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Our expert in-house capability provides accurate, up-to-date and incisive research to deliver swift, precise outcomes. Targeted individuals are engaged with care and professionalism and the client opportunity presented in a clear and well-prepared format.

Our News

Our expert in-house capability provides accurate, up-to-date and incisive research to deliver swift, precise outcomes. Targeted individuals are engaged with care and professionalism and the client opportunity presented in a clear and well-prepared format.

Q&A with partner David Holmes

What’s your background and how did you come to work at Howgate Sable?
It was my ambition to be a singer, so after completing a degree in music at Manchester University I spent a while trying to break into the circuit before it became apparent that this was never going to earn me any money! I accepted a place on the Marks & Spencer graduate training scheme and worked in the corporate team before moving into recruitment in search of something more fast-paced.

After four years recruiting in the creative industries, I moved on to handle more senior placements in HR teams before joining Howgate Sable in 2006. I’ve never looked back!

Why are you so passionate about executive search?
I love talking to people and learning about them. Executive search is all about forming relationships with clients to help them get what they need to move their business on – being successful in this industry comes down to the quality of the relationships you can forge. I feel like I’m part of my clients’ firms when I’m working with them.

What’s been the most satisfying moment of your career so far?
All of them! It’s always a feeling of great satisfaction when I fill a role. The fact that I’m able to earn a living from helping other people do well in their business is really gratifying.

If you weren’t in executive search, what would you be doing?
Something musical! Or possibly running a book shop or a coffee shop. Anywhere I can chat to people.

Who would be your dream client?
Absolutely anybody. Every person and every business has an interesting story to tell, only sometimes you need to dig to find it. Having said that, it would be very interesting to search for wildly unusual roles – something like head camel keeper at the zoo perhaps – but I doubt I’d be very good at it.

What do you consider to be the biggest challenge affecting the search market currently?
The search market tends to run in cycles. You have periods where clients are building up their in house teams and times when everything is outsourced, so there’s always a challenge borne from that cyclical nature.

For many years there’s been a concern that IT will destroy recruitment and search but actually that’s not been the case. LinkedIn, for example, was meant to ruin the industry but it’s actually become a valuable tool.

How do you predict the search market will change over the next decade?
I’m finding that a lot of clients are moving towards more boutique search firms, rather than larger firms. It’s a change from the past few years and reflects a desire for a more personalised service.

The biggest change, however, will come about because of Brexit, in whatever form that takes. I recruit a lot of economists and there is a level of nervousness about what the future holds. It will be interesting to see what happens and, like all industries, the search market will have to adapt.

Your specialisms are competition, regulatory and professional services. How have these industries developed during the time you’ve worked in executive search?
There are more and more of them. The regulatory environment has increased dramatically in the UK; so too has litigation. Lawyers get involved much sooner nowadays than they did 10 years ago – the sheer numbers of cases has shot through the ceiling and the number of roles has increased accordingly.

What do you consider to be some of the major issues affecting these industries at the moment and how can they be overcome? What does the future hold?
Again, Brexit will have an enormous impact on these markets. Practically all businesses have an international or European element and it’s worked exceptionally well for them to be UK-based: Britain has been a desirable place to live and work – Italian economists, for example, have come to the UK in droves – but all this is likely to change. A mass exodus of talent or a reluctance to come to the UK for work could be disastrous.

Which individual has inspired you most in your career and in what way?
In my very first recruitment job, the man who ran the company had an instinctive eye for seeing exactly how to move his business forward. I learned more from him about succeeding in business than anyone else.

What’s your claim to fame?
I don’t have one! I’m just me and happy to be doing what I do.

Which conversation do you wish you’d been a fly on the wall for?
Anything involving the big composers; that would be so very interesting to me.

What’s your elevator pitch?
It’s quite simple really: I do know my stuff and I really do care about what I do.

Barry and Clare are a dream team on a mission. They are connected, personable and full of integrity. Barry has managed to fulfil roles that others have failed to recruit and with A-class candidates.

Throw a hard mandate at them and see them deliver.

Jesper With-Fogstrup

” Mandy worked with me as a retained advisor on a board level assignment to recruit an HR Director and a Governance Director. I found the process deployed to be very efficient and Mandy demonstrated excellent knowledge of the sector and ultimately assisted me in securing talented appointments. Mandy’s approach is very thorough and professional, but importantly she also commits to making each element of the task run smoothly and supports the client at all times.”

Marc Bell, Ex CEO of Benenden Healthcare

The EMI Practice at Howgate Sable really took the time to understand our situation and find exceptional candidates who could fulfil challenging international leadership assignments for a truly global company with a history that spans well over 200 years.

It was a first class experience and positive outcome on many levels.


Barry McDonnell – Director of Manufacturing at De La Rue International

I have worked with the Howgate Sable team on several occasions whilst hiring mission-critical executives. Partnership is the byword for this organisation – they act as an extension of my team and work hard to support me not only in the technical solution, but in the sense of a deep understanding of my specific requirements. Delivery is the key measure of our talent partners and Howgate Sable have always achieved what was asked of them.

Jesper Berg – SVP HR, ABB

I was headhunted by Howgate Sable for the CEO appointment at Welspun UK (Christy) Limited, a new product sector for me and one I would not have naturally considered.  It turned out to be the best career move I have ever made.  Since taking the role I have worked closely with Barry and his team to build a high-performance team, and this has been achieved through his taking the time to understand our industry sector and our company culture intimately.  I cannot recommend Howgate Sable highly enough for anyone wishing to make a career move or build a team.

Leigh Taylor – CEO, Welspun UK (Christy)

Having worked with Howgate Sable as a client and as a candidate I can confidently say their ability to deliver on complex searches is second to none. They not only have a detailed knowledge of the marketplace but also understand the importance of cultural fit. 

Bridget Lea – O2

I was particularly impressed with Howgate Sable’s knowledge and network in the aviation sector, the quality of the candidates provided at shortlist and the availability of Nick and the team to provide us with advice and guidance on candidates when required. Nick was particularly effective in understanding our needs as a Company and being flexible in adapting requirements and plans.

Paul Hutchings – Thomas Cook Group Airlines

I have recently worked with Nick from Howgate Sable to recruit a new Head of Aircraft Operations for Thomson Airways. I was particularly impressed by the wide-reaching search undertaken and the quality of the candidates put forward. The skills match to the brief was excellent and I am delighted with the individual we selected.

Dawn Wilson – Thomson Airways

From their initial call to me the Aviation practice team at Howgate Sable demonstrated a significant difference. Straightforward and to the point, the extent of their network and deep insight into the industry was immediately evident. The added value I have received as a candidate is tangible. An almost instant rapport quickly developed into a focused business relationship which is open, honest, respectful and above all trustworthy.

Carl Gissing