Arnold Ash executive search

Arnold Ash: Trust key to successful executive search in betting and gaming

As the betting and gaming industry endures a period of uncertainty about potential regulatory changes in key markets, at the same time as having to cope with wider economic turbulence, there remains fierce competition for the sector’s top executive talent.

To find out more about how to tackle the challenge of identifying and securing the services of the right leaders, we spoke to Jon Arnold, CEO of executive search specialist Arnold Ash Group and Talent Advisory Partner at SBC Advisory Partners

SBC: How does executive search in the gambling industry compare to other sectors?

Arnold Ash CEO Jon Arnold
Jon Arnold

Jon Arnold: As anyone with experience working in other industries will know, the gaming, betting and sports sector is unique on many levels. With executive search, one of the biggest differences is the access to founders, boards, and CEOs. They are heavily involved and invested in the process and demand that you are a subject matter expert, to manage upwards, and provide counsel. 

Generally speaking, the management is top-down and recruitment is perhaps not as HR and procurement-driven. The benefit of this is the increased level of direct contact with leadership and it creates more of a partnership model, rather than a transactional one. 

We are talking with decision makers from minute one of the search, which can massively fast track the process, reduce wastage of time and effort – and generate deal certainty and longer-lasting results.

Within this industry, people are more hands-on, practical and pragmatic. They take advice and look for advisory services from specialists.  

SBC: What are the challenges in recruiting at C-level and how vital are experience and contacts in finding the right candidates?

JA: The first hurdle is trust. For all the benefits of this industry, there are also a few unique challenges. People tend to stay in the sector and move around companies so they know each other and worry about sharing information that may get back to peers and colleagues. So building trust requires a significant investment of time. Speaking honestly, I would say it’s taken me – and Arnold Ash – nearly ten years to truly build that. 

We are trusted partners managing careers and leadership recruitment, underpinning the strategic roadmap of the client; we are handling information that could affect internal politics and / or external factors such as market perception and positioning. 

Relationships with individuals and businesses must be nurtured over a period of years – it’s not something that can nor should be achieved overnight.

SBC: What is the importance of identifying and attracting top leadership talent to grow your business and optimise efficiencies and revenues?

JA: This is less industry-specific but the single most important discussion that I have with my clients. Your business is only as good as its staff. Something that comes up often in executive search is feedback that a top tier candidate is absolutely perfect for a role, but they are out of the client’s budget. My question back on this is, ‘What will it cost you not to employ this person?’   

From a commercial perspective, there are often small margins as to whether a business succeeds or fails. Having the right employees is directly linked to this. Not only recruiting the right leadership but retaining them is critical.  

Your leadership team is responsible for everything good and bad in your business and you can very easily see examples of how their policies, procedures, morals, values and working practices filter down through an entire organisation. More than ever – in a challenging market where you must be at the top of your game to find success and to find profit – don’t compromise on having the right people driving your business forward.

SBC: The world’s top technology companies are estimated to have laid off more than 150,000 staff in recent months. Have the Big Tech layoffs created an opportunity for gaming companies to hire skilled staff at executive levels they may have struggled to find 12 months ago?

JA: We don’t specialise in volume-based recruitment but that’s where the opportunities lie here, in terms of potentially lifting a big team of technologists, developers – or whatever skillset you are looking for – from quality companies with first-class selection processes and training and development in place. 

There will be a small percentage of this 150,000 at the executive level where we operate. We have seen some of these individuals enter gaming, betting and sports as a result, which brings new and fresh talent and ideas into an already innovative space – which is a great thing.

SBC: Working practices have changed drastically post-Covid. How has this affected recruitment trends and priorities for companies and their prospective recruits?

JA: Covid and post-Covid working practices have been so convoluted because there hasn’t really been a period of sustained stability. Something keeps changing. Look at the situation right now: we’re at a period where the economy is now turbulent.

Over the last three years, the market has changed and working and HR best-practices have evolved. We were in a situation where to get the right talent, you would have to build a solution around an individual. So, on a case-by-case basis you would have to accommodate talent requirements. 

Now the supply of candidates has increased, so the balance has redressed back closer to the pre-Covid model where organisations have more control and buying power over working conditions and applying them across the board. 

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