Latest news from Directorbank

13 July 2023

Consumer & Retail Sector Update – July 2023:

Consumer & Retail Sector Update – July 2023:
Last month our Head of Retail & Consumer Practice – Simon Nolan – hosted our bi-annual Consumer & Retail breakfast with KPMG. Guests included a mix of Chairs, NEDs and Executives from Consumer-facing listed, PE-backed and private companies which provided a great breadth of opinion and leadership insight. Under Chatham House rules, we tackled three topics during the few hours we spent together, and the key takeaways are summarised below:

Trading in the current environment

  • Trading remains challenging. The two-pronged attack of high inflation and rising interest rates is reducing consumer ability – and appetite – to spend.
  • In some areas sales numbers are holding up, but – once inflation has been accounted for – volumes are down. Consumers are receiving less for their money. Whilst ‘essential’ spending, particularly across the Grocery sub-sector, continues, discretionary purchases have been harder hit. Consumers have become much more value-led.
  • With the decrease in market values, it’s an ideal time for investment in the sector. As investors will seek out opportunistic transactions that offer strong potential for growth and margin, there should be some healthy rewards for those prepared to take risks.

  • As a side note, there was some interesting insight into the US market where some states have almost decriminalised shoplifting. This has led to major retailers, including Walmart, shutting stores in high crime areas due to excessive loss through theft.

The ESG agenda

  • Companies that can transparently and honestly demonstrate their commitment to sustainability are more likely to enhance their brand, create differentiation and gain competitive advantage. They are also more likely to build resilience and long-term value by safeguarding against risk.
  • Customers are now more engaged with ‘doing the right thing’ and conscious of the E&S impact of their buying decisions. A trend that will continue. A brand’s reputation for responsible ESG practices will help to drive customer loyalty and word-of-mouth. In some cases these customers will be willing to pay a premium on their purchases.
  • Companies with robust ESG practices are more likely to attract and retain top talent. This is particularly applicable to Millennials and Gen Z’s who openly share their concern for social and environmental issues, and are more likely to join (and stay with) a business that aligns with their beliefs.

Building better Boards

  • The operational challenges outlined above require a change of attitude and behaviour from leadership teams.
  • Diversity of thinking can be lacking and this needs addressing. Businesses should be more willing to take advice from a diverse mix of people with different viewpoints and experiences. This enables more informed, balanced and creative decisions, which helps companies to handle complex challenges, and remain innovative and competitive.
  • There can be a lack of ‘data and analytics’ capability within Boards. Data and analytics are revolutionising the sector, empowering businesses to make far more intelligent decisions across all facets including marketing, sales, product development, financial forecasting, and so on. All positively impact the customer experience. But some businesses are getting left behind. In an increasingly tough landscape, businesses should invest in boosting these capabilities to harness opportunities for business improvement, competitive advantage and growth.
  • With a wealth of experience in the room from private, plc and PE backgrounds, our guests discussed the clarity of purpose that often comes from PE ownership. Private Equity investment often brings with it a more focused and disciplined approach – their expertise helps to shape a clear strategic plan with well-defined targets, and their strong incentive to drive success means they are involved in decision-making throughout the journey. In many cases our guests agreed that this leads to a more aligned, driven and positive working environment.


If you’d like further information on our credentials, or if we can assist you with a Board-level or senior management search requirement, please contact Simon on the details below.

Simon Nolan
Head of Retail & Consumer Practice

11 May 2023

Diversity & Inclusion: Directorbank signs up to the Voluntary Code of Conduct for Executive Search Firms

Update: Directorbank signs up to the ‘Voluntary Code of Conduct for Executive Search Firms’

As Executive Search specialists, Directorbank acknowledges the important role we play in helping to increase diversity and inclusion in leadership teams. To set a quality benchmark, and to further support industry best practice, we have become a signatory to the ‘Voluntary Code of Conduct for Executive Search Firms’. This Code lays out clear steps that member firms must follow to promote the highest standards of professionalism and ethical conduct, and to provide their clients with the best possible service and search outcome.

Directorbank’s Simon Thomas comments: “It is well documented that businesses with diverse leadership teams benefit from a broader range of perspectives, more creative discussions, better decision making and stronger financial performance. In our own business, half of our employees are female and we have over 40% female representation at Board level. As a team we are proud to sign up to the ‘Voluntary Code of Conduct for Executive Search Firms’. It is our responsibility to promote the highest standards of conduct in our industry, and by becoming a signatory to the Code we are demonstrating this commitment to our clients, candidates and the wider business community as well as setting high standards of expectation for our team.”

Some recent examples of Directorbank’s female appointments include the NED/Chair of Audit at dotdigital plc, Chair at Diaceutics plc, two NEDs at Gresham Technologies plc, an Audit Chair, NED and CHRO at Allergy Therapeutics plc, Group CFO at Bailie Group (privately-owned), Director of Services at Charterhouse Voice & Data (PE-backed), Group FD at Inuvi Group (PE-backed), Chief Commercial Officer at Hill Biscuits (PE-backed), and MD at The LivingCare Group (privately-owned).

Should you like more information, please email Nicola at

8 March 2023

International Women’s Day: Embracing equity in the workplace

International Women’s Day: Embracing equity in the workplace
By Nicky Hall, Head of Marketing at Directorbank Executive Search

Today is International Women’s Day and the theme is #Embrace Equity, a powerful reminder that each and every one of us is responsible for driving gender parity.

As a female member of Directorbank’s leadership team, and a mother of two young children, this is something I feel strongly about.

I want my kids to grow up with opportunity, in a world that’s inclusive and fair. When they begin a career, they should be able to pursue something they feel passionate about. And if they choose to have a family of their own, they shouldn’t feel compromised, ‘stuck in a rut’ or guilty. They should have the opportunity to perform at their very best, to gain confidence, to pursue success. That opportunity should extend to everyone, regardless of gender.

In the business world, at Board level, the value of female representation is well documented, backed up by hard research. Companies with diverse leadership teams perform better financially and are better equipped to understand and respond to the needs of their employees and consumers.

A diverse leadership team brings different perspectives and experiences to the table, adds depth and creativity to discussions, and delivers smarter outcomes.  It serves to educate and inspire others: a visible demonstration that women can, and do, contribute real value to the bottom line.

But in reality there is much progress to be made. Within the FTSE 250 there are just 47 female-held executive directorships (12.1%). In the mid-market, women in key executive roles are also greatly underrepresented.

As executive search specialists working across the mid-market, we can see that strides have been made. Company boards are placing greater emphasis on gender parity, and we are increasingly being asked to provide diverse, inclusive candidate shortlists. With a still comparably more limited pool of female candidates with proven Board-level experience, and a company network still largely dominated by men, we have become more creative and open with our search processes in order to widen the talent horizon and pinpoint individuals with the right skill-set to do the job well.

Gender equality is not something that can be fixed quickly. It requires collective effort, a change in mind-set, a re-evaluation of company culture, and a conscious drive to break down systemic barriers from the top down and the bottom up.

Businesses need to work harder to attract and engage women and support them into positions of leadership. And this drive goes beyond recruitment. It requires a re-evaluation of professional development initiatives, mentoring opportunities, company values and working practices. There needs to be a move from ‘supporting the collective’ to ‘supporting the individual’ so that ALL employees feel encouraged and empowered to thrive.

As a Directorbank employee, I am very proud to say that 50% of my colleagues are female including our German team and our Heads of Research, Finance and Events. We were all hired because we were the best candidates for the job, we all work extremely hard, and we take pride in delivering value for our team and clients.

In return we get to work for a business that places a great deal of emphasis on work/life balance through flexible, tech-enabled working practices and strong communication. A leadership team that understands the pressures that young families or sick elders can bring and, above all, a business with an overriding culture of trust and respect.

Directorbank has evolved and modernised, and it works. Performance is strong and we seem to have achieved a balance that works for all.

6 March 2023

Retail & Consumer Sector Update

Retail and Consumer Sector Update, by Simon Nolan, Head of Retail & Consumer Practice, March 2023:

After some extremely bearish predictions towards the end of last year, recent data suggests that the recession might be far shallower than originally thought. And whilst the outlook for the sector remains somewhat opaque, given the economic and political uncertainty, inflation is expected to recede over the next few months. Signs indicate an uptick in consumer confidence and retail sales as the year unfurls.

This is reassuring news after such a challenging year. The sector has been dealt a rotten hand of sky-high inflation, supply chain pressures and increased production costs against a backdrop of eroded customer confidence and squeezed budgets. There have been further casualties with M&Co and Paperchase being some of the latest closures.

Some of the “overhyped” categories within food and drink have seen enormous spikes in interest followed by an inevitable decline as trends move onto the next best thing. 10-minute grocery delivery apps and the rise and fall of “plant based everything” have been particularly interesting as investor interest exploded rapidly and then proceeded to disintegrate at a similar pace as some of the challenges of those business models became clear.

During 2023, the adoption of e-commerce and the movement towards direct-to-consumer will undoubtedly continue its growth trajectory. However, as has been the case for some time, retailers must still find the balance between the ecommerce and in-store experience. Whilst online channels provide brands with greater opportunity to expand reach, for many retailers the provision of an engaging, enjoyable in-store experience contributes significantly towards overall sales performance.

What does this mean for leadership teams of consumer based businesses?

During the pandemic, I witnessed first-hand the resilience of management teams as they adapted to unprecedented challenges. The same can be said again, particularly for those businesses that are agile, innovative and creative, not only to mitigate the rapidly changing environment, but to continue delivering value to their customers throughout the shopping experience, across all touch points. Ultimately the British public is still spending, and brands need to adapt to win share of voice and share of basket. The challenges of supply and operations over the last couple of years are more likely to move to those of sales, marketing and ecommerce as relevance and desire impact consumer shopping choices more than availability.

How does this affect Board-level recruitment?

At Directorbank, we have seen continued demand for key finance and operations roles with a focus on reducing costs, driving efficiencies and strengthening the supply chain. With the next 12 months I expect demand to move towards commercial and marketing-led leadership roles as businesses seek to leverage the power of technology and data to sustain competitive edge and provide new and compelling ways for their customers to browse, buy and save.

If Directorbank can assist you with a Board level or senior management search requirement,
or if you’d like further information on our credentials, please contact:

Head of Retail & Consumer Practice
Directorbank Executive Search

Phone: 07584 386159
Click here to read Simon’s profile.