The Greek philosopher Heraclitus once said: “The only thing that is constant is change.” Two and a half millennia later and the words of the Ephesian native still ring true, particularly in our era of economic and political uncertainty.
And while it might be nestled up high in the mountains, Switzerland is by no means exempt from change. Over the past four years, we’ve experienced the downfall of the "strong Swiss franc", a corporate tax reform, the end of banking secrecy and a decreasing unemployment rate, which today sits at around 2% (the lowest in 10 years).
To find out how these changes are impacting the executive search market in Switzerland, we caught up with Morgan Philips Group’s Managing Director, Switzerland, Charles du Pontavice.
Secret banking, new technology and the timeless watchmaking industry
Switzerland has made headlines recently for trying to put an end to its reputation as a haven for illicit money, with banks now sharing client data with numerous foreign tax authorities. As a direct result, many banks have been forced to overhaul their existing business models to ensure clients are fully tax compliant.
Charles says: “To meet the demands of their clients, there’s an increased pressure on banks to offer better support, performance, complementary services and privacy.”
“Bankers and financial advisors of Ultra High-Net-Worth Individuals (UHNWI) are now being forced to offer increased technical expertise and tailor-made support – essentially acting as a personal CFO to their clients.”
There’s also a growing concern around the lack of leaders in Switzerland’s tech sector, says Charles, particularly experts in cybersecurity, the Internet of Things (IoT), CRM and digital.
“While there is a generation of young and ambitious tech experts with truckloads of creativity, it will be years before these young specialists are ready to lead teams of their own.”
Other industries experiencing a significant talent shortage are the industrial, manufacturing and watchmaking space, Charles points out.
“To meet the demand for fresh talent, many organisations are looking to bring in people from overseas, particularly for leadership positions in sales and business development roles.”
Referencing the watchmaking sector in particular, Charles said there’s been a sharp move from production orientation to customer orientation, with brands looking at new ways to better understand the buying behaviours of their target demographics and taking a more digitally-led approach to engage them, rather than relying on reputation alone.
He says: “The watchmaking sector suffered a significant crisis several years ago, and as a result, has taken on a more strategic and cautious approach to decision-making. Nowadays, the leading watchmaking brands have invested in effective controlling processes and adopted innovative new technology to secure their dominance in the global watchmaking market.”
Daring to be different – the traits of the modern leader
As organisations continue to invest in their global portfolio and attempt to secure a place on the international stage, the demands of a successful leader are quickly evolving.
Moving away from the cold and corporate leadership traits of the past, modern leaders are expected to demonstrate empathy, amongst other things.
“The ability to understand people, see where they’re coming from and help them to succeed has fast become an essential for the new world of work”, says Charles.
“There’s no longer an excuse for leaders to stay cooped up in their corner offices. In our increasingly globalised and connected world, leaders need to be out there getting to know everyone, regardless of their level or location.”
He also highlights the need to be courageous, saying: “Leaders need to possess the courage to take risks – and to actually do what they say they’ll do.”
There’s also an increased demand for greater flexibility, he points out.
“Leaders need to be strategic in their approach and think practically from an operational perspective, but they also need to be agile and fast-paced in their decision-making. In our increasingly competitive marketplace, indecisiveness will do you no favours.”
Modern search methodologies for the modern workplace
In order to identify and connect with high-performing executive-level leaders, search firms cannot rely on traditional smoke and mirror style tactics – they need to adapt their approach to the new world of work.
Charles says: “We live in an era of transparency, where your brand reputation is one of your most important assets. That’s why it’s no longer acceptable for headhunters to act like rogue agents – they are ambassadors of your brand and need to uphold your image.”
To identify and connect with the right talent, an effective executive search firm will have an active and engaged network on a local and global scale, he highlights.
“Through Club5000, we’ve taken a crowdsourcing approach to networking. This model gives us access to senior-level leaders in a wide range of different industries and sectors.”
There’s also a growing need for hyperspecialisation in the market, says Charles. “In order to help clients and candidates make the right decisions, executive search consultants need to have a strong understanding of the field or sector they’re operating in on both a local and a global scale.
For more insights and trends taking place in Switzerland’s executive search market, or to find out more about our innovative executive search business, please get in touch with Charles du Pontavice on firstname.lastname@example.org