Andrew Wallace, Partner at Leathwaite.

Over the past decade, the financial services industry has been undergoing profound and sustained change. As the crisis recoils further into history, some have been eagerly anticipating a return to ‘normal’ business practices. However, it is becoming clear that the ‘new normal’ for financial services is a far more cost-conscious, technology-driven and flexible working ecosystem than ever before.

It is this environment which has provided a grounding for the meteoric rise of the interim manager, who has evolved from an ‘in case of crisis’, emergency stop-gap role to become one of the most valued and sought after positions in the financial services market today.

Dynamics driving interim growth

In this cost-conscious market, a high calibre interim who is immediately available offers a cost effective solution compared to the lengthier search process for a senior permanent resource.

The average length of a permanent position is also reducing. Leathwaite’s experience is that the average commitment to a senior permanent role is now just three years; upon the acceptance of a role neither corporation nor candidate necessarily discuss or plan for after this three year time frame.  If you compare this to the average interim tenure of 15 months*, the gap is closer than ever before.

With regulatory initiatives like the Senior Management Regime (SMR) being implemented, the accountability placed on executives is driving many to consider a career as an interim.  The attractions are clear for the right types of individuals:  a role focused on creating real and meaningful change, which has a defined objective and without the need to play politics in the hunt for promotion.   The flexibility of each assignment and the variety of working in multiple environments are clearly attractive to the modern day interim executive.

Organisations themselves are shifting their focus from utilising career consultants from the big management consultancies, who lack in-house experience, to opting for interims who possess specialised experience gained from line roles in industry.

Getting the best out of your interims

While interims have always provided great gap cover during an ongoing permanent search or during maternity leave, the majority of interims today are being used to lead transformation change in regulation, technology, innovation, restructure and reform.  Companies find that using an interim is cost effective as the role they fill does not have to be made permanent, something that is very useful in transformation programs. Deploying interims in this sphere means they can utilise their varied skill set which will benefit everyone around them.

Interims often have substantial experience due to their shorter term placements, meaning they have filled more roles throughout their career. This results in them having invaluable multi-industry or multi-corporate experience.

The future is bright

Importantly, we see the quality of the interims getting stronger and stronger as an increasing number of permanent executives are opting for a more flexible and varied career.   As a result, more organisations will get comfortable solving a specific skill gap with an interim over the pursuit of a permanent hire.  Leathwaite also believes in the value of aligning a successful interim management practice with an existing executive search business, thus providing clients with options.

Organisations which do not develop a more agile, flexible workforce that creates a healthy balance between permanent employees and interims will struggle in a new world where reducing fixed cost and adapting to rapid market changes is critical.

Interim match-making services. How to find exceptional candidates.

With both the demand for and supply of quality interims increasing, the financial services industry is increasingly looking to search firms to offer interim solutions. Those search firms which can offer these solutions, alongside traditional executive search and market intelligence, are fast becoming one of the most sought after and vital assets to the financial services ecosystem – particularly in Europe and the US.

*15 month tenure is based on the 100+ Leathwaite interims currently working for our clients