective, it ensures there is plenty of opportunities to be challenged and grow a truly global network.

Does your process change depending on the client brief?
We have a straightforward and effective way of completing a search. When sourcing candidates there are three approaches, we utilise; speaking to our network and referral partners, targeted headhunting, and marketing the role.

It’s important to take a consultative approach to each brief we receive from a client and some processes will need to be tailored as a result of this. For example, increasingly we are being asked to support client’s equality, diversity, and inclusion objectives. Whilst as a business we are always mindful of inclusivity within our processes, clients may have specific requirements they would like to include in our process.

As the search progresses things can sometimes change in what the client is looking, or we may have to work with different timelines depending on the urgency of the situation. In such cases, flexibility from the search team is crucial. By acting in partnership with our clients and ensuring they are informed at each stage throughout the process, helps our clients source the right person to bring on board.

If you would like to learn more about our search process or how we can support you with finding your next executive opportunity, please contact us today.

Azura Search Network Interview with Adam Smith from Jack Links

Jessica iddon role of a researcher

Network Interview

Paul Thompson from Azura Search NL recently spoke to Adam Smith, Finance Director EMEA, at Jack Link's based in Amsterdam. During their conversation they discussed Adam's career at Jack Link's, his views on the FMCG industry and what the future finance professional looks like.

Why and when did you join Jack Link's and what has the experience taught you?
I joined Jack Link's after taking a sabbatical for 9 months. It was a frightening decision to just stop, and take time for my family (although I wholly recommend it!). At the time I felt very anxious about getting back on the ladder, and utterly uncertain whether I could just pick up where I left off. I remember being particularly disappointed when a role that I was over-qualified for was withdrawn at the last step. I was fully prepared to take a step backwards in my career, and the labour market at the time made it feel like I needed to do that. Looking back I have often told my wife how lucky I was to miss out that opportunity, as my Jack Link's Journey has allowed me to grow so much, while being a phenomenal amount of fun.

During your time at Jack Link's what major changes to the FMCG industry have you seen?
Europe has been a different place to operate for FMCG’s, and I’m immensely proud that we’ve driven a CAGR of 8%+ over the last 5 years. The landscape is adapting, and while heavy-duty brands are still key players, retailers are looking more and more to differentiate themselves, while facing off against the expansion of hard and soft discounters. I’d highlight three interesting dynamics.

Retailers are looking for category captains who can not only sell, but will also bring consumer incremental innovation. Our Pep’d up Chicken bites in the UK might feel like a “me-too” product, but it’s only been successful because we could show it was driving significant incremental consumers into the category. More and more this is what retailers are looking for – incrementality not just ideas.

Price is second. Or with some retailers, first, and only. Some markets are harder than others here, and as Finance we are spending more and more time prepping and scenario planning negotiations with our sales teams.

Last I think that disruption (buzz-word bingo stamp!) is really at work in the world of FMCG. I can’t walk through a super-market without seeing a non-meat display, or a vegan/bio aisle, or a not-milk section carved out. Retailers are more and more willing to gamble shelf space on the next big growth opportunity, but at the cost of the slow turning items, and the safe-bet incremental innovations. No more “raspberry flavoured” line extensions.

How has your team developed during your time with the business and what have the biggest challenges been when hiring?
I still remember an old boss telling me what he expected from me to give me the top marks in an employee evaluation. “Do my job for me”. This is what I try to develop into my team, the confidence and space to take decisions and move things forward. Jack Link's isn’t a hugely corporate structure, and the more responsibility my team can take for making decisions themselves, the more it frees up my time for more strategic projects. Within the team, we are constantly driving three key technical skills – reporting, communication and process mastery.

The challenges in hiring is less about skills and more about culture. Jack Link’s has an entrepreneurial and positive-chaotic culture, and it creates an environment where people who want to get things done thrive, but others find it too much, or too disruptive. By the time I’m sitting in an interview with someone I usually can tell from the CV they have at least enough skills to do the job. I’m trying to see if they’re fast enough and driven enough to succeed in our team.

"If before Corona, Cash was King, maybe now it’s emperor. Corona has sharpened our cash management skills across the team, in Accounts Receivable, Accounts Payable, Controlling, Tax, Reporting, even (and especially) IT – it’s where we’ve made the fastest leaps in our finance agenda this year."

What do you look for when working with an executive search or recruitment firm?
More and more this is about partnership, and being able to trust them to represent our business to potential new talent. I think trust is an important word there. No one joins Jack Link’s because they are excited about mini-salamis (even though they taste great and are of the highest quality!). They join because they are excited about our culture, our people and our ambitions, and I need to be able to trust a recruiter to reflect these properly, to ensure that we continue to attract the very best talent.

I’ve successfully partnered with Azura Search and Altum Consulting, both part of Altum Group, to hire some amazing candidates into crucial roles in my Finance department. They’ve always taken time to understand the culture of our business, and reflected that back to candidates, who are already excited even before they walk into our offices. My best moments with them have probably been the toughest ones. The last fill they did was almost too easy, as the final candidate was just outstanding but I’m personally more impressed on the hard-fill roles, where it takes ten or more interviews to find the right candidate. They were just as invested in finding the right candidate as I was, even after months of searching.

Do you think the pandemic has altered the key skills needed of a finance professional? If so what are they?
If before Corona, Cash was King, maybe now it’s emperor. Corona has sharpened our cash management skills across the team, in Accounts Receivable, Accounts Payable, Controlling, Tax, Reporting, even (and especially) IT – it’s where we’ve made the fastest leaps in our finance agenda this year. Even though snacking has been a ‘safe’ industry to be in during Corona, the risks we saw (for example what if we have a government mandated shut-down of our factory, something we saw in other producers) really sharpened our focus on cash management. What had been good enough in times of uncertainty was no longer “good enough”, and we had to very quickly improve. Never waste a good crisis; we drove huge advances in our cash management processes in a very short period, and with the whole business supporting us and understanding the need for change.

At a leadership level, we talked a lot about VUCA – which means Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous, and have no better acronym for 2020. I’ve needed team members who are totally fine with abandoning our objectives for the year because suddenly they were irrelevant, and who can quickly prioritise the highest value activities. 2020 has prioritized cash receipts over pretty dashboards.

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.