The Luxury Industry CEOs of the Future: SILK Search


Sophie Doran | April 02, 2013

Kellie McSorley, founder of SILK Search, explains why traditional methods of executive search & recruitment have become outdated.

Kellie McSorley, founder of SILK Search, explains why traditional methods of executive search & recruitment have become outdated.

“Of course we believe it is important to assess an individual’s skills, experience and track record,” muses Kellie McSorley, founder of SILK Search, the London-based boutique headhunting firm specialising in senior executive appointments in the luxury industry. “But that alone is only one piece of the puzzle. You need to assess fit through understanding individual behaviours, emotional intelligence and mental horsepower, to make well appointed hires that deliver real value to a business.”

Launched by McSorley in 2008, SILK Search began in a small top floor office in London Mayfair, and has grown to six consultants and a multilingual research team with affiliate partners in Paris, Hong Kong, Dubai and Sydney.

The headhunting firm has partnered with top tier brands in the high fashion, fine jewellery, private aviation, fine wine and luxury automotive sectors, placing senior executives from managers and directors up to CEOs. Every mandate is met with a bespoke recruitment experience, working with clients on an exclusive basis.

“ Silk Search was founded on the basis that the traditional methods of search have become somewhat outdated ”

“SILK Search was founded on the basis that the traditional methods of search have become somewhat outdated. The business world is changing quickly. Nobody is prepared to wait for information anymore. Customers want transparency and brand engagement and it is no different for us.”

“Gone are the days of the elusive headhunter who produced a shortlist after 8-12 weeks of research and market mapping. Fast feedback and fast results are the minimum expectations but our clients also rely on us to give them “right fit” individuals and a real & balanced assessment of each shortlisted candidate. By ‘right fit’ I mean the chemistry between people, aligned values, and ensuring that the company’s ambitions and goals match the ambitions and goals of the individual.”

“For example, our Private Equity clients look for certain qualities in a person generally around urgency and result orientation whereas a Public company may place more value on other characteristics and competencies such as process, procedure and thought leadership. With Private companies there is a level of sensitivity and emotional attachment to the brand that any new hire absolutely has to understand, respect and harness, in order to succeed.”

“ Gone are the days of the elusive headhunter who produces a shortlist after 8-12 weeks of research ”

McSorley is also conscious of the issue of fit when it comes to the firms client relationships. “To represent and act in true partnership with our clients, we must share a common appreciation,” she explains. “Luxury is personalised; it’s not en masse. It’s about quality, detail and showing pride in delivering an impeccable product or service. We operate our business and nurture our relationships by these values.”

“Our client comes on the journey with us. We work collaboratively to understand their brand values and the true ‘fit’. It’s not about a standard recruitment process, or a LinkedIn search or even what we think the right candidate looks like. It’s about understanding what good looks like to our client, their business, their team. We’re looking for the CEOs of the future. That’s whom we are most interested in and whom our clients want.”

So what do these CEOs of the future look like? “In the last two years, any CEO mandate we have seen 100% requires someone that really understands digital technology and communications. Brands are also looking for executives with international experience, who have lived and worked in other cultures and countries. For the moment experience in China is the most relevant.”

“ Any CEO mandate we have seen recently requires someone that really understands digital ”

“We are seeing much more demand for top talent in Asia – China again continues to be a key focus. We are looking for talent willing and able to relocate to Asia from the West, as well as talent in the region with a true understanding of luxury DNA and best in class experience and education. Digital expertise and CRM are also skills in demand, but not in the traditional sense. Digital expertise is under scrutiny now, only the most credible and proven digital experts are winning the top jobs.”

“Historically C-Suite recruitment in Luxury was much more based on who you are, but now it is definitely about what you have done. Brands are looking for people with results, across industries, people that have proven themselves as key collaborators, innovators, people that can manage change.”

“We are noticing luxury brands really looking into other industries for both talent and inspiration. When you talk about digital, brands are looking to Google or pure play companies. In retail they are looking to hospitality for knowledge of customer service. Luxury fashion brands are also speaking about Apple when it comes to best in class service and customer engagement.”

“ C-Suite recruitment in Luxury was based on who you are, now it is about what you have done ”

“But it needs to be a careful balance between those that understand luxury and those that can spark innovation, without damaging the brand or only creating short term change. I think the gates are open at the moment as the luxury industry has realised it can learn from other industries.”

“It feels like this is definitely a period of time, a period of change, but brands will eventually resume focus on those with proven track records in the luxury industry and executives that really understand the history and heritage. Though we feel the industry will be all the better for it.

“It is an exciting time for luxury and we are enjoying playing a part in the paradigm shift.”

For other conversations with industry experts on Luxury Society, we invite your to explore the related materials as follows:

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- The Dangers of Homogenising the Wealthy: Ledbury Research
- The Most Profitable Marketing Channel: Nick Heys, Emailvision