Posted in: Oakleaf news

Posted on: .

Oakleaf Executive Market Insight – November 2020

Since our last update in September we have been delighted to welcome baby Hamish into the world, congratulations to Katrina Stewart and her family.   In Katrina’s absence the market insight is down to me so here we are.

Well what a week for other news it has been, after many months of lockdowns and tiers, and waiting in anticipation for news on Christmas and vaccines, we are starting to feel like we can see a light at the end of the tunnel, and it certainly feels that the jobs market is feeling the same optimism.

We are in no way back to the level we were used to pre-pandemic but there is an air of positivity in the market and we are finding that candidates have more comfort exploring new opportunities and we have had a significant increase in search mandates for roles including CPOs, HR Directors, Reward Directors and D&I experts.

We entered the second lockdown on the 5th of November, and we braced ourselves for a sudden drop in enthusiasm, but it never came.   We have a feeling that businesses and more importantly, HR in general have been here before, their systems and processes are in place, we are all set up for working from home, we have adapted our way of working.  We are already starting to think about the ‘future of work’ with some creativity and caution.   We ourselves introduced our own new way of working ethos which was welcomed by the team.

I attended a fantastic webinar with The Times talking about Hybrid working, which featured Oakleaf friend Danny Harmer, CPO of Aviva, and Tom Fraine, CPO of Bulb.  They talked about the new world of work and the appetite for a more Hybrid workforce.  I asked the question about a more flexible workforce not only in presence in the office but also to utilise candidates who would have historically been overlooked due to their geographical location.   There was most certainly much more optimism about having access to a UK or even International marketplace with the caveat that people would need to be available for face to face time and collaboration.

Key areas our business leaders have on their mind include organisation change, transformation and rightsizing, cultural change, resourcing processes, reward philosophy, diversity and inclusion, the Future of Work, leadership development and employee health and well-being.   You can see this by the increase in specialist roles being advertised.

There continues to be a challenge for clients and candidates alike in relation to the volume of people on the market, too much choice and competition.   We advise our network to only apply for the roles they really want and feel they can do.   At the beginning of the pandemic most roles were being managed by the inhouse talent teams, which was totally understandable.  We are now seeing that trend starting to shift as the number of roles being hired has increased, the time and effort taken internally is creating stretch and we are starting to see more opportunities being released where we can provide quick shortlists and strong candidates that meet the client’s needs.

Our teams are split by sector and specialisms.

HR Executive Search:

Penny Daniels looks after the Commercial Sector.   There has been a lot of movement during November, and we would like to offer our congratulations to the following individuals who have secured new roles;

  • Carmelita Lubos – CPO - Healthhero – Healthtech
  • Peter Cooper – Head of People Partners - Transferwise – Fintech
  • Ross Seychelles – CPO - Personio –HR Tech
  • Natalia Strauch – CPO – Improbable – Gaming Tech
  • Jenny Crawford – VP People – Trussle – Fintech
  • David James Smith – VP People – Cleo AI – Fintech

Within specialist areas, most senior roles coming up are for Talent, Employee Experience, Engagement, Wellbeing and Diversity & Inclusion. It seems any change that businesses needed to make has been accelerated, obviously due to the financial pressures of COVID-19, but more positively, organisations are ensuring they are fit for the future, investing in their people and embracing being more forward thinking.  Read the BBC Head of Employee Experience advert as an example! - https://careerssearch.bbc.co.uk/jobs/job/People-Experience-Director/50831. As well as Technology, the sectors Penny is seeing most activity in at an exec level are Universities, Engineering, Gambling, Telecoms, Retail, E-Commerce, and Media.

Emma Castillo has responsibility for Executive HR Hiring into Financial and Professional Services and explains that this market has remained strong.  Within Financial Services, demand within Private Equity and Investment Management has remained high with several moves at HR Director level.  These organisations tend to demand candidates with like for like sector experience.

There have also been several HR Director level hires across FinTech and Challenger banks.  Across broader Financial Services and banking, we have also seen consistent demand across specialist areas, in particular ER, Talent and Diversity and Inclusion.

Congratulations to the following individuals who have secured new opportunities.

Karen Dennehy – Head of HR EMEA – Pimco

Martin Worsley - CPO – Lockton Companies

Kevin Hogarth – HR Director – KPMG

Katie Gledhill – HR Director Europe and Asia – Goodwin Proctor

Debbie Dalzell – Group Head of HR - GAM Investments

Executive Reward:

Lucy Bills is our Executive Reward expert for the UK exec reward market on the permanent side.  There were a number of movements at the end of the summer period across a variety of sectors including Financial Services (Insurance, Banking and Asset Management), Retail, Manufacturing/Engineering, Oil & Gas and IT/Tech and there are still a handful of searches out across the FTSE350.

With year-end kicking off for several organisations, the discussions that she has been having with individuals in the market has been very much around what 2020 bonuses will look like and whether firms will be running salary reviews. There is the continued discussion around pay and location and what that will look like moving forward, however, it feels a little too early to make any decisions around this, as ultimately it will depend on what the future of work looks like for organisations.

Within the Financial Services sector, the looming implementation of CRD5 and IFD (Investment Firm Directive) are very much forefront of conversation and it will be interesting to see whether this creates an increase in regulatory reward hiring within those firms that are soon to be materially impacted under the new rules. The natural reaction for businesses is to look to the Big4 or Consultancy firms but with cost saving in mind this year, could this result in more in-house hiring of regulatory comp professionals?

Another hot topic and something that will certainly form part of the HR agenda for 2021, is Diversity & Inclusion. Lucy recently conducted a survey around the FTSE350 looking at both gender and ethnicity across reward and her findings can be seen here - https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/your-reward-strategy-applicable-diverse-workforce-lucy-bills/.  The involvement of reward with D&I is crucial and she will be looking to host roundtables over the next few months with Heads of Reward/ Reward Directors alongside a D&I expert to discuss rewards role to play. If you’d like to get involved, please contact Lucy on lucybills@oakleafexecutive.com

Executive Interim:

I take personal responsibility for the HR Executive Interim Practice and we are starting to see an increase in opportunities.   At the beginning of the pandemic a lot of the bigger Organisational Change and Transformation projects were put on hold or stopped all together, any project work that was required was either managed within the teams or sourced directly through the excellent networks within the HR world.   From my discussions in the marketplace, this is starting to pick back up as businesses start to think about what their future organisation will look like.

As previously mentioned, we are all reviewing our ways of working, resulting in changes in policy, systems and processes, this change is also proving to require ad hoc executive level interim support.   We are seeing, as the permanent market is picking up, the requirement for interim HR Director level support to cover vacancies is increasing.

Finally, the main requirement for an interim is when you have an urgent or specialist need that cannot be met by your in-house team.   With the focus on key areas such as D&I, Reward, Change and Leadership, business and HR leaders are looking to access this talent more flexibly.  All discussions we are having are pointing to a busy first 2 quarters in 2021.

Finally, within the Oakleaf Executive team we continue to publish thought leadership, interesting articles and are continuing to run our Talent Talks Series.

Jamie Newton – International:

The US Reward market has continued to gather pace defying the odds against the backdrop of a devastating impact from COVID -19.  It is no doubt testament to the strength of the economy and the robust nature of the East Coast business cities, where recruitment activity in reward has continued in earnest.  Additionally, it points to the critical part that reward plays in businesses and that even in difficult periods of economic uncertainty it is always vital to have skilled and talented compensation and benefits professionals in seat.   Having run the analysis, hires made in the New York Mid-Senior Compensation & Benefits market in the six months prior to lockdown in March numbered 66, however in the seven months post lockdown we have seen 78 hires hire made.  September was a particularly active month with 18 hires made across a variety of sectors.  Interestingly whilst sectors such as technology, pharma, FMCG, Fin-tech, and niche financial services, have all performed well and hired in the midst of the pandemic;  growth markets and hard hit sectors such as retail and leisure have still hired top compensation & benefits within the New York area.

The election and subsequent fallout in the weeks after 3rd Nov have caused a notable pause in the market with the attention of companies focused on delivering year end and planning ahead to a potential new administration in Jan 2021.  It will be very interesting to see how a Biden administration will impact the compensation and benefits landscape, but in talking with my network the prediction is that change is on the horizon.    Healthcare reform was a well-publicised topic of debate during the democratic party primaries, and against the backdrop of COVID-19, access to affordable healthcare is going to be top of people’s minds.  Companies will be forced to review and, in many cases, improve their healthcare provision along with ensuring a robust wellbeing strategy is in place.  Transparency will be the main feature of 2021/22 compensation planning agenda.  Both Kamala Harris and Joe Biden have always campaigned for increased transparency of compensation for executives and more meaningful and relevant metrics linked to actual company performance.  Will we see Dodd Frank coming back, or a new form of legislation that curbs corporate excess?  Many firms have already been trying to get ahead of the game regarding compensation and moving outside of traditional cash-based models and looking at extended deferrals or RSU’s with stricter performance condition.

What is clear is that Compensation & Benefits will be a top agenda item for the next 18 months and more and more firms will look to strengthen their capabilities in this area, particularly at the senior level.  Like the UK many in the US are predicting that a Biden administration will shift the focus of corporate compensation from being competitive to being compliant, and with these undertones many firms will look to ensure they have the best Compensation & Benefits leaders in seat.

Related articles

A notable trend is that the appetite to move roles at the senior end in reward remains very high.

Oakleaf Executive share their insight into their specialisms - Executive HR, Executive Interim and International.

Across the board, it has been noted that HR is needed now more than ever before.

Ready to get in touch?


Contact us

Want to keep up-to-date with future events, job postings and all things Oakleaf?


See our privacy notice for more information on how we take care of your information.



Oakleaf Partnership Limited. Registered in England with no: 5396257