Eton Bridge Partners: Building international reach and a global footprint

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By Louise Franklin. Published on 22 June 2017

Technology is becoming a key enabler in the executive search process. As Head of Research at Eton Bridge Partners, I have seen a noticeable shift over the past three years in the advancement in technology and the access we now have to research reports, databases, networking sites, corporate documentation, telecommunications, apps and social media platforms. All of which have undoubtedly impacted and improved our ability to understand, analyse, predict and communicate readily, efficiently and continuously.

Where clients have trusted relationships with Eton Bridge Partners and have experienced the rigorous approach of our search process, we are increasingly being asked to execute global executive search mandates. We are starting to see a significant increase in our international search mandates year on year. This blog explores some of the ways we can deliver these without the cost and dispersion of knowledge that comes with establishing international offices, and specifically the role that technology can play in facilitating a global executive search.

Executive search remains a highly specialist field. It cannot be automated as it is built around irreplaceable human elements of relationships, anticipation, judgment and understanding. Ultimately, organisations are collections of people. It’s those people who hire others – more as a ‘solution’ spanning immediate and longer-term aspirations with the right interpersonal skills, outlook and motivation, ambitions, experience, energy and adaptive intelligence. Intelligent executive search is not purely a checklist of skills on paper.

At Eton Bridge Partners each search process is unique, with dedicated in-house researchers supporting our Partners on every role. We are engaged with the client and involved at every stage; both the Researcher and Partner are fully immersed in the nuances, culture and aspirational elements of the role as well as the hiring executives and the wider business. This balance and understanding within our teams has a significant impact on achieving successful outcomes on both a local and international basis across diverse functions and industries.

Technology, even at the upper echelons of the modern corporate world is a key enabler in the executive search process. Something as simple as looking on ‘Companies House’, broker research and detailed market reports allow us to have an enhanced understanding of our clients and their challenges. We ensure we understand their competitive landscape, target companies and markets in question, be it in the UK, Mexico, Dubai or China – technology enhances the quality, speed of access and quantity of information at the initial research stage of a search.

We can rapidly understand key business and management drivers, industry structures, trends, cultures, challenges and opportunities across multiple sectors – a knowledge base that previously took years to build. This gives us the ability to map international markets and networks as thoroughly as our own local market. It’s more a question of having the right intellectual and emotional firepower amongst our Research and Partner base to use this information to its full extent.

Targeting is a significant element of international search. Technology is absolutely not the whole answer here; it must be supplemented and guided by existing networks and relationships. But it does provide a window into a given market, so we can identify, research and actively target a significant population of relevant candidates.

Similarly, access to industry bodies, networking sites, social media, live content and knowledge-sharing portals means we can also reach those potential candidates and, most importantly, ensure high quality direct/indirect references are sought to clarify questions and confirm fit for a given role or context.

Frequently, the reverse can also be true with clients and candidates being able to find us from an international base – it may not be for a live opportunity, but in a month or even twelve, that connection and the ability to recall and utilise it can be essential and make every difference in building a long term relationship with clients and candidates alike. Managing this process efficiently with technology in a growing business is an essential part of everyday life.

As with all relationship-based activities, initial contact is the tip of the iceberg. Clear, effective and regular communication is what allows us to cement those relationships, and technology has assisted that process exponentially. From email and messaging, the ability to share and introduce, through to conference calls and Skype; technology enables firms like Eton Bridge Partners to communicate seamlessly with candidates, reference sources, industry experts and clients from almost any location globally. There is a significant amount that can be achieved and verified without a local presence.

An example to set this in context can be taken from a recent search on behalf of a European-headquartered global energy company looking for a senior leader to drive their Asian business as part of the Executive Board. Our core technology/data platforms helped us to focus our initial market mapping, networking and targeting of key industry figures, and to open our international network; ultimately allowing us to identify and reference a strong long list of candidates.

Skype and video conferencing facilities proved invaluable, enabling our Partners to hold initial face-to-face interviews across time zones and locations. Crucially, we were also able to share regular updates and discussions with our client to ensure the search was rigorous and that all stakeholders were engaged and given oversight throughout.

It was only when the Partner and lead Researcher managing the search travelled to Asia to meet the long-listed candidates in person, however, that we could genuinely identify the softer, characteristic and cultural fit of each to ensure the right match for our client. We were also able to o build the trust candidates look for in us as the bridge to the client and a new professional career.

Ultimately technology allowed us to achieve a global reach from the UK and deliver a first-class shortlist of candidates, competing with a number of local agencies and global headhunters.

Without the technology, such a global reach would be significantly harder, slower and less achievable. Yet without the experienced human input, judgement and communication to draw the process together, the technology would have significantly less value.

Paradoxically, Eton Bridge Partner’s success in winning the mandate in the first place was down to the strength of personal relationships and professional successes developed with our client over a long time.

Technology is a game changing enabler in executive search, as much as in so many areas of our personal, professional and societal lives – however, relationships are and will remain at the heart of everything we do, with a constant commitment to clients and candidates alike and a rigorous, transparent and consistent process underpinning our work regardless of global location.