In our series of interviews with AIMS partners and colleagues in other countries, the turn has come to Cristina Favero who is a consultant at AIMS International Italy. She talks about what it is like to work as an Executive Search consultant in Italy and how her background in retail and international management serves as a good foundation to help her clients find key people.
Swedish-Italian trade relations (in brief)
Sweden exports goods worth SEK 38 billion and services worth SEK 8 billion a year to Italy and is the country’s 12th largest export destination for goods. The most important import goods are machines, food and motor vehicles and our most important export goods are paper products, metals, machines and motor vehicles. In 2019, there were 148 Swedish groups established in Italy, with a total of 29,658 employees. In the same year, 228 Italian companies with 8,807 employees were active in Sweden.
Hi Cristina, Nice to see you! You work with Executive Search at AIMS International Italy. Can you tell us a bit about your background and what was it that attracted you about Executive Search?
Hello Göran, nice to see you too! My background is in Economic and International Management, I started my career in Sales in the FMCG industry when I joined Reckitt Benckiser in London, working on one of the major retailers in the UK. From there I made a horizontal move to HR when I chose to move back to Italy with Unilever, where I spent a few years in various roles spanning from Leadership Development to HR Business Partnering in both the local Italian offices and in the corporate headquarters in the Netherlands. I joined AIMS International Italy in January 2019, as I have always been attracted by the world of Executive Search and Talent Management. As an HR professional, I am passionate about understanding and contributing to the vision of the companies I work with by providing them with the best talents, developing them and supporting their organisation needs. I feel energized by new challenges, discovering new approaches and ways of doing things and being a Consultant in this field allows me to achieve this purpose.
What is Italy´s economy like?
Italy has been for a long time a country with low growth, almost always lower than that of other European countries. This was due to low productivity, which was caused by many aspects such as political instability, bureaucracy, rigid labour market, aging population and difficulty for investors to make investments in Italy. Recently we are in a moment of recovery, with more openness towards digitalisation and innovation. The government is experiencing a moment of stability and prestige thanks to President Draghi, the vaccination campaign is at a very good level so the pandemic situation is under control. After a difficult 2020, 2021 will be a very bright year with a strong growth in GDP and a strong development of exports.
How would you describe the Executive Search market in Italy?
The Executive Search market in 2021 is booming, with a major upturn in investment in human resources after a pandemic-related lull. The economic growth and the rebound after the 2020 slowdown is leading many companies to hire managers and specialists. Many Italian companies are investing in order to ride the wave of recovery and to complete the generational and managerial transition of family businesses.
We are seeing international companies enter the domestic market, especially in the FinTech and technology sectors. Many companies are changing hands and being controlled by Private Equity funds and international conglomerates. The market demand is very strong both on the domestic front and from international investors.
How specifically do you handle international assignments?
International assignments are very important because they strengthen our reputation and image in the market and because international groups are often linked to the clients of our partners around the world. We deal with them with great care and attention. Over the last 25 years the company has worked with many Scandinavian companies as the founders’ professional experience started in Scandinavian consultancies and many of the early collaborations were with Swedish, Danish and Finnish companies. This has brought into the company a lot of culture and habit in dealing with Nordic cultures.
What makes AIMS International Italy one of the absolute leading companies in the country in Executive Search?
AIMS in Italy started with a team of professional and motivated consultants and has built over time a professional client-centred approach, which has always been served and managed with great care and sensitivity.
A stable shareholding structure and great harmony between the partners has allowed the development of a very clear and defined strategy, stable and consistent and able to bring the company after 25 years to a very high level of reputation and perception of quality. The investments in people and tools, anticipating market trends, has made the difference.
Today the company has a structure of headhunters who support partners and senior consultants made up of 20 experienced consultants specialised in various market sectors. One of the largest and most qualified research structures in Italy.
In addition to a rigorous methodology and resources specialised in candidate sourcing, we have also developed great expertise in assessing the personality and skills of potential candidates, significantly helping client companies choose the best people for them.
What are the most important advices for a foreing company who wish to establish or increase their presence in Italy?
The domestic market is big and attractive for many international newcomers. The business environment is now much better than in the past and many companies are successfully entering the Italian market. The political and infrastructural climate is definitely favourable today so I would definitely encourage foreign companies to establish their presence or keep investing here in Italy.
As a consultant you work with many clients within consumer markets. What other areas do you work with and what type of assignments do you do?
Indeed, my main area of expertise is in the Consumer industry, which is the one I am most passionate about. However I also work a lot in the recruitment of Managers in FinTech, technology and industrial sectors. I have also grown fond about Digital Transformation and everything connected to it, so I am also very active in the search and selection of the new emerging roles within the digital sphere, in the talent assessment of professionals in this world and in supporting companies in their digital turnaround.
Being part of the marketing team in AIMS International you get a good understanding on marketing and communication internationally. What trends do you see in Italy when it comes to marketing?
I think marketing today can no longer be distinguished from digital marketing and in this sense personalization is key. The online and social media have acquired more and more importance as consumers are always more connected but less easily accessible offline and hence need to be reached with highly personalised and almost tailor-made messages and contents. Moreover, the human dimension and the human experience remain at the heart, with more and more attention and sensibility to company purpose and values such as trust and transparency. One of the latest trends also sees employees actively involved in the promotion of their own company, becoming true ambassadors for both potential customers and new talents.
In AIMS Italy you created your own app for communicating with candidates. What trends do you see for Executive Search in the future?
We give great importance to the candidate experience and implementing innovative tools and technologies is very important to us in order to speed up processes and give very targeted and timely answers to clients. Today’s Search and Selection market is very competitive and fragmented and sometimes not so capable of discerning between consultants and their ability to give effective answers. We place ourselves on a highly specialised and managerial level of assignments, mainly working with the top management of international or Italian industrial groups, where the consultants’ skills and company know-how can really make the difference. We carry out our work with a consultancy approach, so that the top management can find in us a true partner with whom to discuss and address business issues.
I believe that the Executive Search trend will continue to be positive in the coming years because of the need for companies to have qualified consultancy support in identifying their leaders, and today’s trends of insourcing recruiters, RPOs and other international recruitment centres located in low-cost countries will not be able to fully compensate for this need.