Technology: both disruptor and saviour…

18th March 2020

By Spencer Jinks

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic looks set to have an even more seismic impact on the global economy than the 2008 financial crash.

Dubbing the international crisis an “economic emergency”, yesterday UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced an unprecedented package of support for British businesses including £330bn in state-backed loans, support for airlines and a business rates holiday.

Equivalent to 15 per cent of GDP, the measures dwarf the £137bn of public money used to stabilise the UK banking system between 2007 and 2009.

As the UK prepares for the kind of economic and social shutdown not experienced since World War Two, coronavirus will undoubtedly leave us with a very different economy. Putting something of a brave face on the grave situation, Prime Minister Boris Johnson predicted economies worldwide would come “roaring back”.

And of course we will bounce back. Where from, no one knows just yet. Why? Because turbulence in the global economy has become the norm in the past decade or more.

The four years since the UK referendum decision to leave the EU have been characterised by almost constant economic and political uncertainty. We finally ‘get Brexit done’ at the end of January and what happens? Coronavirus.

But if we thought digital transformation had created a permanent state of change with disruptors challenging industry models and the furious pace of technological innovation, who knows the economic carnage a prolonged period of social distancing and self-isolation could wreak. Not to mention the potential for many thousands of personal losses to the virus itself.

One of the likely outcomes is even greater use of the very technology that is causing so much destabilisation across various industry sectors; we are in fact seeing that transition daily.

Amazon announced yesterday that they would be hiring an additional 100,000 Associates in the next 12 months, to support what they believe will be a permanent change in consumer behaviours from the traditional to online.

With face to face meetings at a premium, as many of us are forced to work remotely for the foreseeable future, video conferencing really will become the norm for any businesses not already tuned into Skype, Teams, Zoom or Google Hangouts.

Fortunately for the executive search industry, the use of technology to source, access and communicate with clients and candidates across the globe is second nature, we have in fact been operating this way for over 10 years. So the impact of having to decamp from the office and work from home will be much less than for other sectors.

Less time travelling means more time researching and preparing candidate shortlists, and even more time to support clients facing yet more upheaval in ever worrying times, working in true partnership with shared responsibility.

So following the Prime Minister’s voice of reassurance, the message from HW Global is that we are well and truly open for business.

We are passionate and totally committed to supporting our clients and candidates through the turbulent weeks and months that lie ahead, just as we have for the past 15 years.

And when this whole situation is over, we will still be there by your side to ensure that you come “roaring back”!

Spencer Jinks is CEO of HW Global Talent Partner. Contact him at spencerj@hwglobalpartner.com or +44 (0) 161 249 5170.

Growth in fixed term contracts with benefits: the new opportunity for interims

12th March 2020

By John Wakeford

With confirmation in Wednesday’s Budget that the extension of IR35 to the private sector is going ahead next month, interim consultants face a big decision.

From April 6, medium and large sized private sector firms (over 50 employees) will bear the responsibility for determining the IR35 status of all their off-payroll workers.

In sectors like financial services, major employers including high street banks have already indicated they are taking a safety first approach and ending all such contracts, amid claims HMRC’s own Checking Employment Status Tool (CEST) is still not delivering clear outcomes.

This draconian response could effectively force interims on to company payrolls, paying full income tax and National Insurance and being taxed on expenses as an employee.

There have been warnings in the trade press in recent months of a mass exodus of contractors operating through Personal Service Companies, many of whom it is claimed will either move abroad or take early retirement to avoid the new tax regime. Others may opt to go back to permanent roles or move into non executive directorships.

But the reality is that like Brexit, whatever your personal view, IR35 is here to stay and we have to adapt to the new market conditions to find solutions.

What has not changed is the need for businesses to have ready access to executive talent. This may be to help steer them through organisational change, or following the sudden departure of a senior director, or simply the requirement for a highly specialised skill set they do not have in-house.

Both clients and candidates need to show flexibility, and we are already seeing significant changes in the interim market which reflect this.

For example there has been a notable rise in the number of fixed term contracts, many of which build in a benefits package and retention bonus – which go some way to making up for the income lost through IR35.

For the interim this could offer the security of a six to 18-month contract with full holiday and sick pay and a bonus, then the flexibility to take a break before their next assignment.

A lot of businesses will take the opportunity to undertake a strategic review of their entire executive recruitment policy in the light of this significant change to interim manager engagement.

The message I would give to both clients and candidates is to be flexible in your approach.

Clients need to consider that if an interim consultant is having to swallow a sizeable cut in their daily fee due to IR35, an attractive fixed term contract of reasonable length with benefits and a retention bonus at the end could help cushion the blow.

Meanwhile candidates have to accept that IR35 is here to stay, so now is the time to look at the lucrative fixed term and permanent contracts that are out there for the right person. But clearly it would be advantageous to be immediately available – i.e. not on a six month notice period!

These are unprecedented times of economic uncertainty, with Brexit and the coronavirus looming large, but for the astute headhunter who works hard to maintain a strong network 2020 could be the year they really earn their corn.

John Wakeford is MD of HW Interim. Contact him at johnw@hwglobalpartner.com or on +44 (0) 113 243 2004.

Insatiable appetite for innovation in online sales drives demand for interim consultants

17th December 2019

The insatiable appetite for innovation in online sales is generating a stack of opportunities for talented interim consultants in consumer retail.

With online retail market leaders and digital disruptors threatening to squeeze out many established brands who have been too slow to adopt new technologies, demand for interim managers who can lead business transformation programmes has never been higher.

Meanwhile the impending IR35 tax changes are leading many interims working in financial services to start looking elsewhere for work as high street banks end off-payroll contracts.

The combination of huge demand for business transformation expertise in consumer retail and this new influx of consultants well versed in leading B2C digital transformation projects, has created a buoyant interim market.

In response, HW Interim has hired an experienced consumer retail headhunter to join its talented team of consultants and researchers.

Jake Slater has been supporting HW’s global consumer practice for the past year as Principal Researcher, working on international assignments sourcing candidates for permanent executive positions for global leaders in consumer products and services.

These have been typically business transformation roles in specialisms including digital, supply chain, analytics and marketing – all concerned with finding the elusive formula for getting closer to consumers.

Prior to joining HW Global in 2018, Jake (pictured) ran his own retail recruitment business Best Recruit UK which he had set up in his mid-20s.

Jake, who hails from Clitheroe in Lancashire, said: “For the past year working in the global consumer practice I have been sourcing candidates for international assignments. My focus now is identifying UK-based interim executives for our consumer clients.

“Many of these will be business transformation roles so could fall outside of IR35 given the nature of these contracts with key deliverables, day-to-day working practices and the need for the interim being due to a lack of suitable experience in-house.

“I would urge executive interim consultants looking for new roles in the consumer sector, including CPG and durables, retail, apparel and luxury goods, to get in touch.”

HW Global, which has a £20m turnover and employs 50 staff based in London, Leeds and Manchester, currently operates on an exclusive and retained basis in the £120K+ search market, also placing interims on daily rates from £700 to £2,000. It has enjoyed an excellent year, with revenues growing by 30 per cent during 2019.

For an informal discussion with Jake Slater, Interim Consultant – Global Consumer Markets, clients and candidates can contact him at jakes@hwglobalpartner.com or +44 (0) 7384 832270.