Robert Walters: UK recruiters have massive potential for global growth

There is the potential for recruiters to grow their businesses right across the globe, according to industry veteran Robert Walters.

Walters spoke to Recruiter on a morning in which the group released its Q1 2019 results, revealing 10% growth in net fee income year-on-year from £88.5m to £98.6m. NFI was also up 22%, 10%, 10% and 9% in the group’s Other International, UK, Europe, and Asia-Pacific businesses respectively.

The period also saw the group open three new offices in existing markets – in Cologne (Germany), Nantes (France) and Thailand’s Eastern Seaboard.

And Walters told Recruiter he feels the recruitment sector is underrepresented across the globe.

“The recruitment sector hasn’t existed in some of the South-East Asian countries, for example. It’s been around in the US and the UK a long time but even Germany is relatively underrepresented in this sector, so there’s natural growth. When you get to Japan, it’s another story. There’s phenomenal opportunities there and we are doing nicely there at the moment.”

Commenting on why the firm has managed to post such high NFI growth in the UK amid such uncertainty around Brexit, Walters said: “If you are looking at the possible disruption of Brexit and the movement of certain functions to European cities, we’re in all those cities and have been for a long while.

“You’re looking at the ultimate beneficiary of disruption, which could be New York. We’ve been in New York for many years. I think the other thing is really the spread of businesses we have. It’s over 70% non-UK and we made a definite push about 10 years ago to really build up our Asian presence.

“So I think it’s the culmination made over a large number of years that has given us that spread and depth of penetration that we can build on now.”

And reflecting on what the firm is doing differently to achieve such growth in the UK, Walters pointed to the group’s outsourcing business.

“We do have a feature of our UK business that direct competitors don’t significantly have and that is an outsourcing business. So that provides a slightly different theme of income – still cyclical but that gives us a little bit more depth. 

“And I think that we haven’t been in the regions [of the UK] as some of our competitors. This means the growth opportunities are obviously that much greater because we are coming from a lower base.”

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