Breaking into the boardroom: how Walter James is redefining executive search

Boardroom diversity has long been a talking point. With women accounting for a mere 6.4% of executive roles at FTSE 250 firms in 2018, and studies showing those with non-white sounding names are 14% less likely to get a call back, it’s evident that there is still a long way to go. However, the tide is slowly turning, and companies are finally at the point of realisation where they are seeing diversity for what it is – an invaluable asset.

The executive search industry is notoriously insular, operating via the long-established ‘old boys’ network’. In 2016, a study found that nearly a third of the UK’s top companies rely on personal networks to hire new board members and rarely advertise their roles. In fact, the mythical ‘little black book’ plays a very real role in top level senior selection. Since its inception in 2014, Walter James has disrupted the traditionally reactive industry, championing tenacity, innovation and, most importantly, diversity.

As a global executive search and human capital advisory firm with offices in Singapore, Zurich, Sydney and London, our business is people. Interacting with individuals from all walks of life comes naturally to CEO and founder, James Absalom. Born in Chester, James went to six different schools over the course of his academic career, ranging from the local comprehensive to an exclusive private school. This experience undoubtedly helped him develop a set of rare and unique skills which have fuelled his success thus far – his determined ‘sink or swim’ attitude, and the ability to build good relationships with everyone.

As the new kids in an old boys’ world, the Walter James team can’t afford to rest on its laurels. By establishing efficient, proactive processes, we sidestep the reactive tendencies of the industry. In doing so, we have earned a reputation for excellence among boutique and blue-chip companies alike. Despite the company size, our clientele includes industry giants such as Colgate-Palmolive, Johnson & Johnson, Kraft, Heinz and Unilever, as well as substantial work within the private equity sector. Securing these major global brand names demonstrates our team’s ability to deliver, along with our commitment to going the extra mile. Our micro-specialised team of ex-industry partners and associates not only know our niche sphere of practice inside and out, but we work hard to truly understand each client’s culture and match the right candidate accordingly.

Walter James does more than pay lip service to the value of diversity. On average, 34% of the candidates we place are representative of this. Over 60% of VP through to C-Suite placements last year were female. We are tapping into markets previously disregarded by the executive search industry and are enjoying incredible success by doing so. Already a £5 million turnover company, the company boasts a 97% success rate, while 86% of business comes from repeat clients. Not only is Walter James doing things differently, it’s doing something right.

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