What COVID-19 has taught businesses like Czarnikow about the future of work

Image to represent what people want for the future of work

As many more of us return to the office, we take a look at how Julian Randles, the CFO of Czarnikow, is changing their office environment to meet their people’s needs post-pandemic.

Julian has 30 years’ experience as a finance professional and is currently CFO at Czarnikow.

Czarnikow has managed complex sourcing, financing and logistics in the sugar industry for over 150 years. Czarnikow has been around for 150 years and has seen world wars and four pandemics in that time, including the Spanish flu of 1918. 

LinkedIn photo of Julian Randles, CFO of Czarnikow
Julian Randles, CFO, Czarnikow

We talked to Julian about how Czarnikow is working differently.

“Ironically, just before COVID came around we’d just expanded our office to almost the maximum number of desks that we could. It’s an open-plan office in Central London.

I think we’ve got about 110 desks in London and 250 people worldwide.

The old setup was very much everybody had their own desk. There was a certain amount of distance between those desks and it worked very well. Obviously, the experience that we’ve had through COVID has somewhat changed our view.

Will we all embrace hybrid working?

I do think we’re heading for a more ‘hybrid’ way of working. We feel that there has been a change, although it’s hard to say if it’s a permanent change for the whole industry. None of us really know how things will settle down post-COVID. But there’s definitely a need to take into account people’s preferences in respect to how they would like to work, and the efficiency of that work going forward.

Having said that we still believe there’s a huge role for the office. It’s a crucial place for collaboration and that kind of osmosis effect that happens when people come together. So we’ve taken the opportunity to redevelop the office even though we’d just added some desks.

Our thought process was: “Let’s make the office an exciting, vibrant place to come in and let’s make it fit for purpose for the post COVID environment.” We’ll have desks of course but it will be more of a hot desk-type environment. The majority of the office will now be set aside for meeting space, for audiovisual type areas so that people can come in, have meetings, get on video conferences and so forth in order to collaborate with others around the globe.

“Let’s make the office an exciting, vibrant place to come in and let’s make it fit for purpose for the post COVID environment.”

Maintaining a collaborative and social environment for the next generation of employees

Generational differences come into this too. I think it’s easier for those with 15/20 years’ experience to do that role 100% at home but bringing through the next generation and on- boarding is a challenge as they gain a lot more from interaction and learning from the team.

I think we’ve taken on approximately 10 people since the beginning of the pandemic. At first, it was a case of ‘rabbits in headlights’ and how do we deal with the situation where we can’t actually bring people into an office and introduce ourselves. But actually, everybody has onboarded and worked from home in a seamless manner.

I think the problem is the interface on a video screen is not quite the same as being physically there. It’s those coffee bar chats you miss. That’s the biggest thing that we’re hoping to engender by having people back in our remodelled office. But other than that, I think the process has still been very successful.”

If you’d like to read more about how other companies are navigating the future of work and what job seekers want from work, please download our latest Future of Work Whitepaper.

Get In Touch

To get help with your recruitment process or job search, please do get in touch with Andrew Setchell today on +44 7495 483425, email andrewsetchell@srmrecruitment.com or connect with me on LinkedIn.

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How to find the best accountants, finance and tax professionals in today’s job market

Hiring manager conducting an interview with an accountant, finance or tax professional.

As UK job vacancies surged past one million in a new record, the KPMG and REC, UK Permanent Placements Index* signalled a rapid and accelerated rise in permanent staff appointments across the UK. Furthermore, the rate of growth was the steepest seen since data collection began nearly 24 years ago.

So how is this affecting the accounting, finance and tax jobs market? We talked to CEO and Co-founder of SRM Recruitment, Andrew Setchell, about how you can secure the best accounting, finance and tax talent for your team amidst growing demand for candidates. 

1. Be realistic 

The good news is that it’s definitely possible to find and hire good people right now but hiring managers need to acknowledge that their shortlist will be a lot shorter. Rather than five to six people to consider, be prepared for three to four and sometimes there may be just one to take to a final interview. That is the reality.

2. Be ready to pay more for your chosen finance candidates

Most finance and tax professionals were treated well during the pandemic and it’s not as easy to get them to consider a move, there are fewer push factors. As a result, supply has reduced, with demand rising and we are seeing salaries going up.

When candidates used to say “I’m looking for an uplift of 10%” there would be a conversation and a negotiation. Now hiring managers are saying “It’s fine, I understand”. Attitudes are changing and we’d advise you to be prepared to widen your salary range, rather than risk delays waiting for sign-off on budgets further down the line.

3. Your flexible work approach must go on the job specification 

The first question candidates used to ask when being approached about a new role was “What’s the package?”. Now it’s “What’s the working pattern for this role?”. To get the widest pool of candidates, you should specify your flexible working policy on the job specification.

Clients with no flexibility to offer will find it harder to recruit but it’s by no means impossible. Whilst the debate is still ongoing regarding where the home/office balance will finally settle, we can tell you that finance professionals definitely want some sort of flexibility. 

As an example, HSBC’s work from home Friday policy would have been unheard of a couple of years ago but these sorts of policies are becoming the norm. Some will go back to the office full time but it will be at least two years before we see a bigger shift.

Five days in the office is very much considered “traditional” but if that is the way your company runs, it’s not necessarily a problem. Just be aware that your shortlist will be a bit shorter. We’re here to help clients negotiate this job market and find the right people for your business. 

“Attitudes are changing and we’d advise you to be prepared to widen your salary range, rather than risk delays waiting for sign off on budgets further down the line.”

Andrew Setchell, CEO, SRM Recruitment

4. Speed up the interview process to secure accounting, finance and tax professionals

The interview process needs to be quick in this market. Once you’ve got CVs you need to get the hiring process finished within two weeks. We agree – it’s tempting to “just see someone else.” But after 30 years in finance recruitment, we can tell you there are no ‘magic unicorn’ candidates out there. What we do see time and again is businesses missing out on outstanding people who would have quickly transformed their finance or tax team.

5. Use an experienced finance and tax recruiter with a proper network

In candidate-driven markets, real recruitment comes into play. You need to talk to someone who has the connections to find the people who aren’t necessarily looking. Not only that, your recruiter needs the skills to clearly promote how your role fits with the candidate’s career. That comes from experience. Everyone at SRM really knows their market. 

6. Consider try before you buy

If your permanent hiring process is dragging, you should consider using a PAYE temp. This gives you the best chance to assess fit with your team. We have an established book of contract professionals ready and “on the bench” if you’re wanting greater flexibility.  

7. Be prepared for candidates turning down your role 

This is becoming more common in the accounting, finance and tax jobs market at the moment. Personally though, we’ve seen very few candidates turn down roles because their current company has counter offered a higher salary. An experienced recruiter knows how to vet their candidates properly and there should be no surprises. 

In short, move your hiring process along, be clear about your flexible working policy and be ready to broaden your salary range.

*The KPMG and REC, UK Report on Jobs is compiled by IHS Markit from responses to questionnaires sent to a panel of around 400 UK recruitment and employment consultancies.

Get In Touch

To discuss your hiring strategy or to get more insights on the recruitment market in your industry please give me, Andrew Setchell, a call on +44 7495 483425, email andrewsetchell@srmrecruitment.com or connect with me on LinkedIn.

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Has your career progression stalled during the pandemic? You’re not alone.

Having received a lot of feedback from candidates and hiring managers about lack of career progression during the pandemic, we commissioned a survey to take a deeper look at the trends. Co-founder, Rory MacSween, gives his insights from the market and takes us through the findings.

How has the pandemic affected career progression?

It’s unsurprising that many finance, accounting and tax professionals have felt their career progression stall during the pandemic. In fact, our recent survey showed that a third of people felt it adversely affected their development – but there were some surprising results too.

For many, expectations of progression have been lowered because of company and industry disruption. For others, health and family issues have taken focus away from careers. Up until now, we’ve seen a pragmatic attitude at play, with most professionals accepting the status quo as their peers aren’t being promoted either.

30% of employees say their career progression stalled during the pandemic

However, there’s been a dramatic shift in the jobs market in the last few weeks. Hiring managers are starting to feel their team’s frustrations with an increase in resignations. Good people are getting multiple job offers and candidates are becoming pickier. 

Our survey also showed 52% said the pandemic hadn’t changed progression opportunities and 17% actually felt there were some positive career outcomes from the pandemic. Personally, I haven’t spoken to anyone who feels they’ve made good ground with their career. However, I would say that some finance and tax professionals have used the time as an opportunity for reflection on what they like and dislike about their role and this has prompted some positive conversations for future development. 

Survey carried out by SRM Recruitment - how career progression has been affected during the pandemic.

What to do if your career progression has stalled 

If the conversation isn’t forthcoming from your boss, then you should instigate a meeting with them before entering the job market. If there are particular aspects lacking in the role, it’s better to talk about it now, rather than after you’ve been through an external job process. Using a job offer to get what you want can be a dangerous strategy and erode trust and good will. 

What can hiring managers do?

A lot of hiring managers I’m speaking to have felt removed from their teams during the last 18 months. Without being able to take the temperature of the team and informally check in with people, those impromptu conversations that lead to more serious meetings on role development haven’t happened. 

Discuss career development

As we return to the office, there’s a huge opportunity to put career development back on the agenda. Don’t delay having those conversations and I’d say it’s not all about budget either. Think about how exposure to new projects or technical skills can give people the CV growth they’re looking for and develop them in the role. 

More appraisal

Getting back to regular appraisals is also a key retention tool – some managers have put them on the back burner so make sure they’re high on your agenda. It really boils down to having those honest conversations.

Rewards

We’re also seeing a rise in things like team-wide holidays or even organisation-wide days or weeks off as a reward for working extra hours during the pandemic. Some are offering covid thank you bonuses too.


The key message I want to get across is don’t assume people aren’t moving roles. The grass isn’t always greener but there is a very active jobs market right now and job seekers can achieve the change they want.

Get In Touch

If you’re a hiring manager and need advice or help to hire finance and accounting professionals, or if you’re looking for your next role, get in touch with Rory MacSween today on +44 7960 983331, email rorymacsween@srmrecruitment.com or connect with him on LinkedIn.

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Hiring managers lose out as demand for accountants grows steeply

Andrew Setchell on the shift in the accountancy and finance jobs market post covid and how you can beat the competition for the best candidates.

The number of people placed into permanent jobs in London and the South East climbed at a considerable rate in April. We’ve seen that at SRM and that’s backed up by the Recruitment & Employment Federation’s (REC’s) latest Jobs Report in association with KPMG.

The accountancy jobs market is improving at the fastest rates we’ve ever seen and hiring managers just aren’t aware that they’ll struggle to fill roles if they don’t act now.

Let me give you an example of what happened last week when a well known UK listed property company tried to hire a management accountant. I hasten to add, we didn’t manage this recruitment process for them!

The company shortlisted five people and brought three back for a second interview. Two candidates were offered the role but neither accepted. With a £10k salary uplift on offer you’d have thought this was a great move for the two shortlisted candidates. The salary was around £55k and the shortlisted candidates were newly qualified accountants on about £45k.

The first candidate had the offer matched by their current employer and stayed put. From a recruiter perspective, that’s poor practice, one for not checking the candidate’s underlying motivation for leaving and second for not having the conversation about what they’d do if their FD matched the new salary.

The other candidate had three offers to choose from. That’s harder to counter but it shows there’s been a huge shift in the accountancy and finance jobs market. What seems to have happened during Covid is that many hiring managers have forgotten about people’s worth and are getting complacent.

Andrew Setchell, CEO at SRM Recruitment

The REC Jobs Report shows that the pace of hiring has accelerated significantly since March 2021 and is the joint quickest rise in 23 years of data collection.

Andrew Setchell, CEO, and
Co-founder, SRM Recruitment

So what can you do to ensure you don’t get caught out by the shift in the accountancy and finance jobs market?

1. Be aware you’re just one of the offers the candidate is considering

The first step is to be aware that you’re just one of three offers your favourite candidate is considering – most likely they’ll have six roles to choose from. The assumption is you’re the only one hiring. Whilst that was the case 12 months ago, it’s certainly not now.

2. Make sure you review salaries

It’s now imperative to do regular salary reviews and be up to speed on market conditions. Workforce planning and updating your employee offer is essential.

3. Expedite your accountancy and finance hiring process

Good people are getting multiple offers so candidates are getting pickier. Give yourself the best chance by expediting the process. Reduce your shortlist so you get to the finish line faster. Remember, you only need one person for the role so a strong shortlist of three will give you the best chance to hire.

4. Sell the non-financial benefits to motivate ambitious candidates

Be very clear about why you want to hire your chosen candidate and what they bring to the business. Tell them explicitly how they will develop their commercial experience, for example, that their value will rise and they will improve their CV by x per cent.

5. Use a quality, boutique recruiter

An experienced recruiter partnering directly with you will give you the best chance in this market, saving time and money. It’s worth being aware that the large recruitment firms all made large-scale redundancies during the pandemic and are now hiring recent graduates to make up for the shortfall.

At SRM we’ve actually deepened our bench strength during Covid. You will work directly with a talented recruiter with at least 10 years of specialist experience in finance and accountancy.

If more people are open to moving won’t there be more candidates to choose from?

In short, no. As more jobs come to market it’s worth bearing in mind that the supply of candidates actually hasn’t changed from 6-12 months ago. We saw an example of this recently at NBCUniversal. The candidates who lost their jobs during Covid already found new jobs between September 2020 – Jan 2021 and the rest have been looked after and retained.

Pressure on finance teams has been growing for some time

Bench strength has been missing from finance teams going right back to the financial crisis in 2008 – the pandemic has only added to the pressure. Businesses have realised you need good people to do cash flow and complete accurate forecasting. If that’s happened in your business you’re not alone – it’s happening elsewhere.

The highest demand is at the £45-70k level and organisations will struggle to fill roles. There’s a war for talent on the horizon so we are advising our clients not to wait to hire strong finance and accounting candidates.

Get In Touch

If you need help to hire finance and accounting professionals or simply want hiring advice, get in touch with me, Andrew Setchell today on +44 7495 483425, email andrewsetchell@srmrecruitment.com or connect with me on LinkedIn.

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Why you need to move finance and accounting temps to a PAYE solution to avoid IR35 fines

What do the latest ‘IR35’ tax legislation changes mean for hiring managers? Can you still hire finance and accounting temps? And how can you avoid being fined by HMRC? 

Rob McKay, who leads our specialist interim recruitment team, explains how organisations can hire finance temps the right way, within the law. 

What’s the background to the new IR35 changes? 

The ‘IR35’ tax legislation came into force for the private sector on 6 April 2021 for the new tax year. IR35 is basically shorthand for the UK tax legislation that is designed to identify genuine contractors. 

It closes a tax loophole, whereby the majority of contractors would offer their services via an intermediary, like a limited company. Essentially, treating themselves as a company meant contractors paid corporation tax at around 20% as opposed to higher-rated employee tax. Another big factor for HMRC was that no National Insurance was payable.

What’s changed in the IR35 legislation?

The Government has shifted the emphasis on who is liable for deciding whether a role sits inside or outside the IR35 legislation. Before the liability sat with the contractor, now the liability and potentially hefty fines sit squarely with corporations. 

What does being inside or outside IR35 mean?

Being ‘inside’ IR35 means the contractor is seen by HMRC as an employee for tax purposes. Being ‘outside’ IR35 means the contractor is seen as genuinely self-employed by HMRC and can enjoy lower tax status. 

What does that mean for accounting roles? 

Most accounting roles will now fall within IR35. For example, if you’re a contractor signing off a set of statutory accounts, you have authority on behalf of the company and so would be classed as an employee for tax purposes. If you are managing someone, that role would also fall within IR35. 

If you’re genuinely running a business with a number of clients, working on concurrent projects, this would fall outside IR35. But if you have one accounting contract role at a time, then HMRC will now see you as an employee for tax purposes. 

The basic rule is if organisations are happy to accept ‘substitutions’ then this sits outside the legislation. For example, Compass provides catering services for PWC. But PWC doesn’t get to say which chef works particular shifts or which serving staff are working. But usually, for an accounting role, you’ll be interviewing specific people for specific roles. 

So can I still hire a temporary employee or contractor?

Absolutely, you can still hire hourly and daily-paid temps and contractors who are not counted on your permanent headcount or payroll. The key change is to the tax status of temporary and contract workers. So even if your role falls within IR35, you can still bring that person to work for you on a shorter-term contract as long as they pay tax as an employee via PAYE.

So how can I easily hire a temp or contractor without being fined?

SRM Recruitment offers organisations a PAYE solution for hiring temps and contractors. That means we offer a fully outsourced payroll function, taking the headache out of paying tax on behalf of your contractors in a way that is fully auditable.

The advantage of using a reputable PAYE solution is that organisations have complete transparency on where and how tax is paid. So it really takes any IR35 worries out of the equation completely.  

We still recommend that clients go through a determination process to assess if a role is inside or outside IR35 but if there is any doubt, it’s always recommended to go ‘inside’ the IR35 legislation. 

A safe, scalable solution for outsourced payroll

SRM already offers this outsourced payroll PAYE service to a range of organisations of all sizes. We have a strong balance sheet and we are able to securely run a regular payroll for our clients. The process is auditable and transparent. 

“Rob has gone above & beyond by providing specific guidance on IR35 to myself & wider HR team, helping us translate what it means for our business. A trusted recruitment partner!”

Nicola Hollands – Talent Acquisition Partner at Capital Dynamics

What’s happened to umbrella companies?

We are advising organisations not to employ contractors via umbrella company status. Remember, the risk still sits with the hiring organisation, not the umbrella company. 

Using a PAYE solution via an umbrella company provider can leave organisations in a less than robust position from a tax perspective. It’s worth noting that the industry is self-regulating with only 50 or so companies opting for any form of accreditation. Accreditation does not give powers to sanction or investigate. 

Fines are still payable by the hiring organisation, not the umbrella company, or the umbrella company provider. 

What do finance and accounting temps think about the IR35 change?

Most accountants understand why the loophole is being closed. The only push back we’ve experienced is from those in quasi IT/finance roles. Accounting and finance professionals still want to work on daily rates and enjoy the flexibility this brings so we don’t anticipate any shortage of supply. Candidates tell us they want a job first and foremost and aren’t worried about the mechanics of how they get paid. 

The key facts about hiring flexible workers under IR35

In summary, you can still hire flexible workers that won’t affect your permanent headcount numbers by using a robust outsourced payroll / PAYE service. 

Steer clear of contractors employed via an umbrella company or services provided by the unregulated umbrella company market.

Get In Touch

If you need help to source the best interim resource in finance and accountancy or are looking for your next role, get in touch with Rob McKay, director of interim recruitment today on +44 (0) 20 3637 7808, email robmckay@srmrecruitment.com or connect with him on LinkedIn.

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How work is changing and what it means for hiring managers

For the foreseeable future, those of us who can will be working at home. At the end of 2020 we ran a webinar to explore how dispersed workforces are changing the hiring process and our daily working lives.

Andrew Setchell, CEO of SRM was joined by Dana Muntean, client partner at Workplace from Facebook, Julian Randles, CFO of Czarnikow, as well as the co-founders of 300, the remote work and communications consultancy.

In this webinar, we open up the debate on which changes are likely to be long-term or even permanent and how organisations are navigating these challenges. What does the future hold? Blended workplaces or wholly remote? You’ll also learn how companies are embracing collaboration technology built around people.  

We discuss the trends so that you can successfully hire and retain the best people for your business.

Get in touch if you’re looking to hire

If you want to discuss resilience in the workplace or need help hiring the best finance or accounting staff get in touch with me, Andrew Setchell today on +44 (0 )20 3637 7808 or connect with him on Linkedin. 

Alternatively, if you’re planning your headcount or want impartial advice on the current market, please do get in touch.

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Jim Smith joins SRM’s Welwyn finance recruitment team

We’re delighted to welcome specialist temporary finance recruiter, Jim Smith, to our Welwyn team. Jim tells us about his career, why he joined SRM and how he helps clients and candidates.

Jim Smith, our new specialist temporary finance recruiter covering the Northern Home Counties

“I’ve worked in finance recruitment for 15 years, working at Michael Page and most recently at Investigo where I focused on temporary and contract qualified finance recruitment for almost ten years. Having worked for two big recruitment firms, which I loved, the pull for me was the greater autonomy on offer with a smaller boutique business like SRM and the opportunity to grow a business.

When I spoke to SRM’s founders, Andrew Setchell, Stewart Robertson and Rory MacSween I knew we had the same philosophy. We’ve all been around long enough to know what we like and dislike about the industry. I found them upfront, honest and direct and that matched the way I’ve worked through my career. 

My partner, Liz has worked at SRM since the start of the year so I had inside knowledge it would be a good fit for me!  

Increasing the scope of my role

I’ve tripled my patch as it were. There are no restrictions to geographic boundaries or roles I can cover so the opportunity is bigger than anything I’ve experienced before, which is massively exciting.

As you grow in your career you no longer need the KPIs and closer management styles that are essential in your early days, so part of the appeal was the opportunity to set my own targets and work in a more flexible and adult environment.

A down to earth approach to specialist finance recruitment

SRM’s founders are investing in me and giving me free rein to build the business – that’s really why I decided to make the leap. The approach is refreshing and no-nonsense, basically do a good job and go home.

My focus on temporary qualified finance

My focus at SRM will be on temporary qualified finance recruitment across the Northern Home Counties. 

My clients say I’m a straightforward, attentive and consultative recruiter and my candidates appreciate my personal approach. I would describe myself as a down to earth person who treats others with respect.

“To my mind, Jim is the very essence of what a recruiter needs to be in the current climate. Friendly and on the ball from the outset, and once he has a role in mind for you, is helpful and thorough right through until the conclusion.”

John McInnes, Experienced QBE Accountant

I like to be able to look myself in the mirror at the end of the day and conduct myself in the right way. I’ve kept that approach from my early days recruiting for the big four accounting firms to today, where I’m working with commercial firms hiring newly qualified accountants to Finance Directors. 

I’m a well-rounded specialist finance recruiter hiring across all disciplines within Finance, from newly qualified accountants, Finance Managers, FP&A Managers, Financial Controllers to Finance Directors. It’s allowed me to build a strong network across a wide variety of industries – from SMEs to blue chips. 

Looking forward to connecting with new clients and candidates:

I’m a single Dad to a bright little boy who keeps me constantly on my toes, I love Man United and am currently attempting to learn to play Golf. I’m from a forces background and have lived all over the world. I was actually educated in Canada and went to nine different schools before I was 12 so I thrive going into new situations and meeting new people. I think that’s why I genuinely love recruitment and people.

I’m looking forward to working with new clients and candidates and as my partner Liz and I will be working together in the same office I’m looking forward to that too – I’m not phased by it at all!

“I have built a trusted working relationship with Jim and sincerely thank him for securing my latest role. I have found him to be a great person to deal with and confide in and we have built up a great rapport.

I would not hesitate in recommending Jim’s services to anyone seeking to develop their career.”

Charles Hancock
Senior Finance Manager, Welcome Break

Get in touch:

I’m really excited about where the finance recruitment market is going so if you’re looking to hire the very best talent in finance and accounting please do get in touch with me today. Or connect with me on LinkedIn. We actively headhunt the best specialist finance talent, rather than rely on the same set of candidates from a database.”

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Moving from a large recruiter to a boutique firm

Luke Higgs large recruiter to boutique firm

Luke Higgs joined SRM Recruitment in the summer of 2019 to establish and grow our Northern Home Counties office. Before coming to SRM, Luke worked at some of the world’s largest recruitment consultancies. We want to know, what are the benefits of moving from a large recruiter to a boutique firm?

Luke Higgs large recruiter to boutique firm
Luke Higgs is Business Director of our Welwyn Garden City office

Can you tell us a little about your career path up to this point?
I went straight into a career in sales – my first job after university was at HSBC, selling mortgages, loans, etc, both in a call centre and online, which in 2005 was quite a new area. Around that time, I spoke to some friends who worked in recruitment and it seemed to me that with the commercial acumen I’d gained I might do quite well in the industry. I joined Martin Ward Anderson, which is part of Randstad, a huge global organisation, and built up my professional knowledge there.

When I met my wife, who is from Welwyn Garden City, I decided to move there, and transferred with Martin Ward Anderson. Then, Robert Walters, another leading global recruitment firm, called me to ask if I would come and work for them to set up their St Albans office. It was an incredible experience – I helped grow the team to 12 people, and in year one we made more revenue than any of their other start-up offices.

With a young family, I knew I wanted to work for a company where there would be more flexibility. I considered starting up my own consultancy. Then about a year ago, I met with Andrew Setchell, the founder of SRM Recruitment, who I knew from my early days at Robert Walters. Andrew is someone I trust and respect, and it seemed like the perfect balance – to have the freedom to grow a business but with the support of an experienced team.

What appealed to you about SRM?
When I first considered joining, the main appeal was the opportunity to work with Andrew again. He’s a very talented recruiter, and the network, processes and support he offered at SRM were a combination for success. As an experienced recruiter myself, I was drawn to the culture at SRM, where I would be given the tools I needed, but then would be trusted to do the job. Andrew trusts and values everyone who works for him, from director to consultant level. Sometimes you find that at a senior level in larger firms, but it’s rare for consultants to be given that freedom to manage yourself.

The other big draw was the commission scheme, which is market-leading in terms of what they offer financially. It’s also the work-life balance, which with a young family is really important to me.

How have your first few months been?
It’s been great, though quite an adjustment! I went from an office in St Albans managing twelve people and turning over a million pounds a year, to working on my own. It can be a bit lonely, but you get into your stride, and I recently recruited Liz Hawkins as a Principal, so there are two of us now! It’s a completely different way of working here. Robert Walters was such a big firm, you wanted to register at least five candidates a week, to ‘stock your shelves’. Here, we are much more targeted in our approach and we headhunt for each role. It’s a different pace – you’re doing less but of a higher quality. It took me until Christmas to adapt, but it’s a much better way to go about your business.

I now spend far less time on KPIs and managing other people, and I can invest that time in building relationships with my candidates and clients. It also means I have a lot more flexibility in my working day because I’m so much more productive. I used to work from 7.30am – 6.30pm at the earliest, whereas now it’s more like 8.30am – 5.30pm. That work-life balance is much appreciated as it means I can spend more time with my family.

What sort of people do well here?
This isn’t a classroom environment – we’re all experienced recruiters, so it’s not a training school. People who are motivated and proactive will do well. You’ll be given tools and support, but you’ll have mentors, rather than trainers.

With the maturity in our approach, I think there’s a lot less ego and arrogance you see in some bigger firms. Everyone here is good at their job and there are some great opportunities for all of us as SRM grows.

One of the big opportunities is for people here to really do recruitment. So often, in larger firms, the more experienced recruiters and top billers get promoted to management roles that they may not enjoy, and that takes them away from the actual business of recruitment. Here, regardless of your level, you’re going to be on the front line, recruiting, for most your day.

What advice would you give to someone looking to further their recruitment career?
Try to decide what it is that you really enjoy doing. In a larger firm, you’re likely going to need to choose whether to focus on recruiting and be comfortable staying at a Principal level. Alternatively, if you want to go into management, you’ll spend less time recruiting, but instead you’ll be passing on the knowledge you’ve gained and you’ll further your career through others.

That’s the main difference when choosing between a large recruiter or a boutique firm – at a small firm like SRM, you don’t need to sacrifice one or the other because by necessity you’ll be doing some of both.

Can you sum up how SRM is different?
SRM really headhunt for every role. A big thing for us is meeting candidates even if we’re not going to place them straight away. A lot of those people get jobs and use us to fill their teams. There’s a real emphasis on building relationships.

The culture is so unique, and it’s a great environment to work in. I’m earning money and I’m happy at work – there isn’t a compromise.

You can have a work-life balance here. You don’t have to choose between growing your career and building your family.

If you’d like to know more about working at SRM Recruitment, visit our work for us page and discover what makes us different. If you’d like to have a chat about the opportunities we can offer you, we’d love for you to get in touch.

Hiring finance roles with SRM

John Wilson hiring finance roles

We join John Wilson, Finance Director at Morrison Utilities to learn how hiring finance roles through Luke Higgs saves his company time.

Tell us how long you have you worked with Luke and the roles he’s worked on?

I’ve known Luke for 10 years on and off and he’s recruited many different roles for me during that time. All the way from transactional finance people to management accountants and latterly a senior finance manager. I’ve lost count of the number of roles he’s placed for me.

Were any of the roles particularly challenging to fill?

He has filled some very niche roles, for instance, a Sub Contract Ledger Manager role that is quite specific to construction. In fact, the person he found for that role is still here five or six years later. 

What sets the candidates apart that he sends you? 

It’s always high calibre people that are sent through. Not just that, they are the right people for the job. He takes the time to figure out who is a good fit for our company and the culture.

Why do you partner with Luke? 

The key reason is that he’s taken the time to get to know me and the business. I’ve used other recruiters but all that’s happens is I get sent so many CVs. When I phone Luke he will come and see me and bring the best few CVs. It goes back to the fact that he knows what’s going on in the business. 

I appreciate his honesty and he will say if he doesn’t feel he has the right person. He’s also not afraid to just put one person forward either and I appreciate that. He understands how each role fits with the business. It saves me time, no one these days has time to interview six people.

Otherwise, we may as well as look for the candidates ourselves! 


“The one thing that stands out about Luke is the time he takes to understand you and the business. You can’t underestimate the time that saves. We know the CVs will be right, I’m not spending weeks interviewing and it puts us ahead of the game. ” 


John Wilson, FD, Morrison Utilities

Is there anything, in particular, you think that Luke does differently to other recruiters?

He listens. If we won’t have any new roles for 6 months he won’t constantly ring us, but if he gets a CV he will drop me a line and say this is a good person to bear in mind. Actually, he did that for the management accountant role and I dug out the CV further down the line. I know that if we get a CV it will be someone good and there will be a reason for it. 

Would you recommend his services to other Finance Directors?

Yes, for sure,  I know others FD’s who use him too so I have no qualms about recommending him to those hiring finance roles.