In engaging with corporate affairs professionals each day, the discussions often turn to the market and what we can expect in terms of future trends. In a year of “unprecedented uncertainty”, this is an extremely difficult question to answer.
At challenging times such as now, we know our corporate affairs leaders play a critical role in influencing how business responds, and importantly its decision-making. However, at this stage we cannot accurately predict to what extent COVID-19 will impact our hiring trends this year.
In 2018, I suggested that many of the external trends that shaped the year for executive search & recruitment were likely to carry forward in 2019. In particular, the evolution of the corporate affairs function in the new age of reputation, where forces beyond profit are now more important than ever.
Today, AWPeople works across the globe to provide executive search and strategy advisory services. In the past year over 50% of our placements were executive leadership roles, with over 12% functional leadership roles.
Nearly 40% of our clients were multinational companies. Further, 65% of our placements were based in Australia, with the balance in Singapore, Hong Kong and China.
Mistrust demands expertise
Amidst a backdrop of declining trust of organisations in Australia, just over 40% of our placements had “Communications” in the role title. Specifically, we saw more senior roles leading public affairs strategy and demanding expertise in issues, crisis and reputation management. In fact, 20% of our placements had a primary “External” (media, government, industry) focus.
Similarly, we saw an increasing number of placements in highly regulated industries, where there is strong desire for corporate affairs professionals to navigate the complexities of Australia Pac and Asia’s regulatory environment and influence a diverse range of stakeholders.
The majority of our placements were in the financial services, industrials and resources sectors. 25% of our placements were in the financial services sector. We also worked in new sectors, such as FinTech and expect this to continue as they grow and expand into new global markets.
Interestingly, we are seeing our professional transition their skills set across different industries, with 80% of the candidates placed coming in from a different industry, to that where they have been placed.
The future is women
Increasingly, companies are being appraised on their demographic profiles. 2019 marked the largest increase in the proportion of women in executive roles globally. On average over the last two years, 50% of our shortlist candidates have been female.
A stronger ESG proposition
According to McKinsey & Company, global sustainable investment now tops $30 trillion—up tenfold since 2004. The acceleration has been driven by heightened social, governmental, and consumer attention on the broader impact of corporations, as well as by the investors and executives who understand that a strong ESG proposition can safeguard a company’s long-term success. We are observing an increase in companies looking to formally integrate ESG practices to support reputation management and have placed a number of roles with this focus.
Investor relations evolution
Similarly, we have witnessed an evolution in investor relations, with the placement of senior investor relations roles within the Group Corporate Affairs function. 13% of our placements had “Investor Relations” in the role title.
Asia is now
I haven previously spoke about the race to ensure the available talent to support the economic growth and continued demand in Asia. The majority of our work in Asia has focused on regional communications and government affairs roles for large multinational companies seeking more mature corporate affairs, public policy and communications functions, to reflect the growing sophistication of local brands in emerging markets.