January 7, 2010 – Tim Sheffield is founder and chief executive of executive search firm Sheffield Haworth Group. He began his career on the London, Chicago and Sydney Exchanges selling and trading Exchange Traded Derivatives. Since 1993, Mr. Sheffield has been responsible for the management and strategic development of the Sheffield Haworth Group, creating the leading specialist international executive search, research and advisory firm dedicated to the global financial services industry. In the following interview, Mr. Sheffield discusses his firm’s international growth and the current state of the executive search market.
How has Sheffield Haworth been able to grow in this down economy?
Our strong balance sheet and long term objectives for the firm has allowed us to continue to invest in the group over the past year. In contrast to our competitors, our headcount is up 10 percent from this time last year. We have a clear plan of what we want Sheffield Haworth to look like in three years time and our senior management team is fully aligned in achieving this goal. A dominant position in the U.S. market is central to this vision.
What industries are hot right now? Which sectors are still struggling?
We have been active across all areas of the financial services sector, however, we have witnessed significant recruitment activity in investment banking and sales and trading. Our revenues are down 16 percent on 2008, however, 70 percent of our revenues in 2009 have come from the second half of the year. Asset management, alternatives and wealth management have been reasonably quiet this year but we are beginning to see more activity in these sectors.
What is the firm’s current headcount in London and New York and do you expect to grow that headcount in the coming 12 month period?
We currently have 25 professional in our New York and Boston offices. A further 45 professionals in our London office. Currently over 90 professionals in the group. We plan to increase headcount to around 115 in 2010.
New York has been a tough market for some firms to break into; how has Sheffield Haworth been so successful in doing so?
Being a specialist global firm, combining local U.S. expertise with an international perspective has certainly differentiated us in the U.S. market. Leveraging our international network of client relationships has also played a significant part in supporting our clients in the U.S. We have recruited a strong team, who understand the dynamics of their specialist market and link in with their colleagues in other regions of the world. Finally, we pride ourselves on producing high quality research and market intelligence which clients recognize and value.
Does Sheffield Haworth offer services other than executive search to its clients?
We have developed other services to help our client’s gain a competitive advantage. Our strategy is to align ourselves with exceptional service providers who specialize in areas of performance consulting, HR advisory, etc.
What are your feelings in general about the past 12 months and the coming 12 months for the search industry and your firm?
The past 12 months have been particularly challenging, however, it has allowed the stronger firms — who possess the ambition to grow — to build market share and scale up their business. Poorly managed search firms with weak balance sheets have found it very difficult to survive in the current climate. I firmly believe that to succeed in the future, you either remain small or niche or you globalize your business where no region or sector dominates your organization. Personally, I am very excited about the future of our industry. I feel Sheffield Haworth is well placed to become the market leader in financial services … but we still have plenty of work to do.