Neil Williams has more than two decades of executive-level recruitment and human resources (HR) experience in a career that has focused on professional services around the world, including Europe, the Middle-East and the Asia-Pacific. Neil has had a long affinity with Vietnam and is returning to the country to head up executive recruitment company Monroe Consulting Group’s Professional Division. In the following interview, Neil shares his background in recruitment, his perceptions of the economy and the recruitment industry in general, as well as the impact he believes Monroe will have in the rapidly expanding Southeast Asian economy.
Question: You’ve had a rather stellar recruitment career that has spanned more than 20 years, but I understand you began your professional life in the legal profession.
I studied law at the University of Wales in Aberystwyth and the College of Law in Chester. Having initially worked in the industry, I decided that wasn’t for me and I moved into legal recruitment, initially in Birmingham before moving to London. I continued my career across legal, company secretarial and compliance recruitment for five years before moving to Australia and continuing into Legal and compliance recruitment. During that time, I have recruited across the United Kingdom and Europe, and the Asia-Pacific and Middle-East. I filled senior roles including Partners of global law firms, General Counsels of major corporations and Heads of Compliance in major organisations, including the financial services, mining and FMCG industries.
And you also have a background in human resources (HR)?
Yes, I have a background in human resources. I have worked for two of my clients in a Human Resources role and managed HR recruitment teams. I have recruited senior HR roles for large global and small- to medium-sized domestic companies. These companies have been market leaders in their respective fields both domestically and internationally, whilst based in both the United Kingdom and in Australia.
How did you end up in Vietnam?
My wife and I moved to Vietnam three months ago; my wife’s role relocated her. We wanted our children to experience a global lifestyle and in terms of our professional careers, the emerging markets is something that we have always invested in, particularly Vietnam. We have a long-standing love of the country, having spent our honeymoon here 10 years ago and wanted to come back. Even in Melbourne, we lived next to one of the oldest Vietnamese communities in the city so we’ve always had a love of the people and culture and the planets aligned when this role arose. We’ve been very happy with our choice to move here.
What were some of the things that immediately impressed you about Vietnam?
Vietnam has changed immeasurably since we were here last and the economy has expanded in step with that. The overall impression is that people welcome you on both a personal and business level, there is an openness and a willingness to embrace ideas from external markets to improve the speed of growth. There is still the traditional respectful feel here but also a prevailing attitude of ‘how can we drive Vietnam forward.’ That is what immediately struck us – the rate of change and the real vibrancy regarding this change across the country.
How is recruitment viewed in Vietnam and what is the potential for the industry?
In Vietnam, recruitment is not as mature as perhaps some other markets globally. This has a number of positives for a company setting up. With not being tied to old ideologies and processes, you can come in with fresh, new concepts of how recruitment works within a specific market and there is wide scope to grow. In my opinion, the key areas of growth within executive-level recruitment is the continued pressure on companies to attract and retain the very best professionals from Vietnam or overseas that can drive expansion, either domestically, regionally or beyond. This is the next stage of evolution in the recruitment industry in Vietnam and is obviously where Monroe Consulting Group Vietnam can play a major role.
Monroe is a multiple international award-winning executive recruitment company that has successfully transplanted its business model in China, Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines and Indonesia, as well as in Chile and Mexico. Can you elaborate a little more about this and what it will bring to Vietnam?
Monroe is an award-winning leader in the recruitment industry in the emerging markets in Southeast Asia and Latin America. It has been an area of growth on which to concentrate. This has been across several different business areas, namely Technology, Professional Services, Industry, Consumer Goods and Health. It is a multi-faceted business with a core focus on management or executive-level positions. Whilst not the largest recruitment company, it provides a boutique service that is second-to-none in the areas in which it operates in the region. It knows where its expertise lies and it knows its sectors better than its competitors. Vietnam is no different, particularly given the experience of Group Managing Director Andrew Hairs, and Vietnam Managing Director Ngan Huynh.
Given the success of Monroe Group in emerging markets, the experience of Monroe Vietnam’s Managing Director Ngan Huynh and your own personal experience, what can we expect from your Professional Division?
As well as banking, finance and insurance, we see considerable room for growth in the legal and compliance fields, both in law and accounting firms and corporate legal divisions. What I can bring is an even greater focus on executive search methodologies and attracting the very best talent. This is not people that are necessarily active in the market but the best people for the role. We can build much deeper relationship with our clients to create not just short-term recruitment solutions, but assist in their long- term plan strategy as well. That is what we are looking to bring and as a growing, flexible recruitment business I am quite confident that Monroe Vietnam and the Professional Division can achieve.