In the spring of 2010, FTSE250-quoted National Express relocated its entire head office finance team from London to Birmingham. The challenge was several-fold: To recruit twelve individuals whilst ensuring continuity of service to guarantee that all reporting requirements were still completed on time. Another key consideration was factoring in sufficient handovers between incoming and outgoing staff and accounting for incoming candidates’ typical notice periods of three months. Since there was limited take-up on relocation assistance, this was a sensitive assignment that required tact and speed as the existing London team was to be released at the end of September. Speed also helped maintain as high a level of motivation as possible amongst a workforce that was looking for new jobs elsewhere. National Express chose to work with Berwick Partners as we were are one of the few companies with established finance teams in both Birmingham and London. The roles were all for qualified accountants but ranged from very senior ‘Head of’ appointments to a highly technical treasury accounting position.
The Berwick Partners finance practice was briefed for all roles in one sitting and a priority list was established to recruit more senior staff sooner to involve them in the interviewing process when sourcing individuals for their new teams. For the more technically specialist positions (treasury or tax for example), these roles were recruited from day one, as the candidate pool tended to be smaller because of the required specialism. Yet another challenge was that one of the positions demanded fluent Spanish. Another key consideration was planning start dates whilst juggling notice periods. Our strategy was to use a multiple approach including headhunting, networking, database mining and online advertising. This methodology worked very successfully as it allowed Berwick Partners to provide quality candidates within a short timeframe. The recruiting team was comprised of a researcher and two consultants who worked in close collaboration with the Group Financial Controller at National Express. This allowed consideration of technical abilities as well as personal and management styles as the new team’s culture and structure evolved.
The outcome was that Berwick Partners helped National Express create a new, fully functioning head office finance team in Birmingham and, more importantly, to deadline. The Group Financial Controller provided us with the following testimonial:
“This was an unusual assignment as we were relocating our corporate office and needed to recruit an entire Group finance and treasury team. We were not looking so much for cultural fit but developing a whole new culture! We wanted to build on the emerging success of National Express, as we rebuilt the business, its finances and its performance. We discussed our vision for the team, a new organisational structure made up of a diverse talent pool that would complement each other and drive the business forward. The timescale for the assignment was short, given the impending relocation and to allow the incumbent team to leave once they had secured new roles. We challenged Odgers to provide first class candidates within weeks, rather than months, and assured them we would meet candidates promptly, being flexible on packages available in order to get the best talent. We had weekly status calls to discuss the progress of each role, often at antisocial hours to fit in with our other commitments.
Marcus Beale's candidate briefing reports were accurate and considered. He gave us real choice for each role - as pressure grew to identify candidates for key roles, Odgers did not let its high standards drop. Lucy Brennan's enthusiasm was infectious and her obvious delight at finding a strong candidate made her a pleasure to work with - she cared about this assignment as much as we did. As we offered candidates positions, Marcus and Lucy were insightful and effective in closing offers to acceptance. As we complete our first financial year end with our new team, we feel well placed to meet the challenges ahead. Odgers helped us deliver our vision for finance and create a team to face the future with confidence.”