Consumer, Retail & LeisureOur Consumer, Retail and Leisure Practice supports clients across Europe and further afield to build high performance teams at Board, CEO and senior functional leadership levels. Our clients include founder-led and privately owned businesses, private equity-backed portfolio companies and listed multi-nationals, and are characteristically companies seeking to drive substantial change and performance improvement in situations including high growth, turnaround and ownership change. We focus on consumer products and service, food, general and specialist retail, hospitality and leisure, and E-commerce and online consumer services. In addition to CEO and general management positions, we cover key functions including sales & marketing, buying & merchandising, design, operations, supply chain and HR. We work in tandem with our colleagues in the Finance, Strategy & Legal Practice on finance, legal, corporate development and strategy roles. Blackwood’s “one team” approach positions us uniquely in the market: we are able us to draw on the combined expertise of the firm to identify, attract and assess the highest quality executive and provide the best advice to our candidates and clients. Innovation is of paramount importance in the consumer sector: established companies must constantly revaluate their relationships with the customer and deal with market challenges in the form of economic pressures, new routes to market and new market entrants, while those same new entrants must quickly develop the expertise and management capability to secure their position. Our team draws on deep sector knowledge, substantial search and industry experience and high levels of judgement to identify and attract the highest calibre executives capable of meeting these challenges. [key_contacts]
Business ServicesOur Business Services Practice works in partnership with listed, private and private equity-backed businesses worldwide at Board, CEO, divisional and senior functional leadership levels. The business services sector encompasses a wide range of sub-sectors, all of which offer essential, often day-to-day, services to companies. The market is showing clear growth driven by a tendency for businesses to outsource non-core activities for reasons of lower cost, operational efficiency and rising service levels/service specialisation. Most companies in the sector show a high visibility of often recurring earnings and an ability to diversify in terms of geographic expansion and service offering, adapting as markets change. We have a strong track record and expertise in the following areas:
- BPO and data management
- Facilities & property management
- Distribution, logistics & supply chain services
- Testing, inspection & certification
- Oil & Gas, infrastructure & engineering services
- Professional & IT services
- Waste management
- Rental & vending services
Real EstateWe serve a broad spectrum of the best names in the Real Estate sector across private equity, investment, advisory, fundraising, finance and real estate developers. We have helped many grow their business substantially in Europe. We work at all levels and across geographies and sectors to deliver the most rigorously researched advice and solutions. Our extensive network across the financial sector, and more broadly, creates innovative solutions to our clients’ human capital needs. [key_contacts]
Retail Financial Services & InsuranceOur retail financial services practice works broadly across this large sector, with particular experience in some of the more niche areas such as secured lending, wealth management and spread betting. Our Insurance franchise works across the value-chain with Insurers, MGAs, Brokers as well as Services to the market with a particular focus on private equity backed companies. [key_contacts]
Finance and StrategyBlackwood’s finance and strategy practice has established itself as the leading boutique finance practice in the UK. Our specialism in pan-European private equity appointments has now been supplemented with FTSE 100 & 250 searches. We work on a cross sector basis and with global reach, placing international executives onto boards, predominantly in the UK and in Europe. We have a holistic and committed approach to our search process, conducting the very highest quality research to identify the best talent for our clients. This identification process is backed up by early and on-going referencing and is complemented by transparent interaction with candidates and clients. Our ‘one team,’ fully integrated approach ensures that we leverage the knowledge and experience of our colleagues in specific sector teams to complement our own networks within the finance function. In addition to placing CFOs, we handle assignments in the following areas:
BoardWe apply the same rigorous approach to the recruitment of non-executive directors and chairs as we do to executive search. We work closely with our clients to analyse the requirements of their business, and conduct thorough research to identify candidates that meet those criteria, spanning functional, sector or geographic expertise, experience of specific business scenarios (turnaround, international expansion, IPO etc) and cultural fit. Underpinned by fresh, ground-up research, our reach extends from the established non-executive community to the next generation, across listed, private and private-equity backed businesses on an international basis. Our sector leaders bring their extensive market knowledge and rigorous search methodology to Blackwood’s board searches and work closely together to find creative solutions for clients across function, sector and geography. [key_contacts]
TMTWe work across the Technology, Media and Telecommunications sector for high growth businesses in all areas of this interlinked market. The majority of our work is focused on identifying and attracting talent on a global basis to manage the specific challenges of scale and complexity in technology and technology-enabled businesses generated by internationalisation, user growth, regulatory change and competitive pressure. A significant proportion of the work undertaken is for privately held businesses, typically backed by large-cap private equity funds, global growth equity investors or premium technology venture capitalists. Our work spans internet businesses, software firms and telecommunications organisations as well as hardware and the media sectors - particularly in the on-going digitisation of the media sector. Searches are typically board and one below board level, with defined expertise in marketing, product and technology leadership, in addition to a strong track record of appointing CEOs and regional General Managers on a global basis. [key_contacts]
HealthcareWe work across the Healthcare sector for listed, private and private equity-backed businesses, focusing particularly on healthcare provision, medical technology and devices and pharmaceutical & healthcare services. We typically hire at board and one-below-board level, including heads of region and function, and can access high quality executives and advisers across all geographies and markets. We support the healthcare investments of a variety of private equity firms, from large international houses to small UK-focussed boutiques from the identification of pre-deal advisers, through management referencing and market feedback, the composition of buy-in executive teams or boards, to post-deal management change or succession planning, The healthcare industry today faces a variety of challenges: increasing competition, constant technological innovation, government health services across the globe stretched by an expanding and aging population and brand challenges posed by consumer access to information and misinformation. Achieving a return on a healthcare investment requires increasingly dynamic, strategic leadership. Blackwood leverages its access across the financial services and broader corporate worlds to identify not only emerging and established healthcare leaders, but also those executives and non-executives from the retail, leisure and services sectors who have the ability to translate their experience and track record of organisational improvement or growth to a new industry. [key_contacts]
FinTechWe work with some of the best-known and emerging FinTech companies in the European market with a particular focus on payments and Insurtech. Our strong network with the venture capital and private equity communities allows us to advise companies in all stages of growth on optimum human-capital organisation. [key_contacts]
IndustrialsOur Industrials Practice works in partnership with listed, private and private equity owned industrial businesses worldwide, providing comprehensive solutions for their human capital needs. We have an extensive track record of placing senior executives into private equity backed businesses across all key industrial subsectors in Europe and further afield. We understand the private equity model and its specific requirements, timing constraints, sensitivities and risk appetite, and are able to deliver at pace and to rigorous specification. We pride ourselves on deep, long standing relationships with executives who have direct prior private equity experience and on our ability to identify best-in-class leaders in the corporate world with the right skills, personality and motivation to succeed in a private equity backed company. Listed businesses find our speed, ability and desire to understand their business deeply and our access to a dynamic, driven, highly skilled candidate pool a positive differentiating factor. This leads to regular repeat business from listed European companies. We have deep expertise in the following industrial areas:
- Aerospace & defence
- Automotive and transportation equipment
- Building materials and construction
- Energy (Oil & Gas and Utilities)
- General engineering
- Metals & mining
- Paper & packaging
Management AssessmentOur assessment practice works independently of the search practices and uses the science of psychometrics to help our clients make informed people decisions. Our work lies predominantly in three areas: assessment for selection where we help our clients make the optimal hire through predicting an individual’s ability to execute a role effectively; assessment for development where we work with senior leaders to enhance their performance and achieve their career potential; and assessment of leadership teams so that data-driven decisions can be made on the complementarity of their skillset and the development actions needed to harness or supplement it. [key_contacts]
Executive CoachingWe offer tailored coaching solutions to support executives maximise their potential. Particular focuses include transition into new or larger roles, building influencing skills, leading change and increasing team effectiveness and leadership skills. All solutions and programmes are entirely bespoke to the individual and organisation. [key_contacts]
Private EquityWe work at all levels across Private Equity from partner to entry level hires and across operating and advisory teams. We bring the same standards of rigorous referencing and meticulous process to all searches to ensure the optimum result. Our track record in all sectors of the private equity industry demonstrates our success at working with management to start first time funds and build teams, effect transformation of size or focus and address changing needs across geographies and sectors. In more challenging fund raising times, the importance of differentiation has become paramount in securing investors and we work closely with our clients to help them define their approach to sector, geography and product and to hire accordingly. We have also seen an increased demand for IR and in-house fund raising professionals. [key_contacts]
Asset ManagementOur Asset Management Practice provides consultancy and retained search services to a variety of global and domestic investment businesses including institutions, endowments, foundations, hedge funds, wealth managers and family offices. The Practice has an extensive track record in recruiting both individuals and teams across investment, distribution and business management. They also offer clients advice on management and leadership, remuneration, succession, integration and acquisition, benchmarking of performance and returns, competitive positioning and convergence. [key_contacts]
Investment BankingWe work with the best global bulge bracket names as well as independent banks and boutiques. We have helped many of the latter start and substantially grow their businesses in Europe. We work at all levels and across all geographies, sectors and products. Difficult times for investment banking have focussed our clients’ attention on hiring those who can make a difference to the P&L of the business. Working with our sector focussed colleagues, we routinely reference bankers across their client base to identify the real business winners and those who have played a critical part in securing and executing transactions. [key_contacts]
RoleThe new investors and management were keen to recruit a proven Sales & Marketing Director to work closely with the CEO and CFO to drive the commercial performance of the business and take a more aggressive approach to business development. The successful candidate needed to set and deliver clear strategies for distribution, marketing and product in order to successfully increase market share, deliver profitable growth and professionalise the function. In this relatively small business, the Sales & Marketing Director needed to combine strategic leadership and a hands-on operational approach.
Search ProcessThe client was keen to identify candidates from high quality, branded consumer products businesses, ideally consumer durables with a similar price and volume dynamic. Within a well-defined universe of target companies we mapped out and referenced those in commercial leadership roles, approached the highest calibre individuals and assessed them for skills and cultural fit.
OutcomeThe successful candidate was Head of Sales, UK for one of the world’s largest manufacturers of domestic appliances. He had previously held marketing roles and had substantial general leadership ability. Although it was the candidate’s first role in a private equity backed business, he was able to demonstrate a track record of commercial success and a pragmatic, focused approach. Contact team members
Motivations to changeFrom an organisational perspective, such development is both an expensive investment and a commercial risk and it is critical that the technical expert has the required motivations to execute a leadership role. One way of addressing this issue is through a career counselling session to unpack the motivations to want to move to a leadership role and the expectations of how that role will be delivered. Thus, how realistic is the proposed move to a leadership role in relation to own knowledge, skills and abilities? Leadership is not for everyone and to what extent has the technical expert considered other career options? Finally, to what degree has the technical expert thought through the practical steps towards this new career goal? The quality of motivations to move role are a key predictor of eventual success. These need to be unpacked and understood by both the technical expert and the organisation. For example, is (s)he fleeing from an unsatisfactory state of affairs in current role or is (s)he genuinely flying to a senior leader role as an output of a well-thought-through career transition? Positive indicators include the beliefs that the new role will involve greater variety; responsibility for a task or project from start to finish and a notion that undertaking the new role will lead to making a significant contribution to the organisation thus fostering a real sense of purpose and meaning. In short, the technical expert has high level motivations. Weaker motivations to move include access to higher compensation or the notion that the role offers elevated personal status without any due consideration of the key behaviours required to be effective in executing it.
Expectations of behavioural changeThe technical expert will certainly benefit from a candid reality check of the behavioural expectations of the new role. Put simply, what behaviours does the new leader need to shed, retain or acquire to execute the new role effectively? This is an important dialogue. The leader may be regarded very highly within the organisation for technical ability and will thus face a likely loss of status should (s)he move to a more generalist leadership role. To what extent has this been thought through? Furthermore, the role of technical expert, that has been so much a part of their personal identity, is no longer appropriate. Indeed, (s)he should make a conscious decision to stay away from technical work. This is because effective leaders facilitate team development through encouraging team members to problem solve for themselves. Furthermore, constant recourse to giving technical advice and problem solving is the first warning sign that the technical leader is struggling with transitioning into role. In short, the leader is retreating towards a comfort zone of technical expertise rather than the stretch of acquiring a new set of leadership skills. Such a stretch usually involves the acquisition of key elements of effective talent management - becoming both responsible and accountable for the attraction, selection, development and retention of great people.
Learning and development interventionsThere is no single unifying theory about leadership. Furthermore, the world of learning and development is replete with examples of managers who have been unable to transfer their learnings to their roles. Research is clear that those leaders following the 70:20:10 model (70 per cent of learning acquired on the job, 20 per cent comes from observing others, and only 10 per cent comes from formal training classes) were four times more likely to demonstrate a faster response to business change. The pedagogy of this model is much less about using it in a formulaic manner and more about weighting the balance of learning styles to the perceived learning needs of both the leader and business. Coaching underpins this model and exists to support the expert leader as (s)he experiments with new and different behaviours outside of their existing comfort zone. Coaching is not a panacea for all development initiatives but it does add substantial value for those who are undertaking soft skills development and who need to think in more strategic terms than they might have done in prior roles. To develop this further, the move to a senior leader role sets out a requirement to see the business world from a wider perspective. Here, conceptual rather than technical skills are paramount with the accompanying requirement to view the organisation from a macro rather than micro level. Attempting to do technical and managerial tasks simultaneously, with the inherent incompatibility between the two roles, is a recipe for failure. Within a wider developmental context, first base is to recognise that development is the joint responsibility of both the technical expert, the new line manager and the human resources team. The expert takes ownership for his/her development but time to do this is facilitated by the line manager who sets out expectations for the development, makes time to ensure it is accessed and then monitors transfer of skills to the role. This three-way technique, known as ‘expectation, application and inspection’, allows managers to guarantee that what they receive is what they are expecting to see. Reward and recognition are key here. Some skills will be outside of the technical expert’s comfort zone and thus well-deserved and appropriate affirmation for the display of new and different behaviours will enhance the probability that these will be repeated.
In summarySome technical experts inhabit ordered and structured work environments with a reassuring certainty in fact and formulae. However, this is not the currency of senior leaders’ work environments some of whom struggle with the fast paced nature of product development and technological change and the requirement to work with data and scenarios that are ambiguous or chaotic in some way. For the technical manager, this presents a number of conflicting requirements. (S)he must provide exact answers from incomplete or inexact data; elevate self from a natural attention to detail to look across data to inform on a way ahead; and maintain competence in the operational and tactical but also develop a strategic and external focus. (S)he may feel the need to adhere to process but not to the extent that (s)he becomes mired in it at the expense of action. All this is within compass for the technical expert to achieve. The new leader needs, however, to receive timely and relevant development to scaffold him/her through the process predicated on high levels of intrinsic motivation and a thorough debriefing on the behavioural expectations of the future role. To ignore these issues is an invitation to fail. To address these issues is to give technical experts the best chance of success to the ultimate benefit of themselves, their team members and the organisation.
Ten top tips for developing a technical expert to an effective leader:
- Ensure that the behavioural expectations of the new role are clearly understood
- Ensure that the technical expert is intrinsically motivated (e.g. internally driven for job satisfaction or personal fulfilment) rather than extrinsically motivated (by payment or reward)
- Keep an eye out for distress in role (e.g. resorting to old behaviours rather than engaging with the new)
- Scaffold the technical expert with appropriate development (e.g. coaching) to ensure the best outcomes for the transfer of learning
- Ensure that line managers use the techniques of ‘expectation, application and inspection’ to measure performance standards
- Encourage technical experts to connect team contributions to business outcomes
- Ensure that development is the joint responsibility of line manager, the technical manager and HR team member
- Recognise that individual developmental action will falter without an enabling and sustaining organisational environment
- Focus development on wider, strategic and more conceptual subjects (e.g. empowerment) that are the province of senior leader responsibility
- Recognise and reward appropriately when the desired new and different behaviours are shown
Selected referencesBadawy, M. (1995). Developing Managerial Skills in Engineers and Scientists. New York: John Wiley & Sons. Gifford, J and Finney, E. (2011). The Expert as Leader. Roffey Park Research. Leading Technical People Research report (2013) retrieved from http://blessingwhite.com/research-report/leading-technical-people-research-report/
Schein, E (1987) Process Consultation: Lessons for Managers and Consultants. Vol. 2 Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company. Woodruff, D. (2010) Numbers to People: Making the Leap from Technical Expert to Successful Leader. Management Methods.
Legal & ComplianceLegal and compliance officers are now regarded as integral strategic partners within companies. These roles have developed significantly over the last few years given the complexity of business decisions which senior management are currently facing. We focus on the recruitment of general counsel and heads of compliance for leading listed businesses, major financial institutions, private equity-backed companies, and senior partners for leading law firms. [key_contacts]
Jay AngelAdministration and Internal HR Assistant
Jay is an Administration and Internal HR Assistant providing support to Blackwood’s Finance, Administration and IT Group. Before Blackwood, Jay volunteered as an Administrator at an employment and training charity. He holds a City & Guilds NVQ in Business and Administration.
Liz works on assignments in the Investment Banking and Asset Management Practices. Prior to joining Blackwood, Liz spent eleven years in investment banking, in particular Equity Sales. She read Modern Languages at Bristol University.
Martina is a Partner of Blackwood and advises institutional and alternative investment clients across all asset classes and functions. She conducts searches for senior leaders within investment, distribution and client relationship management, as well as advising on succession, compensation and retention. She has a particular expertise in moving and building teams. Prior to joining Blackwood, Martina worked at Goldman Sachs in London within the Equities Division, covering institutional accounts across Europe. She read Politics and Philosophy at Bristol University.
Anastasia BelinskayaSenior Consultant
Anastasia leads Blackwood’s Industrials Practice. She has extensive international experience and advises clients across industrial sectors including high precision engineering, automotive supply chain, manufacturing and capital goods, chemicals, building products and packaging. Prior to joining Blackwood, Anastasia worked at a global executive search firm, focusing on advising private equity backed industrial businesses. Anastasia started her career at UBS where she worked in M&A in London and Moscow, and as COO of the European industrials investment banking team. She read Physics at St Petersburg University.
RoleThe new CMO required experience of the relevant markets (Central and Eastern Europe and former CIS), a blue chip marketing background and the ability to work in a complex environment with multiple stakeholders and a highly entrepreneurial culture. The business is decentralised with a small central management team and highly autonomous country management, having grown through a series of acquisitions of local brands. The challenge for the CMO was to identify marketing synergies while pursuing a local brand strategy, and to share best practice without creating a large group marketing function. Candidates also had to be able to operate effectively at board level and be willing to undertake extensive travel.
Search ProcessOur target universe included food and beverage and HPC manufacturers with local brand strategies and emerging market activities. Challenges included identifying candidates with both blue chip training and entrepreneurial experience in a business of equivalent scale. Heavy sourcing into target companies was required in order to identify individuals with the relevant mindset. Candidate intervews took place across Europe, and Blackwood played a key role in coordinating and calibrating feedback from all the client representatives.
OutcomeThe successful candidate was a Russian national based in Switzerland with substantial international experience in marketing and general management roles in blue chip FMCG companies, a track record of successful performance in emerging markets and a tough but flexible mindset.
Levi works on assignments across all practice areas. He read Politics and International Studies at Cambridge University.
Laima BrydenTeam Assistant
Laima is an Administrator in Blackwood’s Finance, Administration and IT Group, and works with the TMT and Management Assessment teams. Before Blackwood, Laima worked as an Executive Assistant for the CEOs of Webhelp and Asia Inspection, respectively. She read Modern Languages at Nottingham University with a year abroad working in Paris and the Black Forest.
RoleThe candidate needed to take a strong hands-on role in returning the newly restructured business to a cash generative position, transform the culture of the company to a service focused, external customer delivery oriented business and then work towards a successful exit of the business for the investors. This person was tasked with both driving operational improvement and being strong on relationship management (which was very important in a sector defined by high-value, long-term contracts and where their reputation was poor).
Search ProcessBlackwood worked closely with both the PE sponsor and Chairman of the business to clearly define what competencies were needed and what had not been right about previous incumbents (this was to be the fourth CEO since the MBO). We formalised these into an agreed candidate competencies grid which was used by all throughout the process to compare candidates. We sourced candidates from three industry pools: 1. BPO, 2. broader outsourced services, 3. PE deals in the business services sector. Candidates who were/had worked for competitors of our client tended to have negative views on the business and we had to work hard to engage people in the process.
OutcomeBlackwood appointed a divisional MD of a FTSE 100 outsourcing business who was responsible for an international division of c. £400m revenues. He had previously been an Executive Director for another FTSE 100 company and had a strong background in BPO. The client welcomed the fact that we had managed to attract someone with such a good reputation and relevant experience. Post joining, we conducted a search for a new CFO and appointed a candidate with both BPO and PE experience. A successful turnaround and exit for the PE sponsor was achieved within 18 months of the CEO joining. The CEO and CFO have been retained by the new PE owner. Contact team members
RoleThe role was to run a fully autonomous and value critical division requiring strategic vision post an acquisitive period in its life-cycle. We needed to find a hands-on, international divisional CEO with a solid understanding of the TIC and oil & gas sectors. The division had been under-managed for some time, and the right candidate had to demonstrate a clear track record of designing and implementing significant change management programmes in his/her previous roles. This position required a substantial amount of global travel out of its base in the Netherlands, deep contacts in the global oil & gas sector and a willingness to make tough decisions on the spot with imperfect information.
Search ProcessThe challenge with hiring for a PE backed businesses in the TIC sector has always been in finding individuals who, in addition to having the vitally important technical knowledge, have the dynamism and entrepreneurial spirit that sponsors look for in order to drive value. Blackwood conducted extensive referencing to identify individuals that match both these criteria and had to rule out a large number of candidates on the basis of their personal characteristics, rather than knowledge. When we were awarded the search the client already had two candidates live in the process from other sources. Those candidates were in advanced stages of negotiations and we therefore had weeks, rather than months to provide our client with alternatives to what was a possible, but sub-optimal hire. The long list was very quickly narrowed down to one candidate, who we then managed to put in front of our client within a few days from the first approach, despite his incredibly busy schedule.
OutcomeAppointed a former Executive Board Member and Head of a sizeable Energy Division within a global Inspection & Certification business. He had previously been on the Executive Committee of a Norwegian headquartered leading provider of non-destructive testing and certification services. The candidate relocated from Aberdeen to the Netherlands and has completely transformed the business, reducing headcount, eliminating inefficiencies, streamlining group’s activities in the emerging markets and substantially improving the division’s performance. This has had visible positive impact on the group’s results. Contact team members
RoleBlackwood worked closely with the Deputy CEO and Group HR Director to clearly define the atypical Divisional Chairman roles. The company operates multiple brands from 1,700 sites in the UK through four operating divisions with different end markets, each with c. £1 billion revenues. The Divisional Chairmen sit above each of these 4 divisions. The title and structure had only been created recently and this was to be the first appointment of an external candidate into one of these roles. The Divisional Chairman assumes overall responsibility for the division’s P&L, defines the on-going strategy and KPI’s of their division and are the visible leader for the division at group level. However, the MDs who report into the Divisional Chairman have the hands-on operational responsibility and run their business units on a day-to-day basis. It was therefore a key requirement to identify a proven GM who was able to retain some distance from day-to-day operations, manage through influence and coaching, and provide healthy challenge and support to the MDs. This person would have a ‘low ego’ and be comfortable allowing their MDs to take the plaudits when things go well, whilst supporting them through more difficult times.
Search ProcessOur client was a dominant player in the builder’s merchant sector and was keen for us to bring talent and new ideas from outside of the industry. We therefore drew up a list of target companies from analogous industries, such as other B2B distributors/wholesalers and other service businesses that served the building & construction sectors. We focused predominantly on experienced general managers who had already proved themselves in running significant P&L’s and had the right set of behaviours and gravitas to play a more Chairman-type role. The main challenges in the search were finding people with the required cultural and personal fit and to persuade individuals who were either leading businesses as a CEO or reporting to a CEO to take on a position that reported to the Deputy CEO.
OutcomeBlackwood appointed the former Deputy CEO of a FTSE 250 automotive leasing company to lead a newly created division largely encompassing a recent acquisition. He brought innovative thinking and relevant experience from his previous roles as President Europe and President Americas at a leading listed electronic distribution business. Our client also met and hired another candidate as part of our search who they felt was well-suited to the culturally sensitive role of becoming Chairman of the division encompassing their core brand. He was previously CEO of a small listed construction rental business. Contact team members
Harry is a Partner of Blackwood and advises on board searches and senior appointments across a variety of investment management clients with a particular focus on alternative investing. He has a particular expertise in team lift-outs and acquisition reviews, and has advised and worked closely with start-up investment firms ahead of launch. Prior to joining Blackwood, Harry worked within search focusing on investment management and corporate finance. He started his career as an Assistant Fund Manager at Smith & Williamson Investment Management. He read Theology and Anthropology at Durham University.
Isabella works on assignments across all practice areas. Prior to Blackwood, Isabella worked at Hammond Partners focussing on equities and corporate broking appointments. She read History of Art at York University.
Joanne ClaytonSenior Consultant
Joanne leads Blackwood’s Private Equity Practice and advises clients across private equity on all their hiring needs from entry level positions to senior management roles, including deal, IR and operating partner functions. Prior to joining Blackwood, Joanne worked at FreshMinds focusing on placing strategy consultants. She read Modern History at St Andrews University and spent a year studying History and Political Science in the US.
Olivia is the Receptionist and a member of Blackwood’s Finance, Administration and IT Group. Before Blackwood, Olivia worked as a Receptionist in Dorset. Prior to that, she was a volunteer at an orphanage in South East Asia. She read Sport Studies at Southampton Solent University.
RoleBlackwood worked closely with the CIO and Head of Research to add senior credit resource to the team. A particular emphasis was placed on finding candidates who had experience of covering US high yield issuers to help develop their research capabilities in this area. The existing team had previously covered European credits in investment grade, high yield and selective emerging markets. Going forward the research team would be responsible for covering global credits across the investment spectrum.
Search ProcessThis was a global search focused on buyside and sellside candidates. Candidates needed to have circa ten years’ experience either in high yield or looking across the investment spectrum.
OutcomeNine analysts were hired: five Global credit analysts and two US high yield analysts were appointed. Three candidates relocated from the US. In addition, two sovereign analysts were hired. Contact team members
Katharine works on assignments across all practice areas. Prior to joining Blackwood, Katharine worked as an analyst at a business intelligence and risk consulting firm. She read Geography at Oxford University and then Development Studies at LSE.
Eleanor leads Blackwood’s Healthcare Practice. She has advised listed, private equity backed and independent businesses, and has extensive experience in the B2B services and multisite consumer health areas in particular. Prior to joining Blackwood, Eleanor worked in research and editorial at an independent publishing house. She read Theology at Cambridge University.
RoleBlackwood worked closely with the Managing Director to look at other corporate development teams in the key competitors, as well as at the financial institutions teams in the large investment banks and those sitting outside of these teams but with a good understanding of the sector. The key requirements were to find people with a real understanding of the sector, ideally not just banking but also insurance and asset management, and the ability to build relationships and credibility with the senior management team across the business.
Search ProcessIt was a straightforward mapping exercise of the investments banks and corporate development teams of other financial institutions. We were looking to build a team and therefore finding complimentary skills for the proposed five man team was important. The new head of the team was relatively inexperienced. The team had previously not been one with the highest reputation and was not a centre of excellence. Therefore the sell of the new strategy was key to attracting the right people. The main difficulties were always going to be compensation related and career trajectory. There was also the sensitivity around going to interview with a client and the possible negative repercussions of having done so. The hires needed to be able to move into line roles after three years and to be comfortable with this transition.
OutcomeBlackwood appointed five people over a twelve month period. Of the first three senior hires, two came out of banking, one out of a large integrated house and one from a boutique, and one was a former banker who had already made the transition into corporate development. Blackwood completed full referencing throughout the process.
RoleBlackwood worked closely with the CEO and Chairman to clearly define the search criteria. The two key criteria were agreed as FTSE 100 CFO experience and a strong knowledge of the financial services sector. Other important factors were sufficient time and appetite to attend all Board meetings, in addition to undertaking other committee roles along with strong risk and audit credentials. It was also noted that the successful candidate needed to exhibit cultural sensitivity in order to fit into a well-established senior team.
Search ProcessWe counselled our client that to limit the two key criteria to CFO in the FTSE 100 and financial services experience would result in a relatively small universe of candidates that had survived the financial crisis unscathed. As such, we agreed to widen the search to include other sectors and related backgrounds.
OutcomeBlackwood appointed the former CFO of a FTSE 10 global energy business. This individual had been a top rated CFO of an international FTSE business for many years with a sound understanding of operating within highly regulated industries and a demonstrable track record of leading large scale transactions and projects across borders. Timing worked in our favour as the successful individual was just beginning to wind down from a busy executive schedule that would have precluded a time consuming non-executive director role. This was the first time this particular client had successfully used a search firm to place a member of their board. Contact team members
RoleThe business wished to appoint as Non-Executive Director a former or current senior executive in a B2B distribution business who had integrated, consolidated and grown a business in a fragmented European market. Candidates required high levels of strategic ability and operational knowledge to support the team to enhance operating performance and create value. The ideal candidate would also have a track record of developing business through selling higher margin, full service offerings. Whilst distribution and B2B service was the key experience required, the client had a preference for someone who also had a healthcare background. As the CEO of the business was relatively new in the role, the client was keen to bring in a NED who could mentor him through the operational challenges of the distribution sector.
Search ProcessWe mapped current and former senior executives from PE and listed businesses across B2B healthcare services and broader distribution, emphasising in our research those companies that had grown significantly by acquisition in Europe and developed new revenue streams. We referenced candidates pre- approach and again during the shortlisting process, taking forward those who had the greatest balance of operational experience, strategic thinking, and a coaching/mentoring style.
OutcomeThe successful candidate had led the European division of a multi-million turnover logistic business, which had grown extensively through acquisition into many new markets throughout EMEA, and had developed from scratch a healthcare distribution franchise for the firm. Contact team members
RoleCandidates needed to have held listed company board roles previously and have recent retail executive experience. There was a requirement for the Supervisory Director to build relationships with a well-established, high-level supervisory board and to provide input to the executive management team through more informal channels. An ability to speak German or a willingness to operate through a translator was required.
Search ProcessBlackwood methodically mapped recently retired retail executives in Western Europe and assessed them against agreed criteria and for cultural fit. A small group of high calibre candidates was introduced to the Chairman.
OutcomeThe final candidate was a very recently retired executive director of a major UK based, international retailer with a broad range of international contacts within the sector and at government level. This was the first non-executive role taken by the candidate post retirement. Contact team members
RoleWith a wide range of opportunities for international expansion, the Board faced a number of significant strategic decisions and sought a Non-Executive Director with a deep understanding of premium food and beverage brands, experience of rolling out retail concepts and exposure to multiple operating models. In addition, experience in delivering early stage growth and working effectively with founders and investors was essential.
Search ProcessThe client had a preference for a proven Non-Executive and the search focused initially on Chairmen and plural Non-Executives with private equity experience, however this was broadened to include CEOs in order to find candidates with more current market exposure.
OutcomeThe successful candidate has a long career in the food industry, spanning branded food manufacturing and multi-site restaurant operations. A divisional CEO, this candidate has deep experience of operating in private equity-backed businesses and a strong track record in rolling out brands. Contact team members
RoleThe UK snacks market is highly competitive and the relatively new CEO was keen to hire an experienced board level Sales Director who could create an environment for growth in all trade sectors as well as contribute to the development of the overall business strategy. A deep understanding of the impulse category and strong trade relationships were critical. In addition, the Sales Director needed to lead the function through a period of organisational transformation.
Search ProcessThe search process was strictly confidential, as there was an incumbent in position. We initially conducted a mapping and referencing exercise focusing on individuals with significant sales and trade marketing experience in the UK FMCG space. A preferred list of candidates was agreed with the client ahead of approaches being made. After initial interviews a short list of the most relevant candidates were asked to sign an NDA ahead of Blackwood disclosing further information on the company.
OutcomeThe successful candidate was latterly at one of the UK’s largest branded food producers and had over fifteen years of FMCG experience (grocery and impulse) in sales, account management and marketing roles. Full referencing of the successful candidate was completed in conjunction with the client. Contact team members
Annie is a Partner of Blackwood and advises investment management clients across all asset classes with a particular focus on institutional clients and allocators (endowments, pension funds and family offices). She has a particular expertise in advising on the build out of alternative strategies within institutional firms as well as cross-border hiring and relocations. Prior to joining Blackwood, Annie worked at Saxton Bampfylde Hever and focussed on search within the Consumer and Education sectors. She read Sociology and Law at Durham University.
Nora works on assignments across all practice areas. Prior to joining Blackwood, Nora worked in marketing at Condé Nast in New York. She read International Relations at Brown University.
RoleBlackwood worked closely with the CEO, Managing Director North America and HR Director to clearly define the criteria for this appointment. The individual would need to take responsibility for the P&L and direct team in their area, whilst also having the strategic mindset to work closely with the other US VP and MD North America to define direction for the American business overall. They needed a strong sales and marketing skillset, leading business growth, balanced with an ability to drive operational efficiency. Most crucially they needed to have the clear potential to step up to the MD North America role in a relatively short time frame. To find a US national with experience of working in an international business, interacting with colleagues across many cultures, was imperative.
Search ProcessThe pool of companies within the US rental market was reasonably limited, particularly when taking into account international presence. Thus the search was largely focused on a broader range of industrial service companies where they had a multi-site business model and similar sales process to the end-customer. Given it was a US-centric search, for a US national and focused on the US market it was a reasonably new candidate pool for us. We successfully mapped this market, with extensive pre-referencing, in three weeks and followed this with a two week trip to the US to interview candidates largely along the Eastern Seaboard.
OutcomeBlackwood appointed a former VP South East Region from a leading international rental operator with prior international experience. Shortlisted candidates came from a range of industrial services businesses. The successful candidate was strongly ambitious and something of an ‘overhire’ having run a much larger P&L so Blackwood worked closely with the Group CEO to deliver the right messages and package to attract him. He has subsequently gone on to become MD North America and thus a FTSE 100 Director. Blackwood completed the search in 10 weeks with full referencing throughout the process. Contact team members
RoleBlackwood worked closely with the Head of Global Equities. This was a new team build (of 10 people) and the desire was to find candidates from the following candidate pools: consultants, private equity investors, public market investors and individuals from industry. The experience ranges was 5 to 15 years of experience.
Our ‘One P&L’ approach differentiates us from our competitors and in this instance enabled us to capitalise on the knowledge and experience of colleagues across all sectors, including private equity, consulting, investment banking and the corporate world. The search later extended to include candidates with existing public markets investing experience.
The first stage of the process was to provide a map of potential candidates looking to move from the above sectors into public markets. The focus was less on background and more seeking to identify candidates with an independent mind-set combined with a strong fundamental, deep-dive and analytical skill-set.
The second stage of the process was to provide a map of existing public market investors with experience of investing in such a highly concentrated way. Additionally, candidates needed to have strong communication skills to support the head of the team in marketing the fund.
OutcomeA mix of global analysts and portfolio managers were hired. One candidate relocated from New York. Contact team members
RoleBlackwood worked closely with the Head of Europe and the CIO to clearly define the criteria for this appointment. The key requirement was to identify and attract a proven investor in the German market with a track record of large scale opportunistic investment. The individual needed to work within the broader business in Europe and bring influence to the investment committee. It was also noted that the candidate needed to exhibit cultural sensitivity in order to fit into a well established senior team.
Search ProcessA relatively small pool of suitable candidates existed with successful experience in the sector at the right level and of German nationality. It was also noted that many candidates with such desired experience would likely be tied into a current firm and unable to move. The location was also a factor, with certain candidates not keen to relocate. A constant challenge in the assessment process was to find candidates with a demonstrable successful track record given the recent investment climate in Germany.
OutcomeBlackwood appointed the Head of Germany of a real estate private equity fund. The process to longlist took 3 weeks, outlining a fully referenced mapping of the market including both domestic and international players. It took a further 2 weeks to reach shortlist stage with a clear favourite identified. The resignation process took time due to the tied in nature of the successful candidate and Blackwood remained on top of this process. Blackwood completed full referencing throughout the search.
RoleBlackwood worked closely with the CEO and Head of the London office to map the Polish market and to assess what the other private equity funds had managed to achieve in the country. It is a relatively defined market with some strong local players and some majors having established offices in the region recently. A key requirement was to identify and attract someone who had a proven track record of doing deals in the region. The person needed to be able to originate as well as execute deals with limited supervision or support. They also needed to fit in culturally and be prepared to be based in London for a period of time before the decision was taken to open a local office. The process was to be managed as confidentially as possible given the gossipy nature of the market.
Search ProcessIt was a search that looked at Polish investors across the globe, prompted by the need to find someone who had strong deal experience; there were a large number of candidates at the right level of seniority without much of a track record. It was a market that had also seen a reasonable amount of recent movement and there was also some scepticism around the appetite of the European funds to really focus on the area; some notable funds had opened and closed offices relatively quickly. It was also noted, as is the case with many senior private equity searches, that many candidates with such desired experience would likely be tied in to a current fund. We therefore also looked at senior management consultants and investment bankers. The client had been looking at the market from London for a year before this search started but wanted to really understand more about the breadth of the landscape and competition.
OutcomeBlackwood appointed a mid level investor from a local fund who had very high quality deal experience. He was slightly more junior than the original brief but was an outstanding candidate. The research was completed over the summer, the successful candidate was agreed in October and Blackwood managed the candidate’s resignation post year end bonus. On resignation, the candidate received a very lucrative counter offer from his employer and Blackwood worked closely with the client to articulate the opportunity as more exciting and challenging. This candidate opened the Polish office 18 months after he joined and Blackwood have recruited three more team members for him from a variety of backgrounds. Blackwood completed full referencing throughout the process.
Jane works on assignments across all practice areas. She read Law at Dundee University.
Violet works on assignments across all practice areas. She read Chemistry at Oxford University.
RoleBlackwood worked closely with the new head of corporate development of this business, a former IT director from the parent company, to recruit for this role, by default his future boss. The challenge for the successful candidate was to build and operate an innovative business and provided visionary leadership in a new area for the broader business. The remit was to become the number one in a competitive market and create the world’s largest retail derivatives exchange. The brief was to find someone who had run a P&L in a financial services institution or FSA regulated environment and who had international experience. The person needed to have strong industry knowledge as well as being well networked within the industry. This background needed to be balanced with someone who was entrepreneurial, had strong people and diplomacy skills and good management credentials.
Search ProcessThere were three possible buckets for this person to come from: investment banking or trading, an existing financials spread betting business or someone who had moved into broader financial services but understood trading and the markets well. The financial trading incumbents were easy to research but difficult to attract the right calibre person from, mainly because the industry is very diverse and not always of the highest calibre. There are also many founder entrepreneurs who are too expensive to move. The candidates from banking who were not too expensive to move had limited P&L and management experience. The cultural fit was also key as this person needed to fit with the broader management team of the group.
OutcomeBlackwood appointed a former Capital Markets MD from one of the major houses who had spent two years in a COO role and therefore had more management and operational experience than most bankers. There were 3 shortlisted candidates who met the board, one from each of the three buckets. Blackwood completed full referencing throughout the process. Contact team members
RoleThe business is profitable with strong market share, but requires tighter cost management, increased above the line investment and a more focused approach to portfolio management and innovation. The incoming MD France needed to bring proven general management experience, deep relationships with French grocery retailers and a track record of delivering growth and managing acquisitions and integrations. The client had a strong preference for individuals with blue chip sales and marketing training, combined with recent private equity or entrepreneurial experience. Whilst candidates needed deep knowledge of the French market, an international mindset was also required.
Search ProcessCandidates included CEOs and divisional MDs from French and multi-national food and beverage businesses. The management teams of all private equity food deals in the French and adjacent markets were mapped and referenced. Thorough sourcing identified candidates from large cap multi-nationals who had moved on to entrepreneurial opportunities or who had a sufficiently entrepreneurial mindset to work effectively in a PE-backed business.
OutcomeThe successful candidate had sales, marketing and GM experience in a blue chip food manufacturer before moving into a founder-led entrepreneurial business. Contact team members
Rosie works on assignments across all practice areas. Prior to joining Blackwood, Rosie worked at Hammond Partners focusing on investment banking, capital markets and financing. She began her career as a consultant in theatre and promotion. She read Politics and Sociology at Bristol University.
RoleDue to the presence of an incumbent in the role, the search had to be conducted in complete confidence. The business had been underperforming for a number of years, with no real leadership, a stale, sleepy culture and remote headquarters, which made recruitment of the top global talent more challenging. In addition, the business had a serious liquidity problem, broke bank covenants and was going through refinancing, which the incumbent CEO was unable to successfully complete. The above placed a substantial time pressure on the search process and limited the candidate pool, as we were unable to proceed with executives who had a six month or longer notice period. Considering the severity of the company’s situation, the shareholders wanted to see seasoned, experienced CEOs, rather than step-up candidates, with a clear track record of major successful transformations in their previous roles. The process was complicated further by the need to satisfy three key decision makers – two private equity funds and an influential Chairman.
Search ProcessBlackwood worked very closely with the private equity owners and the Chairman to understand the business challenge, define the criteria for this appointment and develop the approach script that allowed us to go into the market without revealing the company’s identity. We identified potential candidates and interviewed and assessed them without disclosing the name or exact nature of the business, the identity of the owners, detailed financials or even the location of this role (despite the relocation of the CEO near the headquarters being a pre-requisite for the job). The short list included four candidates of three nationalities, with two of them coming from the construction sector and the other two from different industries, all with substantial change management credentials and with a maximum of three months’ notice period. The candidates were not informed of the identity of the company until after their first interview with the shareholders and the Chairman, and had to sign non-disclosure agreements before receiving the financial data.
OutcomeBlackwood appointed the former CEO of a €2bn listed US industrial corporation, who had left that business six months earlier and was looking for his next challenge both in the US and Europe. Being a European national, his preference was to relocate back to Europe and he was happy to base himself and his family near the company headquarters. He had the right drive and personality to transition from a listed into a private equity owned business and a wealth of international restructuring experience. Blackwood conducted extensive referencing around the circumstances of his departure from his prior business, which fully satisfied our client. Since the new CEO’s arrival, the refinancing has been successfully completed and the business is showing strong signs of recovery.
RoleThe business required an experienced, driven, hands-on CEO, capable of bringing together and motivating the team that was left frustrated by the frequent changes at the top of the organisation, and pursuing further growth on the global scale. Specific tasks included transforming the business from a hardware manufacturer to a technology-led service based solution provider and acquiring bolt-on technologies to move the company up the value chain. On the soft skills side, the CEO was required to establish a positive working relationship with a very experienced, but strong-willed Chairman and CFO, who had had to run this business together without a CEO for a period of time. The right candidate had to have the gravitas and credibility required to take the business through exit, most likely via the IPO route.
Search ProcessBlackwood worked closely with the private equity fund and Chairman to understand the business challenge and define the criteria for this appointment. A script was agreed that allowed us to go into the market without revealing the company’s identity, given the initial sensitivity surrounding the project. The target universe of companies searched included a range of global industrial, technical and telecom manufacturers and/or installers of the requisite scale with a strong presence in Europe. Given the focus on a move from hardware manufacture to technology-led services, the shortlist was weighted strongly towards candidates from the hi-tech, telecom and cable sectors and included Dutch, Swiss, Finnish, Austrian and UK nationals.
OutcomeBlackwood appointed the former CEO of a multinational data networking and telecommunications equipment company, with a long history of telecoms experience across Europe and Asia particularly. The candidate and client were supported through the complex resignation and offer package process and Blackwood conducted thorough referencing both at the early stage and the end stage of the search. Since the candidate’s appointment the business has IPO’d, creating a very successful exit for the investor.
Jessica works on assignments in the Insurance and Retail Financial Services Practices. Prior to joining Blackwood, Jessica worked at a boutique recruitment firm with a particular focus in the legal sector. She read History at Edinburgh University.
Grace works on assignments across all practice areas. Prior to joining Blackwood, Grace worked at a specialist recruitment firm with a focus in the life sciences sector. She read Economics at the University of Birmingham.
Nick GribbonSenior Consultant
Nick leads Blackwood’s Consumer and Leisure Practice and has extensive experience across CPG, food and beverages, and the restaurant sector in particular. Prior to joining Blackwood, Nick worked at Russell Reynolds Associates with a particular focus on the consumer products sector in the UK and Europe. He began his search career at Heidrick & Struggles, initially based in London before transferring to the firm’s Mexico City office. He read Modern Languages at Bristol University.
Charlee works on assignments across all practice areas. Prior to joining Blackwood, Charlee worked at Walker Hamill focussing on finance appointments across all sectors. She read Geography at Sussex University.
Joel works on assignments across all practice areas. Prior to joining Blackwood, he worked at a specialised executive search firm focussing on placing individuals into C-level strategy and business development roles within Europe. He read Politics, Philosophy and Economics at Durham University.
Hope works on assignments across all practice areas. She read History and Politics at Exeter University.
RoleBlackwood was mandated to search for a Non-Executive Director with a finance background. Given the nature of the business, and that financial rigour, risk and compliance are vital for any financial service provider, this individual was also likely to be senior independent director. The potential for IPO made this hire even more critical. Candidates were likely to have a background as the CFO of a large listed entity with IPO and strong regulatory experience also being important factors. A working knowledge of the broad financial services sector was also preferable but not essential.
Search ProcessThe search process was relatively straightforward: a research stage followed by a targeted long list and then client interviews. The complexity came from two concurrent searches with two different providers – it was important to keep up to date with the progress with the other search as there was some overlap with the two specifications. In addition, the interview panel had two sets of candidates to meet in a relatively short space of time. However, we were able to move quickly due to our knowledge of the CFO market seeking NED roles of this nature. We had spent the prior six months speaking to the current and former FTSE 350 CFOs understanding their appetite/capacity for a NED role.
OutcomeBlackwood appointed the former CFO of a large listed global consumer and hospitality business. This individual had sound knowledge of the financial services sector, predominantly as a non-executive but had strong experience of IPOing businesses. This individual had strong non-executive director experience and was appointed senior independent director on joining the board and as Chairman soon thereafter. Contact team members
Anna JessimanTeam Assistant
Anna is an Administrator in Blackwood’s Finance, Administration and IT Group, and works with the Investment Banking and Private Equity team. Before Blackwood, Anna worked for Hal Leonard MGB. She read Music at Nottingham University.
Emily KayTeam Assistant
Emily is an Administrator in Blackwood’s Finance, Administration and IT Group, and works with the Asset Management team. She read Psychology at the University of Northumbria.
Jonathan LeeSenior Consultant
Jonathan leads Blackwood’s TMT Practice and has worked extensively across media, entertainment and technology enablement. A particular focus is digital optimisation of businesses. Prior to joining Blackwood, Jonathan worked at The Zygos Partnership focusing on media and at Russell Reynolds Associates within the TMT team. He read Sports Science at Durham University.
Anna works on assignments in the Consumer and Leisure Practices. She read Geography at St Andrews University.
Shaneen works on assignments in the Private Equity and Investment Banking Practices with a particular focus on leading mid-level appointments in private equity. Prior to joining Blackwood, Shaneen worked for a disaster relief charity, focusing on fundraising. She read Politics and International Relations at Warwick University, and then spent a year studying Economic Globalisation and Development at SOAS, University of London.
RoleBlackwood was retained to undertake a talent mapping of the UK healthcare provider universe in order to identify a CEO successor. The CEO designate would prepare the business for the next stage of its development, reappraise the group’s strategy and drive the business through to exit, probably by way of trade sale or IPO. The previous CEO was expected to remain on the board as a Non-Executive Director. The ideal candidate would have experience of running a multisite consumer facing business.
Search ProcessBlackwood undertook a research project to map the CEOs, CFOs and COOs of all comparable businesses, and a further separate piece of work looking at best in class CEOs and CFOs from non-healthcare businesses - ideally multisite consumer facing companies. A list of UK care businesses and related multisite healthcare groups was compiled and sources from each identified. Blackwood spoke with the investor community and leavers from the target companies to assess the care market, and created a longlist of senior management talent (including both established CEOs from comparably sized businesses, and high quality divisional managers with the ability to step up). The mapping was completed within one month from commencement of the assignment, and all candidates were referenced prior to any approach.
OutcomeBlackwood identified and introduced a number of high quality candidates from the healthcare industry, and then broadened the pool to candidates with multisite retail or leisure experience. One of these lateral ideas was subsequently appointed, and remains in the CEO role today.
RoleBlackwood worked closely with the CEO and, later, Head of EMD to build a team to focus on hard and local currency markets as well as corporate debt.
Search ProcessThe first stage of the process was to provide a map of the global EMD universe, in order to help our client understand the competitive landscape; who was growing assets, how competitors structured their teams and importantly who the potential candidates in each team might be. The second phase of the search focused on candidates with significant experience in local and hard currency markets as well as corporate debt. Additionally, candidates needed to have strong communication skills to support the head of the team in marketing the funds.
OutcomeA team of five was hired; two fund managers to focus on hard currency sovereign debt, a local currency fund manager, a senior corporate debt analyst and a senior sovereign analyst. Two candidates relocated from Continental Europe to the UK.
Richard leads Blackwood’s Business Services Practice and advises listed, private and private equity-backed businesses across the entirety of business services. He has particular expertise in education, professional services, BPO and specialty distribution. Prior to joining Blackwood, Richard worked at a specialist recruitment company focusing on placing strategy consultants into FTSE 100 corporate strategy functions. He read Geography with International Relations at Plymouth University.
Sebastian works on assignments in the Financial Services Practices. Prior to joining Blackwood, Sebastian worked at a boutique recruitment firm with a focus on distressed and special situations investment strategies. He began his career in clinical and forensic science, and additionally spent time working in investor relations for biotechnology companies. He read Biochemistry at Bristol University.
Sam works on assignments across all practice areas. He read History at Cambridge University.
Imogen works on assignments in the Real Estate Practice. Prior to joining Blackwood, Imogen worked for a private equity fund in Oxford. She read English at Oxford University.
Katy works on assignments across all practice areas. She read English Language and Literature at Oxford University.
Mutsa MutitiFinancial Controller
Mutsa is Blackwood’s Financial Controller. Before Blackwood, Mutsa worked in finance and capital projects at South Bank University and at Space Craft Architects. She is a member of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA), and read Business Administration and Accounting at Solusi University.
Simon works on assignments in the Financial Officers Practice. Prior to joining Blackwood, Simon worked for a specialist financial recruitment company. He began his career at PwC in Audit and Business Recovery. He read Accounting and Finance at Sheffield University.
RoleThe company has approximately one million active customers and processes around seven million transactions daily, most of which are in real time. Data is key to the success of the business and the appointment of a Director of Enterprise Data Services to manage the company’s data strategy and governance was a critical hire. A key member of the technology leadership team, reporting to the CTO, the Director of Enterprise Services is accountable for all aspects of data management, including the provision of reliable, timely and consistent business intelligence and analytics.
Search ProcessThe target list of companies was focused on businesses with extremely high volumes of actively managed data. This included retail and investment banks, investment companies, global online retailers and information providers and payment solutions businesses. The search was conducted at pace across Europe and North America.
OutcomeA former Director of Corporate Business Intelligence at a major global broadcaster and publisher with deep experience in data warehousing and business intelligence was appointed to the role. Contact team members
RoleBlackwood worked closely with the Global Head of broader lending to clearly define the criteria for this appointment. The key requirement was to identify and attract an individual with an investment mindset rather than a lending perspective. The individual needed to work with the existing business in Europe and be able to significantly build the business in the medium term. It was also noted that the candidate needed to be cultural sensitivity in order to fit into a well-established senior team.
Search ProcessA relatively large pool of suitable candidates existed with real estate investment experience at the right level. It was also noted that many candidates with such desired experience would likely be tied in to a current firm and not be looking for a move to debt investment. A constant challenge in the assessment process was to find candidates with a demonstrable successful track record and the required network.
OutcomeBlackwood appointed the former European Head of a Real Estate private equity fund. The process to longlist took 2 weeks, outlining a fully referenced mapping of the market including both equity and debt investors. It took a further 2 weeks to reach shortlist stage and the client chose to interview several strong potential candidates. The resignation process took time due to the tied in nature of the successful candidate and Blackwood remained fully involved in this process. Blackwood completed full referencing throughout the search.
RoleWith a heritage in discount catalogue retailing, the business combined strong trading capability and direct marketing expertise, but was less developed in its understanding and use of digital marketing techniques. In order to compete effectively in the market, it needed to develop a more creative approach to marketing and to customer interaction and experience and a dynamic approach to online selling. The incoming CEO needed to have a strong pedigree in online commercial leadership, good technical understanding of digital marketing and a record of driving online growth ahead of the market. As a major local employer with loyal and long-serving staff, the company has a close-knit culture, and it was important for the CEO to recognise and effectively harness this, providing clear leadership to a well-established senior management team whilst meeting the requirements of the investors.
Search ProcessCandidates considered were CEOs, Managing Directors, ECommerce and Multichannel Directors of online retailers and other consumer-facing transactional businesses with equivalent or higher revenues and significant growth. It was acknowledged early in the process that previous private equity experience would need to be secondary to technical understanding of ecommerce. Similarly, the client was willing to consider a first time CEO, acknowledging that the location of the head office would substantially limit the number of candidates. The company is based in a rural area and required relocation or a willingness to commute weekly.
OutcomeThe successful candidate had a background in leading online divisions in retail and consumer services companies, with general management experience underpinned by a functional background in marketing in both retail and consumer goods. Contact team members
RoleThe Chief Operations and Supply Chain Officer position was newly established, following a strategic business review, as a member of the company's Management Board, reporting to the CEO. In addition to representing the functions of field & store operations and supply chain at board level, the COSO would also lead a number of key strategic initatives including the development of a more integrated international supply chain; driving synergies between the departments and designing the strategy and driving global delivery of a new distribution channel. Candidates for this position required a proven track record in leading major organisational change (both operational and cultural). Whilst their primary functional background should be in supply chain, it was essential that candidates had experience of leading additional functions and could demonstrate breadth of experience, a highly commercial outlook and the ability to operate credibly at board level.
Search ProcessOur target universe included retail, manufacturing and food service companies in Europe and North America and we considered current general managers, operations directors and supply chain officers. We also thoroughly explored the universe of experts in the planned new distribution channel, a sector more developed in North America.
OutcomeThe successful candidate had a background in FMCG and consumer durables and had led three substantial restructures of supply chain and manufacturing operations in international organisations.
RoleIt was obviously pivotal that a third founding partner was someone that would work well with a team that already knew each other and that the chemistry and shared investment philosophy would be such that investors would find the appointment additive to the fund raising sell. A key requirement was to identify someone with a proven investment track record across a complimentary deal landscape. Around this first hire, we were also asked to build a team for the mid and junior level. The team was to be in place pre final close of the fund so identifying individuals with the right entrepreneurial spirit and appetite, as well as the technical skills and behavioural characteristics to work in an unhierarchical and start-up environment was paramount.
Search ProcessIn terms of the senior role, we mapped the universe of potential candidates, many of whom were known at least by reputation to the client. We agreed the optimum point of approach in each case. The successful candidate was not previously known to the client other than by positive reputation. Building the fit was important throughout the process so we ensured the client had extremely broad references on the candidate. It was also important to do this in the reverse as the candidate was taking a major career step. Repeated meetings and interviews exploring all aspects of each other’s approach, investment and fund raising strategy, philosophy around how to build and lead a team were essential in reaching high conviction that the union would work. Simultaneously, we needed to provide a roster of high quality individuals for the broader team. Alongside this, we provided advice on compensation and team structure in order to help shape the business going forward.
OutcomeBlackwood appointed a third founding and Managing Partner to the fund and three six additional team members. The founding partner was from a blue chip European large cap fund. Since then we have appointed a further three individuals at Associate through to Partner level.
RoleBlackwood worked closely with the CEO and Board of Directors to clearly define the criteria for this appointment. A key requirement was to identify and attract a proven CFO with a track record of transforming the performance of a finance function in a private equity setting. The individual needed to be able to be a commercial business partner to the CEO and build relationships and credibility with the country MDs, many of whom had been integrated into the business through acquisition. Further international M&A experience was anticipated and, as such, the CFO needed to have experience of leading this activity alongside the investor and internal M&A team. It was also noted that the candidate needed to exhibit cultural sensitivity in order to fit into a well-established senior team post the private equity investment. The process was to be managed as a confidential search given sensitivity around the investment.
Search ProcessIt was considered that a relatively small pool of suitable candidates existed with successful experience in a privately held business of requisite scale in EMEA. It was also noted that many candidates with such desired experience would likely be tied into a current project and unable to move, or likely to have potentially moved into a plural career. Whilst this ground was covered, it was always considered likely that the actual candidate would have less current private company experience than desired. Large scale LBOs remain highly attractive to a broad range of candidates, including those in larger listed businesses and this audience proved more receptive to the opportunity to enter a private business than those with previous private equity experience. A constant challenge in the assessment process was to find CFO candidates with a demonstrable track record of interacting with the operational side of the business on a daily basis.
OutcomeBlackwood appointed the former CFO of a leading listed electronic distribution business. The process was completed in 9 weeks from commencement of the assignment and the target company name was only revealed to the finalist three candidates under the terms of a non-disclosure agreement. On resignation the candidate received a counter offer from his previous employer, and Blackwood worked closely between the investor, management team and candidate to manage the effective transition to new role after a notice period. Blackwood completed full referencing throughout the process.
RoleBlackwood worked closely with the CEO and investors to clearly define the criteria for this appointment. The two key requirements were to identify and attract a proven CFO with a track record of transforming the performance of a finance function in a private equity setting with significant experience of the retail and/or leisure sectors. The individual needed to be able to be a commercial business partner to the CEO and build relationships and credibility with the business, sponsors and banking community. It was also noted that the candidate needed to exhibit cultural sensitivity in order to fit into a well-established senior team.
Search ProcessIt was considered that a relatively small pool of suitable candidates existed with successful experience in a relevant sector, a privately held business of requisite scale. It was also noted that many candidates with such desired experience would likely be tied into a current project and unable to move. An added complication was the divisional nature of the role in a reporting line, albeit the region was run very much at arms-length. The location was also a factor, with certain candidates not keen to relocate. A constant challenge in the assessment process was to find CFO candidates with a demonstrable track record of adding value away from the core finance remit.
OutcomeBlackwood appointed the former CFO of several private equity owned retail and leisure businesses. The process was completed in 10 weeks, from commencement of the assignment to the successful candidate signing a contract. The long list consisted of a cross section of the market and 15 names. The shortlist consisted of five candidates. Three were taken through to second round and the clear favourite was offered the role and negotiated his exit having helped identify a successor. Blackwood completed full referencing throughout the process.
Charlie leads Blackwood’s Retail Practice and specialises in senior level board and functional appointments for private equity-backed, publicly-quoted and family-owned companies across retail and broader consumer facing businesses with a particular focus on Digital. Prior to joining Blackwood, Charlie worked at JCA Group focusing on board level appointments. She read Ancient History at Bristol University.
John works in the IT team. Before Blackwood, John worked at IPS Totalstaffing and AON Risk Services. He read Comparative Religion at Manchester University.
RoleBlackwood worked closely with one of the Managing Directors to find a senior private equity investor from a traditional LBO background. The ideal candidate needed to have good deal experience but most importantly needed to have had extensive portfolio experience, ideally having worked with a business which needed extensive restructuring and probably a refinancing. The fund focuses on creditor friendly countries and therefore Northern European language skills were important with the exception of German because there was a separate German office and headcount.
Search ProcessThere was a broad universe of candidates to be approached but because of the distressed nature of the remit there was a mixed reaction to the opportunity. Blackwood spent a reasonable amount of time educating the candidate pool about the misconceptions around the industry. There were also all of the issues around relocation for some of the Northern European candidates who didn’t want to move to London. The culture of the firm is strong and therefore finding someone to fit was important; the team is very lean and therefore someone who was able to work without a large infrastructure was important. The original brief we were given was actually more junior than the real need in the team and therefore Blackwood looked at both levels to prove that they really needed someone more senior.
OutcomeBlackwood appointed an investor from one of the European large cap funds. The first short list was produced two weeks after the search was awarded but the actual completion took more time than normal because of the change in level and the need to wait for a year end resignation. Blackwood completed full referencing throughout the process.
Social loafingIt is a scientific fact that, under most circumstances, team members will reduce their performance as a function of an increase in group size. Thus, team productivity does not equate to potential productivity and the reasons for this are twofold. Firstly, team members will reduce their effort where their own contribution is not specifically identifiable and thus freeride on the efforts of others (motivation loss); and second, that team members may not all pull in the same direction or synchronise their efforts at the right time (co-ordination losses). This is termed ‘social loafing’ and has clear implications for the size of boards with research suggesting that the optimal number of board members is between seven and nine. In short, enough board members to ensure that the board’s tasks are achieved but not large enough to impact performance negatively by enabling social loafing. For Chairmen, the antidote to this is to ensure that board members have a clear sense of individual as well as collective responsibility and role; that their work is viewed as indispensable to the board; and that their outputs are visible enough to be subject to evaluation by other board members. Furthermore, the establishment of clear goals that both encourage and reward effective decision-making and execution must be established and supported by the Chair.
Group polarisationThere is a widely held belief that groups will make more cautious and moderate judgements than individuals. This is only partly true; in reality teams will tend to polarise towards the more prevailing or favoured view. Thus, board members who are initially disposed towards risk-taking will favour a more risky approach than the average might imply. Similarly, board members who are initially disposed towards caution will favour more cautious decision-making. This is important because it suggests that shifts in board decision-making are frequently steered more by faulty group processes rather than the output of logical and rational decision-making. One cause of this behaviour is that team members overly care about both social comparison and reputational effect and adjust their views to the dominant position of the group, thus skewing the board towards more extreme decisions than might be predicted from the average of board members’ individual judgements. One antidote to this is to encourage board members to write down their own thoughts and arguments independently in advance of group discussion, identifying in each case the arguments both ‘for’ and ‘against’ rather than indulge in less structured discussions that provide a fertile ground for the conditions of group polarisation to flourish.
Groupthink‘Gentlemen, I take it we are all in complete agreement on the decision here… then I propose that we postpone further discussion of this matter until our next meeting to give ourselves time to develop disagreement and perhaps gain some understanding of what the decision is all about’. This statement attributed to Alfred Sloan, a former Chairman of General Motors, was in response to a consensus of his board that had been achieved too rapidly and is one of the symptoms of Groupthink. This is an extreme form of group polarisation and is a psychological drive for conformity where a reliance on consensual validation replaces individual board member’s critical thinking. Thus, the Chair and fellow board members play up to each other re-enforcing consensus at the expense of critical and divergent thinking that might undermine the unanimity of the group. The ultimate outcome is a decision agreed by all board members but some way removed from the rational data gathering, analysis, challenge and debate that characterises more effective decision-making processes. Even a cursory look at the decision making for many around the Brexit vote will reveal many of these phenomena at play. The primary symptoms of Groupthink are threefold. Firstly, a collective overestimation of the board’s abilities founded on illusions of invulnerability and an irrational belief in the inherent morality of the group; second, closed-mindedness that delivers inaccurate collective rationalisations and stereotypes of out-groups (e.g. competitors); and finally, pressures toward conformity that result in self-censorship; an illusion of unanimity; direct pressure on dissenters and self-appointed mind-guards whose role it is to ensure no disruption to the consensus of the group. Boards are particularly susceptible to Groupthink if their members come from the same background. This places a premium on diversity of board members. How much more effective might the decision-making have been at the Royal Bank of Scotland during the banking crisis had it contained a more diverse team than the seventeen men (and most of those middle-aged dyed-in-the-wool bankers) and single woman that comprised the main board? Antidotes to Groupthink include encouraging the Chair to assign the role of critical evaluator to each board member and exhorting them to give a full airing to objections and doubts. The Chairman should remain impartial rather than state preferences at the outset of debate and should set up independent evaluation groups to work on the same policy question working under a different leader. The members of the policy groups should meet occasionally to compare progress and debate and agree on differences. One or more impartial experts should be invited to each meeting to challenge the views of the members. At least one board member should be assigned the role of devil's advocate (to question assumptions and plans prior to decision-making) and finally, the Chairman should ensure that a sizeable chunk of board time is assigned to assess warning signs from competitors and work with the board to model alternative scenarios of their intentions.
ConclusionGroup cohesiveness does not necessarily lead to faulty social processes. The optimal functioning in decision-making tasks is likely at moderate levels of cohesiveness. It must be part of the Chair’s role to create a climate that encourages enough cohesiveness to ensure the true benefits of team working are realised, but not so cohesive that it provides a fertile ground for the more unhelpful social processes to take root. A critical first step is to evaluate how the Board is functioning at the moment and where the pitfalls or snafus lie. This is best done independently lest it replicate any issues in its own construction! A board that over indulges in Groupthink for example is likely to reach conformed conclusions about its own efficacy. An independent assessment of the specific competencies of the individual board members and of how the board communicates and makes decisions as individuals and as a group will ensure alignment with the strategic objectives of the Board and help ensure due consideration is given to diversity and complementarity.
Selected referencesHewstone, M. Stroebe, W. Codol, J-P and Stephenson, G. (2008). Introduction to Social Psychology, Oxford: Basic Blackwell IEO report (2016) The IMF and the crises in Greece, Ireland and Portugal. Retrieved from http://www.ieo-imf.org/ieo/pages/CompletedEvaluation267.aspx Janis, I. (1982). Groupthink. Boston: Houghton Mifflin West, M (2004). Effective teamwork. Leicester: BPS Blackwell
Meg QuinnTeam Assistant
Meg is an Administrator in Blackwood’s Finance, Administration and IT Group, and works with the Industrials, Healthcare and Retail Financial Services teams.
RoleBlackwood worked closely with the CIO and Head of Research to add senior credit resources to the team. A particular emphasis was placed on finding candidates with experience of covering US issuers in order to help develop the team’s research capabilities in this area. Analysts had previously covered European credits in investment grade, high yield and selective emerging markets. However, going forward the research team would be responsible for covering global credits across the investment spectrum. There would also be a small dedicated US high yield team. In addition to this, the business was looking to establish an EMD team
Search ProcessThe search focused on either buyside or sellside candidates primarily based in London, the UK and the US. Candidates needed to have circa ten years’ sector experience, either in high yield or looking across the investment spectrum. For the US high yield team, candidates came from London and the US and had to have US high yield expertise. For the EMD team, candidates were primarily based in Europe.
OutcomeSix senior credit analysts were appointed with two candidates relocating from the US. One of the successful candidates was a more lateral appointment: an experienced global equity analyst who had over ten years’ experience as an equity analyst and was keen to develop his skillset by moving into credit research. For the EMD team, a Senior EMD Fund Manager was hired, supported by two Sovereign Analysts.
Mike Rugg-GunnSenior Consultant
Mike leads Blackwood’s Executive Assessment Practice. He specialises in the psychometric assessment of senior individuals and works more broadly in the areas of leadership development, talent management and corporate cultural change. He is an Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society and holds a Masters and Doctorate in Occupational and Organisational Psychology from East London University.
Michela works on assignments across financial services, with a particular focus on investment banking, infrastructure and private equity. Prior to joining Blackwood, Michela worked at Heidrick & Struggles and has over 12 years’ industry experience. She read Modern Languages at Cambridge University.
Camilla works on assignments across all practice areas. Before Blackwood she worked at Russell Reynolds focusing on investment banking appointments. She read English at Cambridge University.
RoleBlackwood worked closely with the CEO to clearly define the criteria for this appointment. This was a newly created role with a particular focus on driving global account strategy and sales numbers over and above the rest of the sales team’s focus on local sales. A push into the US and Asia were important moves for the company going forward. Furthermore, this role was to act as an ambassador for the business raising its profile and brand in a fairly fragmented market. As part of the senior management team, alongside the CEO and CFO, this candidate would also have a major role in deciding and supporting the strategy of the group. Finally, leadership and development of team members was a key part of the role.
Search ProcessWe were looking for a candidate with a demonstrable sales track record and experience of winning new clients in new geographies but also with a depth of understanding of supply chain and logistics. Long-term solution-led contract sales were key. Pools thoroughly researched and referenced included logistics businesses, particularly with a 3PL focus, broader industrial services and automotive and aerospace & defence services companies.
OutcomeThe successful candidate was the Group Business Development Director for a £2 billion revenue international logistics firm who was eager to find a new challenge and attracted by the private equity angle. Blackwood worked closely with the client to assess an internal candidate for the role during the process who they were eager not to lose; upon our advice they were able to create two roles within senior management, placing the internal candidate as Commercial Director and our candidate as Sales & Marketing Director, working well as a team with very complementary skillsets.
Amanda is the Managing Partner of Blackwood. She advises on leadership development and assessment, team effectiveness and senior appointments across investment banking, private equity and the boardroom. Prior to Blackwood, Amanda worked at Morgan Stanley; she spent ten years in Mergers & Acquisitions in London and New York before becoming COO of the Investment Banking Division EMEA. She is a certified professional executive coach, Meyler Campbell Mastered, AC and WABC accredited and qualified with the British Psychological Society in psychometrics, including Hogan, FIRO-B, NEO PI-R, Wave, G-LJI, LJI, Implicitly®, TKI and MBTI®. She read English and then Law at Cambridge University.
RoleThe business had operated without a Chief Executive for a number of years, with the Executive Chairman and senior management team providing successful leadership. Following this new investment, the team remained in the business and was supportive of the decision to bring in a CEO in order to help drive further growth. Candidates required an understanding of the specialist travel sector, ideally of escorted tours, both in the UK and internationally, and a proven track record in growing businesses. Previous standalone CEO experience and exposure to a private equity-backed company were desirable.
Search ProcessOur target universe included specialist and mainstream travel companies and we identified relevant individuals at CEO and divisional levels. It was important that candidates were seen to bring notable additional skills to the business and that they had the empathy and maturity to gain the trust of the existing management team.
OutcomeThe successful candidate had previous CEO experience in both privately held and private equity-backed travel companies with a particular focus on specialist travel. Contact team members
Alan is a Partner of Blackwood and works with both listed and private equity backed clients advising on CEO, CFO and Chair appointments and succession planning. He has extensive experience in senior level finance function appointments in particular. Prior to joining Blackwood, Alan worked at Heidrick & Struggles in the CFO Practice and has over 15 years’ search experience. Alan began his career as a consultant in the Oil & Gas industry. He read Economics at Strathclyde University.
Chris UnwinThere is no more pivotal or emotional management change than transitioning a founder-owner CEO. They are by definition, the heartbeat of a business, central to its culture, success and identity. At the time that external investment comes from Private Equity the question always arises: “how long do we back them for?” There is undoubtedly a conflict at the point of deal between winning a founder over and being truthful about how the new investor sees the management team evolving. Turkeys tend not to vote for Christmas – even in the current political climate – so assuming the owner is not cashing out at the point of investment, reassuring noises are often made towards management, even if behind the scenes there are misgivings. The usual cause for concern among investors is that the Founder-Owner is too entrepreneurial (read, hard to manage and not accustomed to challenge), too one-dimensional (strong on sales, technology / product development, operations but only one of the three) or too small company (has reached the point where their capability is commensurate with that of the business). In all cases they have a disproportionately high influence on the businesses versus those leaders brought in externally. The business evolves around them. Having worked on numerous and very different founder replacements, succession planning is always the best option and one that PE does not always do well. The balance between involving the incumbent in the process and allowing them to direct the types of profile, personality and eventually even choose their successor is hard to get right. The founder should be involved but only have an equal voice in decision making among stakeholders. We have learned that direct sector experience is only relevant in the most technical of industries and the net should be cast wide. It can be a common misconception (perhaps in an attempt to de-risk the hire) that the search is kept within sector. It is much more important to bring in someone with rounded leadership skills, strong emotional intelligence and capabilities in the key areas for the business over the longer term (building a sales engine, internationalisation, operational expertise) than someone who is “well known in the industry” or brings a black book, as this inevitably expires. For best results, change among the broader management team should be staggered rather than wholesale (though in turnaround situations a brand new team with a great deal of impact can be successful). The business becomes accustomed to change and will learn that, done right, it is nothing to fear and this will help keep churn rate down. It may now be that more structure at the point of deal should be put in place. Timings can often be vague (“the CEO will transition out in 12-36 months”) and lead to a lack of direction and stagnation. In the same way that earn-outs are mechanical, it may be that milestones are put in place to ensure that change is structured and ensures it is delivered. This forces investors to be honest with founders on how they envisage transition and whilst it will not win them every deal, it is better for both parties that they align themselves with the right partner, rather than there being the need for forced rather than voluntary change which is the most damaging possible outcome for the business and investor. Good management assessment and due diligence can help bring data to intuitive feelings about the team investors are backing and lead to conversations about assessment more rooted in logic rather than instinct. It may be that investors need to let deals pass by if they do not have the right management team in place now and have not built the relationship with the founder during the process to agree on a shared strategy. If they can, however, the process to find a successor can be a hugely positive one. Time becomes a luxury, candidates are more attracted as they are joining a forward-thinking, aligned business rather than coming to repair the inevitable damage caused by a difficult parting of ways: a demotivated or fragmented team, a lack of focus on the core business and typically performance issues as a result. Good succession planning for founders is not easy and takes time, but businesses and investors benefit from it.
RoleBlackwood worked closely with the Global Head of Distribution and Head of HR to enhance the distribution function of this successful and rapidly growing boutique investment business. The search included a Head of Wholesale Sales for Europe, a Global Head of Client Relationship Management and a team of product specialists/client portfolio managers.
Search ProcessBlackwood provided full maps of the competitive landscape as well as interesting lateral candidate ideas. The search universe was global and one candidate was relocated from Brazil to London. Another will spend 50% of their time in the USA.
OutcomeBlackwood successfully hired in all roles and added three individuals to the newly created client portfolio management roles.
RoleThe need to have a presence and ability in the European restructuring market was becoming pressing. The number of serious players in this arena is small and, although a leading team in the US, they had nothing here.
Search ProcessWe identified and referenced all the major candidates across Europe. It was important to reference across the competitor landscape, former colleagues and also counterparts and clients to establish the right blend of skills and competencies and market impact. The successful candidate was someone whom our client initially thought was too big for the role and would not be interested. We encouraged them to let us try and we were able to deliver him and build a preeminent team beneath him. Meetings were held in London and New York. We liaised across this process as well as helping the candidate navigate through a partnership agreement and the intricacies of negotiating compensation that comprised many different components, including co-investment rights and carried interest as well as the more usual cash and LTIP bonuses.
OutcomeBlackwood helped in the building of a preeminent European restructuring team appointing subsequent individuals at all levels. Contact team members
RoleThe CTO reports to the Chief Operating Officer, and leads all aspects of technology for the business, operating at board level. In particular the CTO was required to build the capability of the company to rapidly develop and deliver products and services on an increasingly international basis in order to position the company as a leader in its industry.
Search ProcessCandidates required an excellent track record of leading a significant technology organisation in a online company with a high volume of real time transactions and a culture of innovation and collaboration. Experience of transitioning from waterfall to agile methodologies and of cloud migration was essential. The search covered candidates already based in Ireland and those in the UK, Continental Europe and North America who were willing to relocate.
OutcomeThe successful candidate had extensive international experience in retail financial services, leisure and technology companies in Europe and the West Coast of America, and had most recently led a substantial development organisation for a major private equity-backed technology business. Contact team members
RoleReporting to the CFO and operating at board level, the CTO is responsible for all areas of technology within the organisation, leading a team of approximately 200 people.
Search ProcessCandidates needed previous leadership experience of significant software development and infrastructure functions in an online business, with a sound understanding of agile methodologies. Exceptional leadership skills and high standards of delivery were required. The search was conducted across online transactional businesses in all sectors.
OutcomeThe placed candidate had most recently been CIO of an online publishing company and had a reputation for strong influencing and leadership skills. Contact team members
Will works on assignments in the Investment Management Practice including advising long-only funds, hedge funds, family offices and pension funds. He has particular expertise in equities. Prior to joining Blackwood, Will worked at a specialist executive search firm within the equities team. He read English Literature and Philosophy at Leeds University.
Francesca TraffordTeam Assistant
Francesca is an Administrator in Blackwood’s Finance, Administration and IT Group, and works with the Consumer, Retail and Leisure team. Before Blackwood, Francesca worked as a Senior Account Executive at a luxury brand development and communications consultancy. She read Management, Marketing and French at Exeter University.
Chris works on assignments in the Financial Officers Practice with a focus on advising private equity-backed businesses. He is also responsible for the firm’s activities in the North and Midlands, advising businesses on board level management changes. He read French and German at Oxford University.
Harriet works on assignments across all practice areas. Prior to joining Blackwood, she worked at a specialist executive search firm focusing on cross-sector appointments. She read English at Exeter University.
Lewis works on assignments across all practice areas. Prior to joining Blackwood, Lewis worked at a global executive search firm, focusing on energy & commodity trading. He read Chemistry at Sussex University.
Louisa WedderburnTeam Assistant
Louisa is an Administrator in Blackwood’s Finance, Administration and IT Group, and works with the CFO team. Before Blackwood, Louisa worked at a boutique recruitment firm, specialising in administration and PA support. She read Sociology at Leicester University.
Terry WellsChief Technology Officer
Terry is Blackwood’s Chief Technology Officer. Before Blackwood, Terry worked at BAE Systems, ABN Amro and Lloyds Treasury as an independent consultant.
Lisa WilkinsonChief Operating Officer
Lisa is Blackwood’s Chief Operating Officer and manages the Finance, Administration and IT Group. Before Blackwood, Lisa worked at Deutsche Bank. She read Business Finance and Economics at Natal University.