The decision in 2016 in which the UK voted to leave the EU has brought about many changes, some good, some bad and some ongoing. Not least of which concerns the ability of UK businesses to import executive and senior-level workers from outside the UK. Indeed, immediately after the referendum result was confirmed, some executive recruiters were loudly sounding the death knell for the global talent search industry, although the wiser executive search recruiters merely looked at how best to adapt to the changing circumstances.
The financial crisis of 2008-2009 compounded the issue, particularly as many large business names had already started to downsize their workforce and suspend recruitment because of the early uncertainties of Brexit. In the early days following the departure of the UK from the European Union, the volume of overseas recruitment fell owing to individual uncertainties around settlement rules and visa and passport applications in particular.
London has for a long time positioned itself as the global centre for big business, especially the financial sector. There were initially fears that much of the financial sector would move over to Frankfurt, taking with it the biggest and best of its high flyers. There’s no doubt that in the early days following the Brexit vote and during the transition period up to December 2020, London did suffer something of a talent shortage and executive search recruitment specialists worked their socks off to bring the best and brightest talent into London, particularly in light of efforts made by the likes of Dubai and Singapore to encroach on London’s primary power base.
Changes in attitude
After the initial breast-beating and gnashing of teeth, it seems that London soon realised that Brexit had not, in fact, caused the roof to fall in. Brexit spawned a new race to recruit top talent from across the globe, and London reiterated its position as the premier international business hub. Talent shortages and recruitment issues affected London long before Brexit. Brexit spurred London businesses on to the realisation that in order to attract the best people, it must be competitive.
In the UK the economy began to grow, as it did in the US and Europe, albeit at a slower pace than the UK, and this meant that executive recruitment was able to keep up the pace in attracting talent into London, particularly into the financial, energy and life sciences sectors.
Businesses go from strength to strength
Despite all the political upheaval and uncertainty brought about by the Brexit vote, the fact is that business goes on, and the economy continues to grow, sometimes racing ahead but in recent years slowing down as it has globally. In the midst of all this, many executive recruiters observed that what drove an increase in executive hiring was in the field of replacement recruitment. The banking, insurance and asset management sectors along with the universities all required outstanding and motivated leaders to drive forward growth and success.
Executive recruiters upped their game to reach further afield to bring top talent to London, initially focusing on the US but widening the search with increasing optimism. As the UK and London rediscovered its role as a great trading hub, top-level recruiters innovated to find the best people and put London with its culture of entrepreneurship, opportunity and vibrancy back on top.
So it seems that, despite the initial doom and gloom predictions of disaster, the UK has recovered pretty well from Brexit. This is because UK businesses and London in particular, have proven that they are still the best place to come and get ahead for executive and senior-level workers.