The Canadian Economy and Executive Job Market - Interview with an AESC Search Consultant


Following the AESC Q2 2011 executive search industry statistics, we asked George Madden from Canadian executive search firm Pinton Forrest & Madden, to give an insight into the economy and executive job market in Canada.  Learn why Canada was able to weather the financial downturn and how this has left the executive job market performing well, albeit with a cautious eye to markets worldwide:

How is the Canadian economy performing in relation to external markets?
George Madden: For what it is worth - and recognize that Vancouver and western Canada is not Toronto, our major economic city in Canada - things are actually pretty good from an economic viewpoint. However we, like everyone, are concerned about the issues in the global economy, in particular the European monetary challenges and the continued problems facing the United States.
The Canadian banking system weathered the storm better than the most other nations and our fiscal policy over the past decade of paying down debt has meant the economic crisis over the past three years – while certainly affecting Canada – has not been as dramatic as in the United States. 
We here in Canada have avoided the ‘housing bubble/meltdown’ felt extensively in the United States.  Our GDP has been solid, employment has been stable and interest rates have remained low.  The Canadian dollar has risen dramatically against the US dollar over the last two years – which has been good for consumers but has been a challenge for manufacturers here who export to the United States.
How has this affected the executive search market in Canada?
GM: In terms of executive search, I would think you would find most of the firms saying that their revenues are up this year overall and some, like ourselves (a 14-person firm in Vancouver), will record an increase of around 17% this year over last year, which in itself was up around 12%. 
However, we know the slow growth in the United States and the stock market decline will affect decision making by individuals and companies.  Companies are concerned about the markets and consumer confidence overall.  I would say from what we hear from our clients that they continue to be cautiously optimistic but the recent weeks have perhaps eroded some of their enthusiasm for adding overheads and expansion plans immediately. 
In addition, many individuals who thought they were ready for retirement this Fall have found out their RSP investments (like your 401K’s) have taken a hit and some people may hang-in there for another year to solidify their financial position rather than retiring this year.  That obviously will affect senior search opportunities in some areas.
Here on the west coast of Canada we are optimistic around the economy in 2012 if the issues in Europe can get sorted out and if the United States is able to put together a bi-partisan plan which focuses on job stimulation and measured growth in a fiscally responsible manner. 
There was an old saying used about 15-years ago that said “...when the United States catches an economic cold, Canada catches the flu”.  That is not so much so anymore – Canada’s economy is one of the best in the western world now and not dependent on trade with the United States to the same extent as it was a decade ago.  Having said that our economy is dependent on the Asia-Pacific region more than ever and if the global fiscal issues continue and places such as China have reduced demand for our goods, then we too will be affected.
What are the growth industries for executive search in Canada?
GM: On the search front itself, here in Canada which is different than the United States, we have government owned corporations in certain sectors which are called Crown Corporations or Authorities.  Usually the only shareholder is the government but a Board of Directors provides governance and those people come from various business backgrounds.  The Crown corporations (for example here on the west coast we have a huge hydro electric utility that provides power for our region as well as exports electricity to the grid in the United States) operate as private companies do and they use executive search extensively for senior roles. 
In addition, cities, healthcare organizations, school districts, police departments, etc. use executive search as public sector employers to fill roles like Police Chief, School Superintendent and City Manager – all senior roles in public sector organizations where transparency and governance issues mean executive search is a regular option in terms of recruitment. 
As the wave of retirement continues – just as it will in the United States – this is a growth area for executive search firms in the next 5 to 7 years as most of these organizations do not have internal recruitment capabilities for senior leadership positions. Also, in many cases the whole leadership team is in the same age bracket so succession planning through internal promotion is not always an option.

Learn more about Executive Search in Canada.

George Madden, Partner - Pinton Forrest & Madden

George Madden's professional accomplishments in communications, public affairs and management have made him a well-known figure on the Canadian business landscape. A 20-year veteran of the executive search industry, he brings to each assignment an incisive understanding of business affairs and a natural affinity for distilling complex client objectives into measurable goals and results.

About BlueSteps

BlueSteps is the exclusive service of the AESC that puts senior executives on the radar screen of over 6,000 executive search professionals in over 70 countries. Be visible, and be considered for up to 50,000 opportunities handled by AESC search firms every year. Find out more at www.BlueSteps.com.

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