Mona Neagoe, partner at executive search firm Pedersen & Partners and country manager for Romania, tells BR about the activity of the Bucharest office, the local executive search market and the differences between local and expat management.
By Simona Fodor
What are some of the specialty areas of the Bucharest office?
If you look at Pedersen & Partners as a set of two axis, horizontal and vertical, our horizontal axis is our ability to cross borders seamlessly and our vertical is our expertise across ten global practice groups. Each practice group represents a series of market sectors and each practice group is led by executives that have proven themselves in those industries. Local offices rely on the experience and knowledge at practice group level.
Although we do not formally specialize at country level, offices tend to be more focused on specific industries due to how the economic sectors have developed locally; for example, our office here in Romania has had more success in services than in manufacturing. Over the past 20 years, many plants in Austria, France, Germany and the UK have relocated here with their management, so the manufacturing sector has had less need for executives than other industries.
What are the industries that make up your portfolio of clients?
It is very different. Before the crisis for instance, 2006-2007 was a period of banking, and 2008 was the year of FMCG. 2006-2008 was the real estate boom, so this was also visible in our portfolio. 2009 was a difficult year because everyone was feeling the effects of the crisis.
Now I would say we have a balanced distribution between IT, pharmaceutical, retail, logistics and transportation, and financial services. A much more balanced portfolio compared to the one in the boom period, when some of the industries were growing overnight.
How long does the recruitment process take in each of the industries?
It all depends on the size of the pool of candidates, which varies from industry to industry and by role within each industry, as well as previous experience in that field. The length of the recruitment process may also vary based on the client selection criteria and the number and quality of candidates that could meet those criteria. Even if there are many candidates, for instance, for commercial positions in FMCG or in retail banking, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is easy to conclude the project as a higher level of due diligence may be required. If there are many people, you need to go through a lot of candidates and the process can take longer. If we are talking about finance positions, again, the pool of candidates is wide and normally the process is longer if you consider how many candidates suited for the positions are available. For us it does not take that long because we know the function very well; Finance is one of the areas where we move with a lot of ease.
Have there been projects you didn’t take on? Why did that happen?
Either there was a large discrepancy between the objectives and the means the person had in his or her power to reach those objectives or the role entailed little formal power for the respective person to achieve their objectives.
We have had cases were there was an incompatibility between the level of the role, the level of responsibility and the package proposed for the role: the package was very small for the position, and even if it was in an industry that traditionally doesn’t pay very well, it was still below what was needed and we couldn’t have found someone for the position.
Can we still talk about significant skill differences between local and expat management?
If we are talking about people that have gotten a chance to educate themselves in the global market economy, I don’t think that we can talk about significant differences. These are people who have learned how to do things in multinationals, who graduated from MBA schools outside Romania and are educated in a similar way to their Western peers. At this level there are no significant skill differences.
Differences persist in areas or niches that are less developed, such as the online business, which in Romania is still in its infancy. There are quite a lot of entrepreneurial initiatives but there aren’t necessarily many big, international names present here. So it is hard to find corporate profiles with online expertise within the local market. There are only a few, so, typically, you need to tap into expertise outside of Romania.
At a board level, without being discriminatory, with senior executives aged 45 and above, there are still differences in experience. Professionals coming from Western Europe have lived and learned in a capitalist global market economy, have gone through the economic growth-recession/crisis cycle and, having been through more periods like this they have different work and management experience. They know how to come back to the market, how to adjust a go-to-market approach after a recession.
What is the organizational set-up of Pedersen & Partners?
We are a wholly owned, single profit center, executive search firm with 50 offices across 47 countries. We work as one firm, globally, without restriction of borders. Our resources and our reach are unified, shared and completely mobile. We are one of just a few firms organized like this.
What is the value of the local executive search market?
There is no official value for the executive search market. It is a niche. The numbers are distorted by the fact that there are many recruitment firms claiming to perform executive search activity. It is difficult to know how much of their activity is executive search and how much is recruiting.
Also, there are firms doing recruitment amongst other human capital consulting activities, but all in all, we can estimate that the market stands at some EUR 7-8 million, including the recent executive search projects undertaken by the public sector/state-owned companies.