Ross McKenzie was recently appointed Managing Director of international award-winning executive recruitment company Monroe Consulting Group Philippines. With almost 20 years’ senior recruitment experience in Southeast Asia, Ross has seen the industry flourish to become an integral part of the business landscape. In a sit-down interview, Ross shares why he joined Monroe and the reasons he believes many of the Philippines’ leading national and multinational companies choose to partner with the leading executive recruitment company.
You worked in recruitment for one year in Australia before you transferred to Southeast Asia, where you have remained ever since?
Yes, in 1999, I transferred to a specialist professional recruitment consultancy in Singapore to lead the Financial Services IT Desk and have come to call Asia home. In that time I have held numerous positions, including as director of a successful Singapore IT recruitment company that was sold to a larger company, as well as four Country Manager positions, one of which was in Singapore and three of which were in Malaysia.
Your experience extends to not only established and start-up recruitment companies in Asia but across a range of different industries, beginning with recruitment in the financial services and technology sectors. What are some of the changes that have taken place in the recruitment industry in that nearly 20-year period?
When I first got to Asia, recruitment was a relatively new industry and a lot of clients needed to be educated about the benefits of working with recruitment companies, particularly with local companies. At that time, back in ’99 and the early 2000s, there was an awful lot of work for international banks because a number of foreign banks were establishing or expanding in Singapore and Asia. There were a lot of expats in Singapore and the rest of Asia, to the point where you would be offered permanent residency or citizenship if you wanted to stay. That situation has turned full circle. The recruitment market in some countries is saturated and standards are much higher. There are still a lot of expats but it’s a much more competitive marketplace.
And Monroe Consulting Group recognized this 15 years ago and made a conscious decision to focus on the emerging economies of Asia, particularly on placing the very best local human resources talent with leading companies, both national and multinational?
Yes, very much so. This was one of the key reasons I joined Monroe, because it’s a specialist in emerging markets, which are still less mature from a recruitment point of view and it remains an area where you can provide candidates and client companies with an awful lot of added value. This is very much where the company has excelled, growing rapidly and establishing significant footprints in Southeast Asia and the wider Asia-Pacific region.
This approach of focusing on placing locally sourced job candidates with companies that are operating locally, also appears to apply to your internal hiring approach?
I’m the only expatriate at Monroe Consulting Group Philippines. All our recruitment consultants and five division heads are locals who began as trainee consultants and worked their way up through the Company. This is true for all of Monroe’s country operations. We operate in China, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Chile and Mexico. Every single consultant and division head is local, and only three of eight Country Managing Directors all expat hires. We don’t discriminate in any way, and if you’re good at your job, you’ll get promoted.
Look at the Philippines: If you consider my 20 years’ experience in executive recruitment and the industry knowledge of our consultants and division heads, we know how to help companies enter the country and establish operations. Our role is to explain the recruitment marketplace, the skill sets they can expect to find, the salary levels, how long it will take to make a hire, attrition rates, etc. Multinational companies that are establishing themselves in the Philippines really appreciate this level of service and local expertise. We’re not the largest recruitment company in the Philippines but we specialize in mid- to senior-level executive or technical positions where sourcing talent can be problematic. We focus on working with leading companies to recruit executives who are going to be the leaders, who will be integral in the success of the business in the Philippines.
Monroe has five key divisions, namely Consumer Goods, Health, Industry, Technology and Professional Services, which covers banking, finance and insurance. Where do you think Monroe Philippines is strong?
The traditional strengths since Monroe Philippines launched in 2007 have been in Technology and Industry, which encompasses engineering, construction, manufacturing and mining. Obviously positions in mining and oil and gas sectors are not in such a high demand, but we are very successful in the manufacturing and construction sectors, particularly given the infrastructure drive in the Philippines, including business infrastructure to make the country even more productive. The Technology sector is booming: business process outsourcing (BPO) services such as call centers and other technology-driven industries, including software development and gaming, to name a few. Our Health Division is growing rapidly and our Professional Services Division, which is strong in consulting services, financial services, legal and real estate, was our leading division in Q2 of 2017. And Consumer Goods is always strong, including in the retail sector.
Casting your mind back to 1999 when your specific focus was on banking, I would imagine that there is considerable cross-over between many of these recruitment sectors today? Retail and Technology and the rapid growth of E-commerce, for example.
Indeed, E-commerce is booming in the Philippines, as it elsewhere around the world. Technology, to take your example, has implications across all sectors and this is something we are acutely aware of. Our recruitment consultants pride themselves on staying abreast of the latest industry developments and we often organize sharing sessions with leaders across a range of sectors. Consultants from different divisions are also encouraged to attend to develop clearer pictures of a range of industries in the Philippines. This makes them better recruitment consultants.
Monroe launched in Southeast Asia more than 15 years ago and has won numerous international accolades and awards since. What sets the executive recruitment company apart from its competitors?
Our industry specialization allows our consultants to become experts in the areas in which they operate, really understand what outstanding candidates are seeking when they consider alternative job offers and the wider business goals of their client companies seeking to make important hires. And as I’ve just illustrated, it’s a constantly changing business landscape and new roles are being created on a weekly basis, so it’s important to stay informed.
With our superior understanding, we are best able to manage a candidate’s sometimes unreasonable salary expectations, or at the other end of the equation, be able to inform companies that are new to the Philippines or looking to fill a newly created position, what they should be looking to pay. This extends to the wider salary package, which job title they should use, peak times to hire and peak times for doing business. We concentrate on working as a strategic human resources partner with our client companies and recruiting the high value, mid- to senior-level employees that are needed to establish or grow a business.