CFO Consensus 2023

CFO Consensus (Ireland) 2023: The shape of the CFO role

Principal Connections’ is a market leader in the recruitment of the most senior CFO's and Finance Directors across Ireland and the United Kingdom.

In our view, the responsibilities of the CFO have become broader and more diverse than ever with the increased adoption of digital technologies, disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and a wave of geopolitical and economic uncertainties.

A Report by Executive Search Firm Principal Connections

Principal Connections - executive search conducted a research programme between 24th July and 11th of August 2023, to investigate the current disposition of the CFO functional role in Ireland. Our objective was to facilitate a comprehensive understanding of what the role of the CFO now means, through capturing the views of those who understand it best. The following is a snapshot of some of the insights....

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Financial Officers Experts

Principal Connections’ Financial Officers Practice is a market leader in recruiting for Finance C-suite appointments across Ireland and the United Kingdom. We identify, assess and recruit Chief Financial Officers, Finance Directors, Heads of Finance and Financial Contollers among other finance roles with the right professional experience, competencies, education and cultural DNA to lead in today’s unprecedented business environment.

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Consensus (DE&I) 2023

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Consensus (DE&I) 2023: How far have organisations across Ireland come

As Executive Headhunters, Principal Connections partners with many of the most noteworthy organisations across Ireland and the United Kingdom seeking to appoint diverse executive, CEO and board leadership talent.

In our view, DE&I is integral to the success of businesses today. It is well-established that organisations with diverse workforces are more likely to financially outperform their peers and excel in areas ranging from employee retention to innovation. Moreover, leveraging different perspectives contributes to a more complete understanding of opportunities and issues, fostering better decision-making and competitive advantages.

All this being said, what is far less apparent in today’s business environment is how organisational diversity programmes have evolved, and furthermore, what work remains to be done.

A Report by Principal Connections

Principal Connections decided to undertake a research programme in May and June of 2023, to explore just how far along their DE&I journey organisations across Ireland have come. While it is evident from the findings of the report that good progress has been made, it is clear that there remains a long way to go. We hope that this research piece will help organisations to diagnose and benchmark the maturity level of their DE&I programmes, and to identify their strengths and areas for enhancement.

Some of the views from the 100 Diversity Leaders who took part 

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DE&I in Executive Search

Principal Connections - executive search is committed to advancing DE&I in leadership. Actively partnering with our clients to help advance their DE&I objectives, we embrace various methodologies throughout our executive, CEO and board search engagements, with the goal of increasing the representation of historically underrepresented senior leadership.

Principal Connections - executive search is a Founding Signatory of the Executive and Board Resourcing Code of Conduct for search professionals and businesses established by IBEC and the 30% Club. (Jun. 2016, updated Apr. 2019). We are also an advocate for “Balance for Better Business”, the independent business-led Review Group established by the Government to improve gender balance in senior leadership.

HR DIRECTORS CONSENSUS 2023

HR Directors Consensus 2023: The shape of the HR Director role

At Principal Connections, we partner with many of Ireland’s most Senior HR Directors seeking to appoint the best leadership talent at home and from abroad. Moreover, such HR Executives regularly refer to us in striving to achieve their own individual career goals.

In our view, the role of the HR Director is one of the most important functions for organisations worldwide. HR Directors and their teams lead the way in people-based decision making, taking the sentiment of an entire workforce and using it to help shape a destination workplace. By creating somewhere people want to work, HR Directors are propelling a virtuous circle where people are motivated to give their best, which leads to even higher quality talent being attracted to the organisation and contributing to its future. Furthermore, this leads to better products, services and a better customer experience, and of course more bottom-line revenues.

A Report by Executive Search Firm Principal Connections

With the above in mind, Principal Connections decided to undertake a research programme in November of 2022, to explore the current disposition of the HR Director functional role in Ireland. Building on the foundations of a similar study undertaken in 2020, the objective was to develop and provide a comprehensive post-Covid understanding of what the role of HR Director now means in 2023, through capturing the views of those who understand it best.

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Principal Connections HR Officers Practice

Principal Connections’ Human Resources Officers Practice is a market leader in recruiting for HR C-suite appointments in Ireland. We identify, assess and recruit CHRO’s, CPO’s, HRD’s and HoHR’s with the right professional experience, competencies, education and cultural DNA to lead in today’s unprecedented business environment.

Irish Boards Making Gender Balance Progress

IRISH BOARDS MAKING GENDER BALANCE PROGRESS 

The fifth annual report of the Balance for Better Business Review Group, published today (November 21st 2022), reveals that Irish businesses have made significant progress in achieving gender balance at Board level over the past year.

The report was launched by Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Leo Varadkar TD and the Balance for Better Business Co-Chairs Julie Sinnamon and Aongus Hegarty.

Commenting on the findings of the report, Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Leo Varadkar TD said: “As we look back over the past year, it’s encouraging to see the progress that continues to be made on gender balance across the Irish business landscape. I’m especially pleased to see that Ireland has now not only caught up with, but exceeded, the EU average for the representation of women on the largest listed companies’ boards. This marks a significant accomplishment, especially given that this has occurred over a relatively short time period.”

WOMEN ON THE BOARDS OF ISEQ20 COMPANIESROSE TO 36% 

The report by the Government established initiative shows that in 2022, the percentage of women on the Boards of ISEQ20 companies rose to 36%, far exceeding the 30% target set for the end of 2022 as well as the 33% target set for the end of 2023.

For other listed companies, the percentage of women on Boards is now 26%, exceeding the 22% target set for the end of 2022 and up 16 percentage points since 2018.

Encouragingly, ISEQ20 Boards have also continued to move beyond a “one and done” approach to adding women to their Boards, with almost three quarters of ISEQ20 listed companies now having three or more female Board members.

While the other listed cohort has a lower number of Boards with three or more women, at 28%, this represents a significant increase from 10.7% in 2019. In addition, the overall percentage of companies listed on the ISEQ overall, with more than three women on their Board has exceeded 50% for the first time – at 51%.

This progress over the past year is reflected in the fact that, for the first time, Ireland has exceeded the EU27 average for the proportion of women on leading company Boards by 1.6 percentage points. The gap between Ireland and the rest of the EU has narrowed every year since Balance for Better Business was established in 2018.

Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Leo Varadkar TD added:
“Despite the progress, it’s clear that more work needs to be done. Women are still underrepresented in senior roles both at Board and senior leadership level, with just one female Chair on the ISEQ20 and only a small number of female CEOs on publicly listed companies. By failing to include women in leadership teams, businesses ignore the talent of half the population. While change takes time, it’s crucial that businesses redouble their efforts in 2023 to create more opportunities for women to succeed to the highest levels of Irish business.”

WOMEN IN SENIOR LEADERSHIP - SLOWER PROGRESS

While there have been significant gains over the past year, the report also reveals slower progress in some areas, particularly when it comes to the number of women in senior leadership roles. Although the ISEQ20 companies exceeded their 2022 target for female representation at senior leadership level, reaching 27% against a target of 26%, other listed companies have missed their 22% target for the year. Meanwhile, the report shows that women hold just four out of 36 CEO positions in publicly listed companies.

Although it has been a stated target of Balance for Better Business that no listed companies should have all-male Boards, there are still three listed companies with all-male Boards, albeit down from five all-male Boards in 2021, with just one female Chair represented on the ISEQ20.

Balance for Better Business co-chair Julie Sinnamon said: “Since its launch in 2018, Balance for Better Business has worked not only to promote gender balance at Board and executive leadership levels, but also to share the experience of organisations on the journey towards achieving gender balance. Those efforts to date are
reflected in the progress that has been made across the past year in terms of gender balance at Board level, notwithstanding the fact that work remains to be done to ensure that women are able to progress into the most senior positions on Board and leadership teams.

“At Balance for Better Business, we’ll continue to support businesses as they look to bridge these gaps. By highlighting the ways in which proactive talent management and succession planning provide robust pathway for women to succeed to more senior roles, our aim is to help foster the deeper behavioural and cultural transformation required to drive real change across Irish organisations.”

Balance for Better Business co-chair Aongus Hegarty added: “While the progress made this year among businesses is to be welcomed, there are still too many companies with all male boards and leadership teams in Ireland. This is despite the compelling business case of having an equal number of men and women in senior leadership positions including greater levels of innovation, enhanced financial returns and stronger Environmental, Social and Government (ESG) performance.

“With the aim of inspiring action at senior leadership level, this year’s report highlights three key recommendations for improving gender balance at board and leadership level. These include setting stretch targets and building an action plan to achieve them, fostering a gender balanced succession plan and pipeline of female talent, and mandating gender balanced candidate lists for open roles. Through these specific actions, we want to empower leaders to build a culture that promotes gender balance while also reaping the many benefits of diverse and inclusive leadership.”

To download a copy of the fifth report of the Balance for Better Business Review Group click here 

ABOUT PRINCIPAL CONNECTIONS

Principal Connections - executive search is Ireland's Top Diversity and Inclusion Executive Search Firm. At Principal Connections, we believe that we have an important role to play in helping our clients build diverse leadership teams.

Clients engage us to address the growing importance of diversity in their employee population. Companies that incorporate inclusion strategies in their business have stronger financial performance and provide greater shareholder value. Principal Connections has a strong track record in diversity search assignments and embraces the global reality of diversity and inclusion.

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Mark Middleton promoted to Partner

NEW PARTNER ANNOUNCEMENT

Dublin, Ireland, October 25, 2022 – Principal Connections — executive search, part of Agilium Worldwide LLC, has announced the appointment of Mark Middleton to Partner.

Mr. Middleton joined Principal Connections – executive search in early 2018 as a Practice Leader specialising in high-level executive and senior management appointments from Head of Function to Board level. He has subsequently worked with and advised many of Ireland’s most noteworthy companies across a range of sectors cultivating a stellar track record along the way.

Prior to joining Principal Connections, Mr. Middleton was an Associate Director with a boutique recruitment firm for over 5 years while previously he was Divisional Manager for sister company, Executive Connections. Mr. Middleton began his early career in financial services working with Dolmen Securities (now Cantor Fitzgerald) and Goodbody Stockbrokers (now AIB) before subsequently joining Bank of Ireland Asset Management (now State Street Global Advisors).

Commenting on the appointment, Pat O’Donnell, Managing Partner said:

“I’m thrilled to announce Mark’s appointment to Partner. With a career spanning more than 20 years, Mark is well known for being passionate about delivering quality of service and building fantastic client partnerships. His considerable knowledge and expertise in executive search will help our clients tackle their most pressing leadership challenges in the years ahead. I’d like to wish Mark every success as he assumes his new role.”

Commenting on the appointment, Mark Middleton said:

“I’m delighted and indeed very proud to be appointed to Partner with Principal Connections – executive search. Principal Connections – executive search is an inspiring firm with an incredibly talented and ambitious country leading executive search team. I look forward to being part of and contributing to the continued success of the firm in the years to follow.”

ABOUT PRINCIPAL CONNECTIONS

Principal Connections - executive search is Ireland's leading senior executive search firm, and is part of Agilium Worldwide LLC, ranked one of the world's top global executive search groups.

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Eilish Devine appointed Practice Leader - Executive Search

NEW EXECUTIVE SEARCH PRACTICE LEADER ANNOUNCEMENT

Dublin, Ireland, October 04, 2022 – Principal Connections — executive search, part of Agilium Worldwide LLC, has announced the appointment of Eilish Devine as Practice Leader - Executive Search.

Having initiated her career in the human capital management industry in 2006, Ms. Devine will focus her time on Board, CEO and Senior Executive appointments, partnering with private and public companies as well as government bodies and not-for-profit entities to support their strategic objectives.

Prior to joining Principal Connections - executive search, Ms. Devine was a Partner with a market leading executive search firm based in Australia where she worked for close to 10 years. On returning to Ireland, Ms. Devine spent a number of years leading the delivery of senior executive and leadership appointments on behalf of an international recruitment firm. During her earlier career, Ms. Devine held a number of HR positions across education, government/public-sector and mining.

Ms. Devine has a particular interest in increasing the general diversity and specifically gender balance at decision-making levels in organisations. She is a graduate of University College Dublin.

Commenting on the appointment, Pat O’Donnell, Managing Partner said:
"Eilish is an excellent addition to our team, bringing extensive experience of advising clients across a range of sectors from technology and financial services through to consumer goods, professional services, manufacturing and government. We look forward to the contributions she will make to our clients and our firm."

Commenting on the appointment, Eilish Devine said:

“I’m delighted to take up this position at Principal Connections - executive search. I‘ve long admired Principal Connections’ as a firm and its reputation as one of Ireland’s top executive search houses with global reach, as part of the Agilium Worldwide family. I’m looking forward to bringing further firepower to the team and to advising clients across multiple sectors on C-suite and leadership talent.”

ABOUT PRINCIPAL CONNECTIONS

Principal Connections - executive search is Ireland's leading retained executive search and board consulting firm, and is part of Agilium Worldwide LLC, ranked one of the world's top global executive search groups.

Follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter to keep up to date with all our latest news.

Darren McCabe promoted to Partner

NEW PARTNER ANNOUNCEMENT

September 06th, 2022 - Principal Connections - executive search, part of Agilium Worldwide LLC, one of the world’s top global executive search firms, has announced the appointment of Darren McCabe to Partner.

Mr. McCabe joined Principal Connections – executive search in early 2017 as a Practice Leader and during his time has established an exemplary reputation for assisting clients with executive search services at C-Suite and Board level across a range of industries. Previously, Mr. McCabe held Senior Management and Director positions over a 10 year’ period with a number of Irish and global recruitment firms.

Commenting on the appointment, Pat O'Donnell, Managing Partner said:

“I couldn’t be happier to announce Darren’s appointment to Partner and I wish to sincerely congratulate him on this tremendous milestone. Darren has a huge breadth of experience in executive search and board recruitment, and over the past 5-years has been instrumental in empowering many of our clients, domestically and internationally, to deliver on their strategic plans through the appointment of elite senior leaders."

Commenting on the appointment, Darren McCabe, Partner said: said:

“I'm very grateful to have this unique opportunity and look forward to ensuring the continued delivery of Principal Connections’ best-in-class executive search services whilst also playing a ‘hands on’ leadership role in the strategic and commercial growth of the firm. This is an exciting time for Principal Connections – executive search, and I'm thrilled to contribute to next phase of the firms success”.

ABOUT PRINCIPAL CONNECTIONS

Principal Connections - executive search is Ireland's leading retained executive search and board consulting firm, and is part of Agilium Worldwide LLC, ranked one of the world's top global executive search groups.

Follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter to keep up to date with all our latest news.

CEO Succession - 'Finding a new CEO'

CEO Succession: 'Finding a new CEO who’s ready to deal with tomorrow’s challenges.'

Perhaps no single decision has a more substantial impact on the future of a company than the selection of a new Chief Executive. Choosing a CEO is possibly the most significant decision a board can make. While certain circumstances may deem the appointment of an external successor to be more appropriate, appointing an internal known quantity can often be the most solid platform from which to move a company forward. In either instance, appointing the individual, internal or external, most likely to shine brightest must be the priority. So how can a board go about identifying a new CEO who’s ready to deal with tomorrow’s challenges?

Below Pat O’Donnell, Co-founder and Managing Partner of retained executive search consultants, Principal Connections – part of global top 20 executive search group, Agilium Worldwide, reveals some of the core facets commonly found to be at the heart of a successful succession planning process.

Strategic Allignment

Managing the CEO succession process is a board’s ultimate responsibility. The board should therefore engage in a strategic alignment process and agree on future CEO benchmark profiles. It will be important that such profiles reflect the future strategic priorities set out in the business strategy. And in turn, these objectives should link to the person specification of the next CEO. This process supports the development of a clear evaluation mechanism to consider internal as well as external candidates.

CEO Assessment

Candidates should be measured using independent methods of assessing CEO potential and the agreed upon CEO success profiles. The objective must be to form an unbiased, multi-dimensional view which should include quantitative assessment of candidate experiences, competencies, skills and personality traits to inform succession thinking.

Board Review

CEO succession should be at least a bi-annual topic on the board agenda. The process may commence even as early as the second board meeting following the commencement of a new CEO. As the process matures, the succession theme should filter through all levels of the company in order to identify next generation CEO potentials at multiple levels. The board must stay close to the development practices of the company so it is assured that the future leadership talent requirements of the organisation are met.

Next Generation CEOs

Companies should develop next generation CEO successors through a blend of mentoring, coaching, education, rotations, secondments, key initiatives and specific developmental assignments. Once a board has gone beyond finding not just near ready CEO contenders, but generations of successors with the potential to serve as future CEOs one day, it must help that potential to prosper. Usually this will take the form of individually customised development programs aligned to both individuals’ requirements and what the organisation will require in a future leader. When potential successors become CEO contenders, the attention should shift to ascertaining areas to increase growth and to bridging development gaps.

CEO Bench Strength

The internal bench strength of the C-suite must be regularly reviewed by the board. This should involve meaningful exposure to board members in formal as well as informal settings. Board members can therefore form their own informed impressions of CEO potential. Once individuals are considered to be future CEO material, the board will then need to peel back the layers and commence stress testing core competencies while also looking more closely at personality derailers. At this stage, the board may decide that it must recruit external leaders to increase the calibre of its bench.

Review Talent Frameworks

It is crucial to regularly review talent management and development frameworks against the longer-term business strategy. This will enable the organisation to modify talent development activities in accordance with shifts in business strategy. Since there may be several possible futures to plan for, leadership profiles reflecting such differences should also be planned for.

CEO Transition

Once a successor CEO has been selected, it will be crucial that a comprehensive transition plan is developed to ensure that the incoming CEO gets off to a good start. At this time, it may also be necessary for the board to agree the post transition role of the outgoing CEO. A sound transition process can take six to twelve months depending on the circumstance. It will typically consist of a number of important phases tailored to the circumstances of the transition required.

Succession Benefits 

Developing an ecosystem that can identify and incubate future CEO talent demands a consistent commitment. It requires patience, but more importantly, it requires belief in the process for companies and their board members to go the journey. However, this is an investment that will pay high dividends through delivering leaders who can successfully navigate the nuances of tomorrow’s business landscape.

Not alone does this type of approach mitigate the risk of a board being caught off-guard, it encourages a culture of personal development aligned to career growth and extends to entice external interest. It is also noteworthy that just about nothing is more closely aligned with safeguarding shareholder value than the assurance that the right leaders will be in place to deliver tomorrow’s success. For this reason, shareholder advocates view solid succession planning as a reflection of the quality of the board itself.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Pat O’Donnell is Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Principal Connections, the Irish member firm of global top 20 executive search group, Agilium Worldwide. Mr O’Donnell is known as a leading authority and trusted advisor to domestic and international organisations in all phases of development and change and is also noted for his exceptional understanding of board room dynamics. A graduate of the National University of Ireland Galway, Mr O’Donnell holds a Master’s Degree in Commercial Law from University College Dublin’s School of Law.

The above article first appeared on Business & Finance in November 2019.

To learn more about Principal Connections please visit www.principalconnections.ie or e-mail pat@principalconnections.ie       

Follow Principal Connections on LinkedIn and Twitter 

The above information does not purport to be professional advice. Readers are advised to seek independent professional advice before acting on anything contained in these materials.

A Pathway to Board Diversity

Pat O’Donnell, Managing Partner of Principal Connections, shares his insights to achieve diversity in the boardroom.

There are few companies and board rooms where the subject of diversity has not been the focus of debate or at least discussion in recent years. From its close connotations with gender, ethnicity, age among other familiar categories, over time, board diversity in its truest sense has evolved to develop a much broader understanding; ‘diversity of thought’. It is therefore widely accepted that an effective board must be equipped with the diversity of opinion necessary to make its governance and advisory role meaningful.

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