Article submitted by Martin Gooden, Director at Trinity Scott.

When you think of the industries in which the UK leads the world, the following are likely to spring to mind: Banking, Media, Advertising, Life Sciences, Television, Film, and maybe even the Premier League. The more astute among you might even come up with Business Services, covering all those management consultancies and law firms. However, what you might not think of is Executive Search, which is nestled within all of these, quietly going about its business advising firms both large and small across the globe and generating millions of pounds for the UK.

There is nowhere like London for the concentration of search firms. There are around 150 that work almost exclusively in the retained search market, plus a plethora of firms that work on a hybrid model of both retained and exclusive projects. The London market is bigger than that of New York or Chicago, and, in fact, anywhere else you can think of. Fees may be bigger in the US, but, in terms of firms and the talented individuals who work for them, London is by far the leading city in the world.

But, you might ask, why is this? Arguably, the same geographical accident that draws so many banks to London could be the answer, or the great time zone or the language spoken. All of these are important and play a part in what makes London tick the box from a search perspective. However, you simply cannot ignore the talent the people who work in these search firms bring – from associates to managing partners. London is the place to be, with people coming from across the globe, particularly from Europe, to work in the search industry in London.

At Trinity Scott, our expertise is focused on the associate/research field. Our network either works in this space or wants to work in this space. Over the last two years, I think we have placed over 30 people who speak perfect English as a second language – they are from France, Germany, Spain, Belgium, Poland, Italy and beyond. Why? Because there is an unquenchable thirst from our clients (leading search firms) for bilingual professionals. The simple truth is that some of my clients conduct 70% of their business in Europe on pan-European or global searches. These language speakers are invaluable when navigating these markets.

So, what is the impact of Brexit on all this? In the last year, I have placed 10 candidates back into Europe from London; they decided that a post-Brexit London is not for them. In the time since the Brexit vote, I have had just one enquiry from a European-based researcher wanting to come over to London! What does this mean? Should the search industry be worried? The answer to this isn’t as complex as you might think. Search firms are no different to any other firm – they are battling for talent. It’s just that the battle has got a whole lot harder. Gaps are appearing in firms as their European speakers decide that a post-Brexit London isn’t the place for them. As people return to Europe, the fresh crop of graduates and candidates with 2–4 years’ experience is simply not moving over to London.

I do not think it’s as simple as getting visas for people with skills. It strikes me that the people returning to Europe would qualify for visas; they just don’t want to be in the UK. As this group leaves, it takes with it a huge amount of IP and know-how.

 The question that needs to be answered is this: How can London maintain its place as the home of the European search industry without a group of people who have been essential to its past and continued success? Find out more soon in Part 2.