NFA Group Case Study

NFA Group
Chief Executive Officer

October 2017

Company Breakdown

NFA Group is the largest Independent Children’s Services Business in the UK, with c. 3,400 foster carers who look after c. 4,300 children across 27 registered offices.

It is the third largest operator in the UK for Specialist Education and currently operates 17 SEN schools, with new openings in train.

The group also has 18 residential children’s homes that offer full-time care to 55 high-acuity LACs who cannot be placed with foster parents.

Owned by SSCP the NFA Group is in its 3rd private equity ownership phase.


  • Ownership:Stirling Square Capital Partners (SSCP)
    European Investment House
  • Position:Chief Executive Officer
  • Sector Specialism:Children's Services
    (Fostering, Residential and Education)
  • Year Founded:1995
  • Turnover:£250-300m

Reason and Purpose

The previous CEO, Iain Anderson after 10 years of successful growth would be moving into a NED position within the group.

The new CEO would lead the business through the next stage of its development, align themselves with the group’s strategy and drive the business through to exit.

The ideal candidate would have experience of running a multisite consumer facing business. They would have previous PE exposure, display a track record of driving improvement within an organisation of similar complexity and possess all the interpersonal skills and gravitas required to lead a business of such scale.

Why Compass Executives?

Being such a critical appointment SSCP and NFA Group required a search partner with a “no failure” track record who could also demonstrate capability and knowledge to reach all corners of highly regulated industries.

Compass Executives were retained to provide a competitive shortlist of candidates with outstanding pedigree who were not only a worthy successor to a high achieving CEO but also one with capability to enhance the business. Evidencing a history of success that referenced well was pivotal to Compass Executives being mandated.

Search process / methodology

Confidentiality was vital due to the sensitive nature of the proposed leadership transition. Compass Executives undertook a discreet and widespread search that involved an initial market sweep as well as lateral search methodology that looks at tier up / tier down, CFO and COO candidates. Our assessment mechanism also looks at candidates who may not necessarily “tick” all the technical criteria but are considered talented and future leaders that should be drafted into consideration.

Currency, precision and speed are very important traits to a discreet search. With an up to date knowledge of many leading executives’ contractual restrictions / covenants we always ensure that any possibility of leakage is eradicated by only approaching those who are applicable for the position.

Our desire to work effectively and promptly means that we will always look to meet potential candidates in their time. We intercept, fly or train wherever necessary to ensure minimal disruption to the candidate’s time and as such look to redistribute what time they have towards the process with the client.


A process relevant to the search was outlined and agreed in advance of the assignment commencing. Relevant candidates were introduced and taken through the testing process. In good time a successor who matched the original brief was identified and has subsequently started with the NFA Group.

Client viewpoint

Compass Executives really delivered for us in our search for a new CEO for the NFA Group. It was a vitally important assignment given that we were recruiting a successor for a long standing and highly successful CEO in a sector-leading business.

Compass Executives went above and beyond in developing a deep understanding of the business and our requirements, and in only presenting candidates that closely met these. They think very creatively and their focus was very sharp; they particularly understood the culture of the business. The search was speedy and well organised, with a very high standard of verbal and written feedback.

They have a granular knowledge of the sector and because of the way in which they work, we were fully involved throughout and achieved a great result.

A really excellent search – thank you.

Douglas Quinn | Chairman | NFA Group