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The out-of-sector CFO

30 Jan 2023

Senior Associate Paul Spicer recently discussed his thoughts and suggestions on sourcing talent from alternative sectors. This is based on Paul’s knowledge, expertise and experiences working in recruitment for over 16 years. 

Like many sectors, healthcare has its own “black-book” of candidates and contacts who move from one organisation to another with great regularity. Whilst this provides high levels of knowledge retention and allows for a senior hire to hit the ground running, which of course has its advantages, it can also hold back a leadership team when it comes to diversity of thought and an impetus of new ideas. A declining talent pool has put further pressure on the diversity agenda when the focus remains on sector-only hires.

We are seeing a generational shift in cultural values and demands from employees and whilst remuneration remains an important part of any offer, particularly against the backdrop of the various cost of living increases we’re all experiencing, it’s now not THE most important factor. Candidates consider an offer against other criteria such as cultural intelligence (CQ) and career pathways, as well as an organisation’s position on ESG.

The benefits of talent from outside the sector

Having been sector agnostic for nearly all of my 16 years in recruitment, I’m acutely aware of the benefits of sourcing talent from alternative sectors. The CFOs I have worked with in retail and technology for example, often produce better quality and faster delivery against the challenges presented. In the areas of change, transformation, data and digital I estimate they are 3-5 years ahead of some of their peers in the healthcare sector. This isn’t to negate from the expertise of some of the excellent leaders and their workforce within the sector as there are wider challenges for healthcare, but I also feel healthcare could help itself, by being less insular.

CFOs today must support the sales and commercial agenda as well as keeping a keen eye on the bottom line and again this is where I believe some out-of-sector candidates can really thrive with a healthcare business and its investors. Now wearing many hats, the evolution of a modern CFO has taken many twists and turns. Tier 1 candidates are in short supply and this talent shortage will only increase as employers do more to retain their greatest assets combined with a move towards more of a seller’s market. With market turmoil and a recession seemingly on the horizon, history tells us that a change in key leadership roles is required to steer the ship through troubled waters. There will be winners and losers and it’s the open-minded business leaders who will be able to reap the rewards of hiring the very best talent, regardless of where they come from.

I have already seen the benefits of introducing talent from outside of sector. The diversity of thought and advantages of alternate approaches are having a real impact with our investor clients and their portfolio companies. In the first 9 months of our year, Compass Executives successfully completed circa 100 leadership mandates in the healthcare space, so I am confident we are reaching further and deeper into the sector than any other search firm. If you’re looking to strengthen key areas of your leadership team or have your board assessed by our experts, we can challenge your thinking of what good should look like. It’s long overdue that organisations got more creative about attracting talent and this is certainly something we can commit to.

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