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Odgers Berndtson recruiters jump ship to competitor Boyden

Staff of three key branches of Odgers Berndtson are moving to rival executive search firm Boyden Canada.


Canada's headhunter community is being shaken up as the staff of three key branches of Odgers Berndtson abandon ship to move to rival executive search firm Boyden Canada.

Employees in the Ottawa and Vancouver branches of Odgers Berndtson are joining Boyden on Tuesday, while the Calgary office is expected to make the same shift in early January. Altogether, about 80 employees will be involved in the move.

Recruiters' individual offices are generally under licence with a parent company, and when sufficient notice is given, they can shift alliance to a new parent.

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Boyden, which currently has its main Canadian office in Toronto with a satellite in Calgary, will now have a much larger Canadian footprint. "Overnight [Boyden] will become one of the largest executive search firms in this country," said Ken Werker, who was managing partner of the Vancouver office of Odgers Berndtson.

But it was the strength and breadth of the Boyden operation in the United States that was the main factor in prompting the three Odgers Berndtson branches to break ranks and move, Mr. Werker said.

Boyden has "a much more robust American presence" than Odgers Berndtson, he said. "In our world it is becoming much more common for us to recruit outside of Canada [so] the United States is very important."

Odgers Berndtson is a global alliance based in Britain, while Boyden is based in the United States. Both have offices around the world. The two companies' Canadian operations are among the biggest executive search firms in this country, although neither reveals their revenue figures. Among many other searches for major organizations, Odgers Berndtson was involved in the efforts to find the replacement for former Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney.

Boyden has offices in 13 U.S. cities, Mr. Werker said, and it is integrated globally, a crucial factor in finding candidates for top executive positions in Canada.

The employees who are making the switch will become part owners of Boyden World Corp., the parent company that owns the Canadian arm along with the other international operations.

Trina Gordon, chief executive officer of Boyden World, said in an interview that the acquisition of the three new Canadian branches is a step toward the company having a "pan-Canada presence." It will now look to expand east from Ontario into Quebec and Atlantic Canada, she said, either by hiring individuals or taking over offices from other firms.

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Increasingly, executive search firms want to serve multinational clients as well as those that have only domestic operations, Ms. Gordon said. "If you are a global talent advisory firm, as Boyden is, it is critical to be able to serve clients who are Canadian-based, but also those emerging multinationals who now look outside Canada for opportunities to grow."

"C-suite leadership is more global than it has ever been before and we expect that to accelerate in the future," she noted.

Odgers Berndtson's remaining operations will be concentrated in Toronto and Montreal. Still, "the separation and the realignment has been extremely amicable," Mr. Werker said. "It is a loss to them … but this is business."

Headhunting firms in North America have seen a strong growth in activity in the past few years, after a steep downturn following the recession in 2008-2009. While the improving economy is a key reason for the growth in business, there are also demographic factors, Mr. Werker said.

As baby boomers – including many who occupy executive offices – retire in greater numbers over the next few years, there will increasing demand for help in filling those jobs. "It makes hunting for talent more difficult," he said, "and that's why clients are calling on us for services."

Mr. Werker said there are currently several hot sectors for executive recruitment, including services, technology, resources, government and not-for-profit organizations.

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About the Author
Reporter, Report on Business

Richard Blackwell has reported on Canadian business for more than three decades. At the Financial Post and the Globe and Mail he has covered technology, transportation, investing, banking, securities and media, among many other subjects. Currently, his focus is on green technology and the economy. More


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