September 29, 2010 – The founder of Executive Talent International, an executive search firm in Singapore, Lim Chye Lian is board chair of global partnership IIC Partners. She has more than 20 years of Asia Pacific executive search and corporate senior executive experience, living in Singapore, Hong Kong and Sydney. Her successful track record placing CEOs, senior functional executives and technical specialists spans many industries and functions, including electronics, telecommunications, information technology, consumer, healthcare, chemical, financial services and engineering. In the following interview, Lim Chye Lian discusses the recovering search market and the economy’s impact on the industry.
In the first part of our interview with you last week you said revenue forecast for IIC Partners for this year would see a 24 percent gain on 2009. Geographically, which areas have been most active for your firm? What regions are continuing to struggle?
Within IIC Partners, our growth mirrors global trends. The Americas appears to be leading the way, with IIC Partners members in the area projecting a 46 percent growth in revenue compared with 2009, followed by the Asia-Pacific region at 25 percent growth for this year and the EMEA region forecast to see a nine percent rise in revenue. In terms of the actual geographic split in revenue, in 2010 the EMEA region is projected to account for 49 percent compared with 53 percent in 2009, the Americas is seen contributing 42 percent compared with 39 percent in 2009, and the Asia-Pacific region is forecast to put in nine percent against eight percent last year. No area is struggling per se, though some are emerging more slowly than others. Europe is dragging its feet as uncertainty remains in a number of key regional economies.
For the remainder of the year do you believe overall demand for recruiting and human capital services will increase, decrease, or remain flat?
I think it's safe to say that the end of the year is in sight and, overall, an increased demand for executive search will continue to December and into 2011. The wild card, of course, is the threat of a double dip recession. IIC Partners' members are reporting that clients who had been reticent about executive recruitment during the recession are now realizing that in order to achieve growth or at least solidify their position, top executive talent is crucial and so they are now beginning to recruit again at the C-level and for board director positions. For the long term, in North America and in Europe, in particular, the 'baby boomers' are beginning to enter retirement. The recession delayed this but in the decade ahead this generation will leave tens of millions of jobs, millions of which are in senior management.
Which sectors do you see leading any recovery within the industry?
We see the six sectors, in which we specialize, leading the recovery. All are projected to grow strongly this year against the 2009 year end figures. We forecast our consumer and retail revenue to be up 50 percent on last year, energy revenue up 38 percent, the industrial sector a solid 21 percent projected increase, life sciences 77 percent and technology up an impressive 110 percent by year end. We believe the growth trends across these sectors will continue into 2011. As evidence of that, it's interesting to note that in 2009 these six sectors combined accounted for 71 percent of IIC Partners' total revenue; in 2010, that proportion is forecast up 14 percent at 85 percent. For the foreseeable future, technology remains full of potential, particularly as it continues to permeate and influence growth in other sectors. There could also be opportunity in the energy sector, specifically in alternative, clean energy.
What lasting effects do you think this long recession might have on executive search?
I think there have been two key changes which will impact the executive search industry in different but profound ways. IIC Partners believes in the retained approach to executive search in order to provide our clients with the best possible service. During the recession, we saw a number of executive search firms compromise their standards and move from a retained model to either a hybrid of retained and contingency, or just contingency. It will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, for those firms to move back to the exclusively retained model, which will in turn make it increasingly difficult for them to provide best practice levels of service to their clients. We have also observed that some of the larger integrated search organizations found it much harder to adapt to the challenges thrown up by the economic uncertainty than many of our members. As a result of this, it will be interesting to see if there will be some restructuring in these larger, less nimble, integrated firms to get rid of any dead weight and ensure flexibility. At the same time, upcoming leaders in such firms may decide to break away and form their own smaller, more specialized boutique companies and they, in turn, will seek affiliations with networks such as IIC Partners which can provide the global strength and reach without the heavy administrative burden.
This concludes Part Two of our interview with Lim Chye Lian. To read Part One, please go to HSZ Media news archives.