April 5, 2018 – London-based executive search and leadership solutions provider Marlin Hawk has acquired Winter Circle, the invitation-only digital network for senior executives. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
The two firms will create the Marlin Hawk Group which will provide an array of talent solutions to help empower internal executive search teams through technology. The firm will offer the full spectrum of executive hiring, from executive search and organizational analysis to direct solutions and access to an exclusive digital network of senior leaders.
Founded 15 years ago by David Holloway, Marlin Hawk has built an executive search business, which saw a record year in 2017 with net fee income up 25 percent. The firm also saw increased revenue growth globally, in the U.S. business led by Mark Oppenheimer, and in the international business led by John-Claude Hesketh. Built on a philosophy of challenging industry norms, Marlin Hawk’s clients include Goldman Sachs, Delta Airlines and Unilever.
Founded in 2015, Winter Circle connects executives with opportunities, ideas and intelligence, and has members from all over the world. The firm has worked with companies like Microsoft, Visa and Coupang.
As a result of this deal, existing and new clients across both businesses are expected to experience the digitalization of executive search and discover the benefits of technology and innovation at a faster pace, according to Marlin Hawk.
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“It’s my belief that leaders have a responsibility to drive their industries forward, and that the time is now for the executive search industry, which hasn’t changed in decades,” said Mr. Holloway, CEO of Marlin Hawk. “By harnessing the strengths of these businesses we can bring a badly needed refresh of the services that search firms provide, adding greater value to the client and candidate experiences. We are committed to combining the best of human relationships with technology to disrupt the sector and to bring an outdated industry into the 21st century.”
Adam White, COO of Winter Circle, said the acquisition is a positive for all involved. “Joining with Marlin Hawk will allow us to be a stronger force in the industry as we grow our global network,” he said. “There is already a natural synergy between the two companies and I believe our combined, tech-led proposition will transform how the industry is perceived and operates.”
Mr. Holloway recently sat down with Hunt Scanlon to discuss the new venture and what it will bring to clients. Here are some excerpts from that discussion.
David, tell us about Winter Circle.
Winter Circle is an invitation-only digital network for the world’s leading executives. Built by search professionals, members are handpicked by experienced sector professionals. This extensive knowledge combined with our global network means we invite the best talent, providing internal search teams with access to the smartest minds in the market. The search tools enable candidate longlists to be created in minutes and candidates can be found by using filters such as role title, management experience, compensation, location and budget scale. From a candidate perspective, it allows executives to share their aspirations and career history simply but powerfully in a private network. Winter Circle also connects senior leaders, providing a platform for peers to engage in cross-industry, cross-continental networking.
How did Marlin Hawk’s relationship start with the organization?
Several years ago, I considered how executive search needed to adapt. Working practices have remained pretty much the same for the 20 years I have been in the industry and a new generation of talent, who will not tolerate outdated practices, is coming up. I wanted to explore how technology could play a far more significant role in both the search process, as well as in the relationship with candidates. I took the decision to develop and nurture Winter Circle outside of Marlin Hawk because I wanted it to be able to test, unencumbered, our thoughts about what executive search needs. An independent Winter Circle showed this was not only possible, but that it was able to attract a very high caliber of international clients, such as Microsoft, Visa and Coupang. As an industry we have seen a desire in recent years for organizations to build their own internal search teams, but in many cases, companies are not set up for this. This is where we step in, with our technology and expertise, to help clients become more self-sufficient in their senior hiring.
“As an industry we have seen a desire in recent years for organizations to build their own internal search teams, but in many cases, companies are not set up for this. This is where we step in, with our technology and expertise, to help clients become more self-sufficient in their senior hiring.”
Moving forward, David, how will the joint company operate?
As the Marlin Hawk Group, the two companies will operate side-by-side offering the full spectrum of executive hiring, from executive search and organizational analysis to direct solutions and access to an exclusive digital network of senior leaders. Working together with traditional executive search advisory, the technology will provide clients with the richest and most accurate data in searches and in developing talent acquisition strategies. As a group, harnessing technology will enable us to deepen both client and candidate relationships, moving from one-off tactical engagement to strategic multi-year relationships. Advisory will absolutely remain at the heart of what we do – this is undeniably a people-driven business and technology can only act as a complement to real human connections. But whether you are a candidate or a client, technology is about to revolutionize your experience.
Can you provide an overview of the current state of recruiting for the digital sector?
As you would imagine, it is a highly competitive marketplace. How to engage with customers through technology is very high up on the agenda for nearly all CEOs, and good digital leaders hold the answers and techniques to enable this. As the current news agenda illustrates, data provides a huge opportunity for companies to drive innovation and embrace tools such as AI and machine learning, but corporates must demonstrate they are able to protect customer data with enhanced security. This is the tightrope that senior executives must tread, and to do this effectively you must hire the best digital talent to deliver your strategy. With these skills in high demand, we will see this talent group becoming highly mobile as companies around the world raid the key talent centers such as San Francisco. We have personally been involved in securing leaders in this field in the U.S. to move elsewhere, for example to work in Germany for Adidas. It is critical that your search partners are connected into this community and engages in a way which feels comfortable to this audience, something the Marlin Hawk Group is well positioned to do.
Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor; and Andrew W. Mitchell, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media