Selecting a CHRO in an Evolving Financial Services Landscape

January 17, 2024 – Financial services organizations are often on different points of the spectrum of change and adoption, typically determined by factors such as competitive and shareholder considerations, strategic planning priorities, and regulatory limitations. To better inform the CHRO selection and screening process, organizations must first reflect on their short, medium, and longer-term human capital priorities, according to a recent article from Toronto-based executive search firm Massey Henry’s Michael Henry. “A robust HR evaluation framework should account for key pillars of human resources activities and deliverables,” he said. “These pillars will vary in name and scope by organization but generally cover primary HR responsibilities such as talent management, change management, culture, and business partnering.”

Executive leaders and boards will need to further reflect on the pillars most critical to support their overall strategy and determine how current HR practices are delivering against each pillar, according to Mr. Henry. “Many organizations have similar models to evaluate the effectiveness of HR’s service delivery and strategic impact,” he says. “That said, it will be especially important to reaffirm human resource priorities given the recent impact of COVID and the acceleration of technology transformation over the last several years.”

Mr. Henry explains that the key to successfully using such models within an executive search process is to ensure that senior executive groups and the board have consensus on organizational priorities from an HR perspective. He notes that there are many models that can be beneficial in evaluating candidates relative to the priorities and requirements of the organization.

Evaluating Against the Model

“Few CHROs enter an organization with experience across each pillar of the evaluation model,” Mr. Henry said. “Models like these are often aspirational but nonetheless beneficial in determining the suitability of a candidate. When coupled with an experienced interviewer and/or executive search firm, the capabilities profile of candidates can be quickly mapped against the pillars. This provides the CHRO selection committee with helpful feedback on how a candidate can address identified priorities, and where there are gaps in skills or experience.”

Once validated by the executive team and board, the model can also be leveraged as a framework for the new CHRO to conduct ongoing dialogue with senior leaders, and to ensure alignment regarding priorities, according to Mr. Henry. He notes that equally important, the model can be used as a performance measurement tool to assess progress and effectiveness – particularly in the CHRO’s first year.

Related: Choosing a CEO in Financial Services

“With the speed and scope of organizational change in financial services reaching unprecedented levels, deliberate and strategic consideration of priorities for a new HR leader will be critical in ensuring organizational success,” said Mr. Henry. “Matching the right competencies and experiences to short and medium-term organizational challenges will enable a new CHRO to accelerate the right initiatives while empowering the organization to effectively adapt to changes — now and in the future.”

As managing partner of Massey Henry, Michael Henry specializes in leadership recruitment for financial institutions, asset management, insurance, financial and risk management, and securities and non-securities regulation organizations across Canada. In addition to his core executive search work, he serves as an advisor to boards of directors on their overall composition, capabilities, and succession planning strategies at public sector and financial services institutions.

“With areas such as artificial intelligence and the future of work top of mind for many financial services organizations, the role of the CHRO is evolving quickly,” said Ron Mock, member of the board of trustees with University Pension Plan and former president and CEO of Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan. “Having led governance strategy at the corporate and board levels, and from my experience working with Michael Henry, I have found that organizations that adopt a formal evaluation framework when selecting a CHRO are better positioned to navigate industry-wide transformation and human capital demands.”

Serving Financial Services Organizations

Launched in 2021, Massey Henry is an executive search and board advisory firm specializing in financial services and the public sector. Michael Henry is the founder and managing partner of the firm. He said the firm’s aim was to set a new standard for executive recruiting with a streamlined, collaborative approach that enables organizations to recruit diverse top talent for urgent, transformational roles.

Using artificial intelligence technology combined with sector expertise, Massey Henry provides candidate research and a diverse candidate pool, while using custom criteria to assess each candidate for fit. Clients have 24/7 access to their search process which is designed to enhance decision-making and reduce timelines by half. The firm is backed by an experienced advisory board of top leaders, including George Cooke, board chair of OMERS; Bill Hatanaka, board chair of Ontario Health; Johanne Brossard, board director and former president and CEO of ING Direct Canada; Eric Wetlaufer, board director of Investment Management Corporation of Ontario and the TMX Group; Lynne Kilpatrick, board director and senior retail banking executive; and Sharon Pel, chair of the board of trustees for OPTrust.

Related: Leveraging AI for Executive Search Success

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Executive Editor; Lily Fauver, Senior Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media

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