Be aware of the danger – but recognise the opportunity

1st April 2020

By John Wakeford

It was former US President John F Kennedy who famously said that in a crisis you should be aware of the danger, but recognise the opportunity.

We are undoubtedly in the grip of a global crisis that looks set to dwarf the economic fallout from the 2008 financial crash. And we all need to take great care to follow official advice to protect ourselves and our loved ones from the danger posed by the COVID-19 virus.

But both during and after this unprecedented economic and social lockdown there will be opportunities for talented interim executives and those looking for new permanent roles.

Boardrooms need to be aware that there is a realistic risk of senior executives falling ill in the weeks and months ahead if the spread of coronavirus matches predictions from Government scientific advisers.

News of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Health Secretary Matt Hancock and Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty all contracting the deadly virus within days, having worked closely together in recent weeks, is a warning shot to us all.

Experienced interim executives could well be back in demand to support boards who similarly find their top team taken out at a crucial time.

We are already seeing a big call for candidates with working capital/cashflow/restructuring experience to support clients with crisis management agendas. Now, more than ever, there is a crucial requirement for hands-on, strategic and experienced professionals to help navigate businesses through these incredibly challenging times.

Fortunately there is an executive interim community out there well versed at supporting clients remotely and primed to take on new roles, having seen a drop in demand for their services following the announcement of planned IR35 tax reforms.

Similarly, we have been continuing to deliver permanent search assignments which have reached offer stage via video conferences. It’s great to see clients adapting to a new hiring process and focused on bringing key talent on board.

Whilst it is hard to predict the full impact of the pandemic at this stage, it is inevitable that when we emerge from the lockdown we will face a very different economy.

Many businesses will be forced to respond by implementing major restructuring exercises at executive level and will need a fresh injection of talent to fill any gaps in key skills – particularly in digital transformation, ecommerce, finance and treasury.

Our message to both clients and candidates is we remain here to support you throughout the difficult days, weeks and months ahead.

If you are an interim consultant looking for a new contract or a permanent executive concerned that your role is at risk, get in touch. We will be more than happy to review your CV and discuss the market and current opportunities.

If you are a chairman or CEO needing immediate advice about urgently needed interim support or a discussion about longer term plans for your senior team, give me a call.

Like most of us I am currently confined to my home office, but having spent the past 20 years in global executive search I am used to conducting business remotely!

I look forward to hearing from you but in the meantime, stay safe.

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