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Homing in on the Talent

Published on: 10 June 2015

Leeds man David Winterburn is Head of Delivery at 4c Executive Search. He discusses the executive search market in Northern Ireland and how it differs from markets further afield.

A former Chair of the REC – the trade association for the £29bn recruitment industry in the UK – Winterburn’s credentials include a wide portfolio of senior industry roles, including Chairman of the Association of Executive Recruiters [AER]; President of the European Confederation of Search and Selection Associations [ECSSA]; two terms on the National Council of the IoD and a former Non Executive Director of the British American Business Council.

He was appointed in 2013 by 4c’s Founder and Managing Director, Gary Irvine – also a former chair of the REC and founder of Diamond Recruitment Group. As Head of Delivery at 4c, Winterburn oversees the entire executive search process for every 4c assignment, with the team having successfully filled over 50 roles in the past 18 months.

“Given the breadth and depth of our combined 50 years’ experience, and the leading team we have behind us, I think we offer arguably the strongest proposition in executive search in Northern Ireland,” Winterburn says. “Our combined roles over the years have given us great insight into the recruitment industry, particularly executive search, in the UK and Europe and further afield.

In terms of executive search, Northern Ireland is very much an emerging market compared to GB, but it is making great strides. Across the EU, meanwhile, markets like Germany and France are very buoyant when compared to the likes of those in Spain and Italy. But it is widely accepted that the forefathers of executive search are the Americans and I think we have a lot to learn from them in terms of the value that they place on the benefits of using executive search.

Although I have been coming back and forth to Northern Ireland for many years, it is only over the past two years at 4c that I have really become immersed in the local business community and culture,” he explains.

“Very quickly it became apparent to me that Northern Ireland has a lot to celebrate. Admittedly I was initially slightly concerned that the local market wouldn’t be big enough to take up 4c’s specialist offering, but I have found that there are so many fantastic businesses keen to recruit at senior level who had previously had to look to GB for a bespoke search solution.

There were, of course, some local nuances to get used to in some cases, such as a much lesser appetite or willingness to travel any great distance to work compared to the commuting culture that exists in GB. Salaries here also tend to be lower than in GB – albeit they are very much counteracted by the higher quality of life and standard of living here.

At 4c we very much have a global outreach and even recently I have interviewed people from Australia, Russia and Dubai for assignments we are working on. The quality of life here is certainly an attraction for international candidates, although without exception it always helps if a candidate has a link to Northern Ireland in terms of family or education.”

Winterburn describes the executive search market in Northern Ireland as “buoyant” and attributes one key principle to success in the market: “Success in executive search comes from always doing the right thing by both the client and candidate,” he says.

“The professionalism surrounding the industry is so important at all times and I think has ultimately been a big part of 4c Executive Search’s success to date. We have a growing team of industry-leading professionals who are totally committed to professionalism and high standards. They want to do it right every time, they care passionately and the results speak for themselves.”

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