CEO Ellis steps aside at Harvey Nash to let talent shine

Outperforming all financial benchmarks set before him is the shining achievement of Albert Ellis’ 14-year tenure at Harvey Nash.

Recruiter spoke to the outgoing CEO of Harvey Nash in the week the professional technology recruiter announced Ellis is to be succeeded by Gi Group CEO Bev White from 3 February.

Ellis, who helped oversee the group’s successful transition from public to private ownership in the past year following its acquisition by DBAY Advisors, considers the group’s outperforming all financial benchmarks during its decade-long listing on AIM as his main achievement.

“For the decade 2009-19 the Harvey Nash Group (listed on the main market then AIM) outperformed all the financial benchmarks and indexes, and total shareholder return was one of the best in the entire recruitment sector and in the top 10%. 

“Almost every small cap recruiter during that time either failed because of a strategic error, a poor acquisition, too much debt or was mismanaged and exited the market. So that was my single largest achievement.”

Other highlights Ellis points to include his involvement in setting up a survey of CIOs, which is sponsored by professional services firm KPMG, bringing Harvey Nash to a future of work conference set up by Rustat (a future-based think-tank at Cambridge University) and leading the group as it contended with the financial meltdown of 2008.

“We love recessions at Harvey Nash because clients and candidates are attracted to the quality market leaders, particularly those businesses that have long-term personal relationships. So it’s a way for us to differentiate ourselves against the rest of the market. In addition, we have developed the IT solutions and outsourcing business, which provided some very real insulation against the worst of what the market threw at us in the financial services recession in 2009-10.”

Ellis added the group’s predictable and steady profits and cashflow during this time meant it didn’t shed headcount in the same way rival recruiters did, meaning it could invest and trade its way through the recession. 

Looking ahead, Ellis, who is to continue to be involved with DBAY Advisors on other investments, taking up a position as a senior adviser, revealed he is considering opportunities in line with his experience in the sector, which has seen him spend almost two decades as a public company director, managing recruitment businesses, and taking the lead on setting up and acquiring new businesses.

“After 15 years of being CEO and building the Harvey Nash business... it’s time to step away from the business I love so much and have devoted the majority of my professional life to, and evaluate what next…

“I believe we need to allow the talent from within the business to shine on the global stage and the first phase of this journey is for me to provide that space by stepping aside.”

But Ellis added he is continuing to work flat out until his final day next week, which has included acting as a co-signatory to the Recruitment & Employment Confederation’s letter lobbying government for a delay to IR35 changes set for April.

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