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Going private has helped us digitally transform ourselves

Albert Ellis, CEO at Harvey Nash Group


It’s just over a year now since Harvey Nash Group made the decision to go private, unconditionally accepting an offer from DBAY Advisors, and completing the deal in December last year.


We had been a listed business for 20 years, having built a loyal base of shareholders who have consistently seen excellent returns - so why did we do it, and what benefits has it brought?


The recruitment sector is changing; the rapid expansion of AI and automation, not to mention the continued growth of social media like LinkedIn, is radically transforming the sector in positive ways.


So recruitment companies need to adapt, and much of that is down to being on the right platform. By that I mean ‘platform’ in every sense: technology, people, structure, branding – everything. We call this Harvey Nash 4.0.


Harvey Nash Group began a transformation project over two years ago to create this platform, but by going private we have essentially supercharged this transformation.


A board meeting where you are surrounded by the people that own the company, and where decisions can be made there and then, fundamentally changes and speeds up the dynamic of how you make decisions and how you invest. Things happen much more quickly.


Most successful projects end up somewhere different from where you expect them to, and having a decision making structure that allows us to evolve and change has been a major strength – giving us the agility and flexibility we need.


So where and what have we been investing in? We are moving our systems and platforms to the cloud for greater agility and better commonality across the group. We have also been able to invest in creating cloud-based solutions to be better connected digitally with our clients and candidates. We are acquiring and analysing game-changing pools of “big data” to ensure the investments we make are targeted in the right areas.


With candidates, this makes communications more real-time and interactive. That’s vitally important as Millennials and Gen Z have grown up online and expect their recruiter to use technology to make the process of finding a job intuitive and straightforward. We have taken some of the more routine but necessary things such as confirming personal details, interview information and logistics and automated them through a digital platform. The candidate gets a more contemporary, on-the-go environment that makes life easier both for them and for our consultants. We’ve wrapped this in a data privacy governance overlay (GDPR) which we know to be the highest standard in our industry. 


We have also updated and improved some processes with clients - although direct, personal contact with consultants to really understand their needs remains a priority. You can’t take the people element out of recruitment!


Overall, the focus is on ‘levelling up’ to best-in-class standards across the group. It’s about introducing smarter digital solutions that are consistent in their principles but can be tailored around the world. We’ve also reviewed and refreshed our branding and upgraded our own internal people proposition in many key respects.


Going private is by no means the ‘silver bullet’. Our owners are much more intrinsically involved in the group, which can be both a blessing and a challenge! But overall, the move to private has really freed the way for us to invest and sharpen our focus where we need to.


In short, it has helped us re-engineer our future operating model and has put us on an exciting track into the future.

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