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Demand for Interim Managers Grows in Banking and Finance

Charles Russam, Chairman, Russam GMS
Charles Russam, Chairman of Russam GMS, a provider of Interim Managers for over 30 years, discusses why the interim market is starting to see ‘green shoots’ of recovery in the banking and financial services sector in 2013.charles-russam

 The UK may be coming out of recession, but many businesses still remain cautious about taking on new projects or looking at expansion plans. As a result, many are reluctant to hire full time permanent staff at a senior level and consequently, more companies are turning to Interim Managers because they need an injection of new skills and expertise, on a temporary basis and are a low risk alternative.

We publish a twice-yearly snapshot market survey of 12,000 interims. Our latest report in July 2012 revealed that the interim market had experienced a 6% growth in activity over the past six months. In particular, the banking and financial industry was shown to be increasingly reliant on interims over the past six months, we think this is in related to the fact it  is going through a major period of change and  transformation. In particular, Interim Change Managers are increasingly being sought after by the banking and financial services sector to drive major transformation projects, such as mergers and acquisitions, restructuring and compliance work. The research also showed that banking, finance and insurance sector was the second largest sector employing interim managers over the past six months, with only the engineering and manufacturing sectors having a greater share.

Interestingly, our survey also highlighted a growing number of senior interim managers who are now specialising in change management. In fact, change management has emerged as a new job discipline and increasingly, CEOs are hiring interim change management experts to help them handle their toughest business challenges and to move their business to the next level. Almost one in five interims reported that they are involved in change management in some form, rather than more traditional interim ‘gap-filling’ assignments, which make up just 13% of the total projects.
Senior level support without the overhead
Interims are proving popular in the financial services sector because they offer skills, experience and knowledge, which often doesn’t exist within the organisation. They are senior level executives a company can employee on a temporary, part time or project basis without the overheads of a full-time employee. Typically, banks won’t have individuals with the skills and experience to lead such projects on their payroll. It makes more financial and business sense to hire in this specialist resource on a project basis. Interims pose a less risky option for banks in the current climate as they are a resource that can be turned on and off, with little or no overheads such as pensions to pay.
Interims that work in this sector can expect to get paid some of the highest daily rates of all business sectors. Our research found that banking, finance and insurance was the second highest paying sector, with an average daily rate of £701 per day, with only those working in the FMCG sector paid more at £853 per day. Interestingly interims working as change managers are now achieving the highest daily rates across all professional disciplines of £718 per day.

Interims differ from consultants in that they lead a project from start to finish, only handing back to the business once it’s complete. Sometimes, they end up recruiting their replacement for the company at the end of the assignment as well – handing over the day to day running of a project after it has been implemented. Consultants on the other hand tend to be brought into businesses at great expense to offer strategic advice, but rarely see a project through.
Change management skills ‘very specific & rare’
One successfully change management interim is Leon Labovitch who has specialised in interim change management for the past eight years working in manufacturing, banking and the retail sectors. According to Leon, the skills of a change manager are very specific and rare – a hybrid of business strategy mixed with programme and project management skills. He says the strengths of a change manager are strategic insight, the ability to quickly identify and communicate problems within a business, devise a strategy for change and importantly, deliver that change.
Another successful interim manager is Jacqui Dunning, a former consultant at PA Consultancy, who set up her own change management business in 2009.  She was attracted to change management as a result of her fascination with solving business problems and because she had seen ‘too many’ good projects and policies ruined by poor implementation.
Jacqui believes that many businesses have great strategies and plans that aren’t implemented properly which is why she moved from consultancy into project delivery. Jacqui also believes that specialist skills are needed to work as change manager. She says that interims working in this area need to be resilient and recognise that no one likes change people within a business will be naturally suspicious of you.
She also advocates other key skills needed including great analytic ability to quickly assess problems, excellent communication skills and boundless energy and passion to get people to buy into your vision of change. Determination to see the plans through to the end is also paramount. Jacqui also stresses the importance of being a good listener and that strong leadership skills are essential as they contribute to at least 70% of project success.
A bright future for businesses
Businesses are fed up with putting projects on hold; with the economy picking up it would seem like the opportune time for companies to start investing capital again in order to stimulate growth. However, as many businesses are reluctant to take on full-time senior executives, increasing they are turning to interims with specialist skills and expertise to take up the reins and we expect this trend to continue in 2013.