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UK – Retained headhunters thrive at board level, study finds

16 July 2012

The UK’s retained executive search industry has experienced “significant” growth at Board level, despite challenging financial markets, according to an industry report by Executive Grapevine, published today.

It found that the number of mandates for non-executive directors rose by +14.7% in the year to March, breaking with the trend of past years and indicating a desire of Boards to upskill and also to shift away from the demand of Chairmen to use their personal networks towards the “more holistic knowledge of Executive Search Consultants.”

“With the accumulative level of security and regulatory pressures placed on Board appointments, the role of search firms in shaping the composition of Boards has never been so critical as companies looking to appoint board members used headhunters rather than the old boys’ network to find suitable candidates,” said Helen Fish, Chief Executive at Executive Grapevine International.

She argued that “combined with the drive towards diversity – in terms of gender, age and internationalism – and shareholder demands, Board appointments today are rarely made on the basis on personal networks.”

Egon Zehnder retained its place at the top of the table for board assignments, with 11.7%, followed by Spencer Stuart & Associates and Odgers Berndtson. But Odgers Berndtson remained at the top of the table for all assignments, with 7.7% of overall net fee income. Korn/Ferry Whitehead Mann was second with 7.1% of the market.

“This rise in fortune of the specialist search firm is something quite unique in the UK search market with firms working at Board level offering a distinguished realistic alternative to the international provider, helping to position London at the heart of the global market,” said Ben Ashwell, VP Editorial at Executive Grapevine.

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