Executive Search 2017: half-yearly market update for Corporate and Financial Communications

27 Jul 2017

1. The results are in …

We are pleased to report that we have successfully filled 95% of our retained in-house and agency executive searches this year, and shortlists have been met with delight. The majority of our work now is retained, which is a change from last year as this is something we have purposefully made happen. It’s amazing what a difference six months can make. It’s a joy to be paid for all the work we do, giving us time to demonstrate our expertise and being able to fully commit ourselves to finding high performers.

2. In-house versus agency

The desire for in-house increases as we have successfully placed more professionals in-house this year than ever before – in fact, 76% of our filled search assignments this year have been for in-house corporate communications teams and only 24% of completed search with London PR agencies. This is change from last year where 60% of filled search assignments were in-house. The desire for in-house is so strong (90% of our active candidates will only consider an in-house move) that we are making a huge effort to find desirable in-house roles for our candidates.

3. Completed searches

These include Heads of Corporate Communications, Heads of Media, Senior Corporate Communications Managers, Financial and Investor Communications Managers; Agency Directors and an Agency Account Director. We haven’t quoted our clients (as not everyone has started their role yet) but you will have heard of them all. This year, the same as last, we are filling roles where our clients do not have to interview more than four professionals to make their hire.

4. Which industry sectors are hiring?

The in-house corporate communications team who have hired the most (in order of popularity) are real estate, law firms, management consultancies, retail, asset management and enterprise.

5. Investment in communications

We have helped build out a whole comms function for one business and we have undertaken a number of replacement hires as usual. However, what has been interesting is that we have seen more newly formed ‘investment hires’ in-house and with the corporate agencies, which is encouraging considering the political landscape. It feels like a confident market remains.

6. Baby boom

Maternity contracts in particular are popular this year. There was clearly something in the water last year, as I can’t remember the last time we have helped on so many.

7. Corporate agency update

Corporate agencies continue to make newly formed investment hires from Associate Director and Director/Partner level, and have been more active with their hiring than the financial-led agencies. We hear them talking about winning more projects than retainers these days, which is changing their business models and making it more challenging to forecast.

8. Financial agencies – thoughts

Financial agencies have been a little quieter with hiring this year as a few have struggled to hit their high targets, potentially from fewer deals around. The agencies who have had requirements are the smaller, newer ones on the block with high momentum and strong financial backing.

9. Most difficult to fill

A Senior Financial Communications Manager contract for a well-known retailer requiring consumer facing experience. As they didn’t give it to one agency to fill, no agency could put enough manpower behind it to fill it.

10. Biggest misconception

Giving a new role to three search agencies will increase your chances of finding someone. Wrong. Agencies’ roles take us 8 times as much work to fill, as most people don’t want to move to another agency. It’s labour-intensive to select a great shortlist. We prioritise our time to the clients who have committed to working with us solely, as we have committed to filling those roles. Agencies are fighting for talent and although most CEOs realise this, they haven’t quite caught on that they need to work with one great search firm. When we are retained on a role, we will commit to filling it with an industry-best or at worst, a high performer.

As you know, The Works Search is dedicated to securing a 'best in class' professional, a top 5% industry performer. We focus on executive search for senior and mid-level corporate and financial communications professionals and have a proven track record for delivering on search assignments. We are proud of the fact that if you meet four of our candidates, we guarantee you will hire one.

Do call if we can be of assistance on 020 7559 6690.

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