Borderless Executive Search: The Talent is Out There

Western companies desperate for talent would do well to open their minds in the search for potential candidates. Andrew Kris, of Borderless Executive Search, tells Jim Banks about the excellent skills available in the East.

The old paradigm for executive searches dictated that recruitment consultants look close to home for the next generation of CEOs. In a globalised world, however, demographic and economic growth patterns are shifting the balance of economic power, pushing this model to breaking point.

Western European and US populations are older and growing far slower than in regions such as China, India and the Middle East, where rapid economic growth is also producing talented executives.

'We have to stop thinking about Western or Eastern cultures. Companies must recognise that there is a single, global business culture emerging.'

Western companies urgently need to extend the scope of their search for talent both demographically and geographically.

Andrew Kris, director of Borderless Executive Search, says: 'We are moving away from the time when Western European or US males dominated CEO roles. There will now be more CEOs who are female or who come from overseas. India, for example, has over one million engineering graduates each year, so there is a host of talent emerging, some of which will move into US and European corporate culture.'


In sourcing talented international executives for the chemicals, food processing and life sciences sectors, Borderless is trying to ensure that its clients cast the net as wide as possible when seeking the right individual to lead their companies forward. It encourages them to disregard perceived national or cultural barriers. Kris believes traditional industries should look wherever CEOs are being nurtured, China being a prime example.

There is no substitute for experience when it comes to the role of CEO. Yet to access the broadest range of high quality candidates, Kris also thinks it is important for companies to look at younger candidates. Borderless focuses on specific sectors, but searches beyond them for potential candidates. And it is finding that younger executives in fast growth companies often gain experience beyond their years.

He explains: 'Age is not the issue. It's about the ability to learn fast. In rapidly growing sectors such as technology or software development there is no time to develop talent. People are pushed into more responsible roles at an earlier stage. These people can rise fast to become CEOs because corporate growth gives them the opportunity to learn.'


Future CEOs can, of course, be developed internally, and large companies now place more emphasis than ever on the issue of succession. Nurturing talent means rotating potential leaders through different departments to build their understanding of the overall business.

Kris comments: 'The days of the one-dimensional CEO are over. It's not enough just to rise through finance. In a manufacturing company, for instance, if someone specialises in marketing they should be made to go to other departments such as operations, supply chain and finance, so that they can understand how they work.'

Mentoring is an important part of talent development, too. Kris, however, feels that formal mentoring programmes tend to be box-ticking exercises at best: 'Mentoring is an informal process. You need to make sure that you have the right people onboard who will be natural mentors.'

Current CEOs, therefore, might do well to reflect on how to identify the right candidates and guide them effectively. They will also have to ensure that their companies' search processes identify the best talent, wherever it may reside. So far, the signs are that Western companies have not yet extended their range.

Kris says: 'Companies have understood the emerging trends but they are not all emotionally ready for the shift. The more forward-looking organisations, such as GE, have moved into China and India, where many of the top people will move to the West to develop their talent.

'We have to stop thinking about Western or Eastern cultures. Companies must recognise that there is a single, global business culture emerging.' In executive recruitment, taking down the borders opens up the talent pool.

Andrew Kris, director of Borderless Executive Search.