On the hunt

Brian Hamill has left his post at the head of international search firm Imprint to launch a new venture.

Seven years after founding international search firm Imprint, Brian Hamill has moved on to his next venture: a new firm focused on finding executives for investment banks, private equity firms and private equity portfolio companies.

After resigning from his position as chief executive earlier this year, he completed the management buyout of two of Imprint's divisions, Imprint Search & Selection and WoodHamill. Imprint Search & Selection focused on the so-called ?marzipan layer? of managers just below the highest level of directors, and WoodHamill focused on board level and senior front office financial services professionals in Asia. Those two companies will now operate as Redgrave Partners.

Redgrave has around 50 employees in an office in London, and more than two-thirds of Redgrave's client base followed the team from Imprint, so the new firm by no means has to build its business from the ground up. The firm is planning to develop a pan-Asian business by the end of this year, when a non-compete clause preventing Redgrave from competing with Imprint outside of the UK expires. The firm will set up offices in Tokyo, Hong Kong and Singapore, as well as the Middle East. The initiative is largely driven by Redgrave's existing clients, who have worked with Redgrave in Europe or the US, and want the firm to be able to find Asian hires for them as well.

?I think what surprised the market in Europe is that a search firm would go down this route in markets that are not particularly strong,? Hamill told PEI Manager. But where most see market turmoil and layoffs, Redgrave sees opportunity.

Whereas after the dot-com crash in 2001 and the recession at the end of the 1980s, executives who lost their jobs were unable to find work for long periods of time, managers leaving investment banks now are finding work fairly quickly at private equity firms and hedge funds. Many of those buyout shops and hedge funds have raised large amounts of capital in recent months in spite of market conditions, and are ready to start investing. The exodus from the investment banks presents great opportunity to hire experienced professionals with great connections without paying the exorbitant salaries of the past few years.

?You read a lot in the press about doom and gloom, but a lot of what we've seen hasn't been actually that bad,? Hamill says. ?There's still a lot of hiring going on; it's just not as indiscriminate as it has been over the last two years.?

One thing that has changed is that firms now tend to look for executives with operational or turnaround experience rather than corporate financiers, he says.

?They're looking to hire executives that have been through periods of change and instability, and whose skill sets very much focus on operational improvements of businesses rather than financial engineering,? he says. ?Which is probably a very good thing, in the long term.?