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'Guns for hire' spur boom in executive contracting

This article originally appeared in Shortlist on Monday 22nd July 2019 and features Watermark Search International's Annual Interim Report. To download a copy of the 2019 Annual Interim Report click here.

Senior-level employees are increasingly approaching the latter years of their careers with a 'gun for hire' mentality that is driving a boom in the interim executive market.

Ampersand International CEO Cameron McKenna tells Shortlist that project-based work is providing significant opportunities for these experienced professionals to re-enter the workforce temporarily, as they come to the end of their permanent careers.

"Therefore, I think we're seeing the re-emergence of that 'gun for hire' sort of mentality," he says.

"What we're trying to do is leverage that. We've got these connections that we've built up over many years with people who are now in senior leadership roles, and they're pretty experienced practitioners.

"We're not just focusing on our traditional contracting business, but also really looking at this statement of work piece through procurement and the other channels that you deliver it."

Similarly, Ambition CEO Nick Waterworth says the trend is driving growth in the interim division of his company's executive recruiting subsidiary, Watermark Search.

"It's even going as far as disrupting management consulting firms," he says.

"There are quite a lot of instances where employer 'X' has got a change program or a business process program.

"In the past, their default position would have been to go to one of the large consultancies. But now, oftentimes, they come to a firm like Watermark and engage one or two or three interims to handle that project and then after the four months or six months, they shake hands and say goodbye."

Waterworth says the growth of this sector has been partly fuelled by the emergence of a growing pool of high calibre candidates, "people aged between 50 and 60 who are opting out of the treadmill of being on the corporate ladder, but they don't want to and can't afford to retire".

"There's an incredible resource in Australia of talented people in all sorts of different disciplines that are fuelling up this huge growth in interim management," he says.

"We've been operating in this market for about nine years now and it's really gone from something that was a curiosity people didn't really understand, kind of a cottage industry, to being a very commonplace method of staffing up for companies where they don't need to hire permanently."