An eye for detail: Delivering a Head of Planning and Performance for SIG

Search assignment: Head of Planning and Performance

Client: Paul Hopkinson, Finance Director, Planning and Performance, SIG plc

Successful candidate: Julian Powell

Eton Bridge Partners project team: John Cockburn, Associate Partner, CFO & Finance

SIG is an international supplier of insulation, roofing, commercial interiors and specialist construction products. Founded in 1957 as Sheffield Insulations Limited, it became Sheffield Insulations Group in 1989 and expanded rapidly in the 1990s. It is a FTSE-250 business that reported revenue of £2.67billion in 2018. 

SIG review: Paul Hopkinson

My relationship with Eton Bridge Partners (EBP) goes back five years, when I was Group Finance Director at McCarthy & Stone – I worked with EBP to source a range of finance executives, including Finance Director positions in Scotland, the North West, the North East and the West Midlands. An Interim Finance Manager was also previously hired through Eton Bridge Partners.

Here at SIG, we’ve hired a number of candidates through EBP in other areas of the business. Having a range of Practices from CFO & Finance, Board and HR to Business Transformation and IT enables them to get closer to the broader business rather than just one particular function.

I’ve always had a good rapport with EBP. No matter who I talk to and work with, they take the time to get to know me so they understand the sort of person that will work well with me.

On this occasion, I needed a Head of Planning and Performance, someone who could oversee the logistical systems of the business while staying aligned with our overall strategy and financial aims.

The process took quite a while in the end, with a fair few iterations along the way. During the first wave, for some reason, there was a disconnect between EBP and our HR team with only one of the five candidates put forward to me being remotely suitable.

We ran the process again and soon found a suitable candidate but unfortunately, they pulled out of the hiring process at a very late stage. It was back to the drawing board with EBP saying “let’s get a coffee and we will sort this out”. Their keen desire to land this particular role gave me the confidence to afford them another shot at it. It was shortly before this that John Cockburn had joined EBP and he took over responsibility for the process on their side.

John got up to speed with the background of the search quickly working out what previous candidates had lacked (and in the most recent wave what attributes appealed), so that we found the right candidate as quickly as possible without any compromise.

It was important that the person who came in had some aptitude around presentations. It’s a proven way for a candidate to demonstrate both their written and verbal communication skills and show how adapt they are at clear simple messaging.

An eye for detail, spelling and numeracy are also on the list for scrutiny at interview stage. Julian really stood out following his program presentation.  He showed he really understood the role as well as having the complete skillset to be successful.

From day one, Julian quickly settled into his role. He’s easy to get on with, we have a very good rapport – maybe because we’re both Northerners – and he’s very capable. Julian is the sort of guy you can throw stuff at and trust that he will come back to you with a quality piece of work.

I will most definitely be working with EBP again. I’ve been working with them for years and the key is that they know me and my business well. Even if wasn’t for a role directly working for me, I would be confident they could find the right individuals. With everyone I meet at Eton Bridge, it works. It just clicks.

Successful candidate review: Julian Powell

How would you describe your initial experience and briefing from Eton Bridge Partners?

When EBP first appeared on my radar, John Cockburn took the time to meet me face to face for a coffee and fully brief me before I had my first interview with SIG.

That was followed by interim meetings at various stages of the interview process. It was not what I would have expected from some of the bigger names in the recruitment world. With EBP, from the start of the process, I felt like a person, not a number.

What was the level of communication from Eton Bridge?

John was very keen to give me feedback from Paul. I could see they had followed up with the client. John wanted to know if I had got on well with him and told me what I needed to do to move through to the next stage. Clearly, it worked.

I had a firm understanding of what the stages were and everything was passed on by John in a clear, concise manner.

John was good at telling me what the next stage would be; I would need to speak about one subject for a certain amount of time, or to present a case study on a particular topic. It’s good to know these things in advance and I never found myself in an interview confused by anything that was put in front of me.

EBP clearly knew the client well. John told me what the company was all about, where it was in its life-cycle and advised me what to read up on.

What was your sense of Eton Bridge’s values and proffessionalism?

I had been out of work for about a year and met quite a few recruiters. I could count on one hand the decent experiences.

The general approach of Eton Bridge is the same across the board, whereas any good experiences I had elsewhere were down to individuals rather than indicative of a company’s culture and approach.

For instance, if I rang up and spoke to anybody at EBP they knew who I was, they were aware of my situation and where I was in the process. That does not happen at other firms and as a candidate, that’s a very good feeling to get.

SIG is going through a lot of change and no two days are the same. I was definitely made aware of that by EBP and I don’t think I would have been put forward as a candidate if I hadn’t embraced that and seen it as a positive.

Everyone’s on the same page, we’re getting things done, making decisions quickly and everyone’s approachable, which is how I like it.

When I’m next looking to recruit, EBP will be the first on my list to talk to.

John Cockburn

Associate Partner
Executive Search
CFO & Finance


John Cockburn is an Associate Partner within the CFO & Finance Practice at Eton Bridge Partners, focusing on retained mandates to recruit direct reports to CFOs and Group FCs.