Less than three months into her new role as managing director of executive search agency Monroe Consulting Group Philippines, Monica Viladot achieved a record-breaking month in April. Monica, who previously headed operations for the executive recruitment company in Chile and Malaysia, has ambitious plans for the Manila-based headhunting service and a belief that it can match the performances of its operations in Indonesia and Thailand. Ms Viladot sat down with journalist Simone Holms to discuss the Philippines’ economy, the recruitment industry and how Monroe is working with a rapidly expanding number of client companies to source executive and technical talent for leading national and multinational companies.
Ms Holms: What does the recruitment market in the Philippines look like?
Ms Viladot: The Philippines’ economy has maintained stable economic growth of around 5 percent to 6 percent since the 1970s, with the occasional hiccup. This is generally a good indicator that the recruitment sector is also booming, because with economic growth means growth for businesses and that means companies need to recruit. This, however, has been a bit different for the Philippines.
The Philippines has historically been a country of overseas workers, the term is Overseas Foreign Workers (OFW), outsourcing or business process outsourcing, or BPOs. Many search agencies in Manila and throughout the Philippines have placed an emphasis on local placements in lower-level positions. Call center telephone operators or other BPO staff are good examples of this. And of course, sending migrant workers abroad. This is a large part of the economy – remittances from overseas Filipinos was a record high last year, totaling more than US$30 billion. For headhunting agencies that deliver executive-level search services such as Monroe, this means little business.
On the other hand, the Philippines is one of the main economies in Southeast Asia and a great prospect for an increasing number of foreign investors attracted by the size of the population, very good English-language skills and the average Filipino’s embrace of technology; they are among the most active internet users in the world. Standard and Poor’s just lifted the country’s credit rating to BBB+, opening it up to even more foreign investment. February was a six-month high with three-quarters of a billion US dollars flowing into the country.
This has an impact of slowing the brain drain and we are seeing high demand from companies across a range of sectors for the recruitment of executive talent or highly technical experts, such as financial technology professionals in industries such as banking, insurance and information technology. There are good opportunities for executive search agencies such as Monroe Philippines to help start-ups or established companies grow and prosper.
Ms Holms: Can you elaborate on the executive recruitment industry in the Philippines?
Ms Viladot: I believe the executive search industry in Manila and the Philippines will experience a period of growth over the next five years, for a number of reasons that I previously mentioned. In addition, reforms are being undertaken to ease the restrictions on doing business in the country. Running a business in the Philippines can prove a difficult experience in many instances. Factors such as administration and legal costs dealing with the bureaucracy to obtain licenses, that sort of thing, can slow growth, impacting on hiring decisions.
The country is ranked in the bottom half of the world on various ease of doing business indexes, but the Department of Trade and Industry is continuing to introduce new reforms to streamline business regulations and it is having a positive impact. This is good news for companies, good news for the workforce, good news of the economy and great news for search agencies that specialize in executive recruitment.
Ms Holms: Monroe operates a number of departments, namely Industrial, Technology, Professional, Health and Consumer Goods. What are the key sectors that are expanding in the Philippines?
Ms Viladot: As I mentioned before, BPOs are growing thanks to the young and educated professionals with very good English-language and computer skills. We are placing executive-level professionals with business outsourcing companies daily.
Information Technology is another key area, particularly in the highly innovative banking or financial technology sectors. The Philippines is lagging behind the likes of Malaysia and Singapore in Southeast Asia and are only spending about a third of those in Malaysia and Singapore on digital upgrades. This will evolve as customers change their mindsets in regards cash-only transactions. Less than a quarter of Filipinos have a bank account, and around 50 percent have mobile phones, so this represents a sector with tremendous potential for growth.
Digital retail as well as traditional retail are also key areas, which will fuel demand for jobs in traditional positions such as marketing, business development, sales, operations, human resources, financial roles as well as logistics, which we see as another major growth area.
Other areas include construction, which as slowed recently but will bounce back, real estate and property development, manufacturing, health and gaming.
Ms Holms: How can Monroe assist in executive recruitment?
Ms Viladot: Monroe is an international executive search agency that has been operating in the Philippines since 2007. I am proud to say that we are one of the leading headhunting companies in the country and are held in the highest regard by our client companies and job candidates, according to our 350 reviews on Google. The positive reviews, which match our internal surveys, are not only due to our recruitment services, but our focus, our dedication, to customer service. It is something that is essential to our business model and something that is constantly evolving.
The overriding factors in the success of Monroe in the emerging economies in which we operate around the world, is our business model and our executive recruitment consultants. As you mentioned in a previous question, our headhunting services focus on five industry verticals. Each of our headhunters must have a thorough understanding or background in their specific fields, with many of our consultants having more than 10 years of experience in their areas. They are experts at what they do.
Ms Holms: It is obviously having a positive impact judging by your success in April.
Ms Viladot: Monroe has a very positive image in the Philippines and I am happy to have been able to have an immediate impact and build on that success. The company recently completed a move to new offices and we made three great new hires last month. Our new headhunters have embraced our international award-winning 12-step executive recruitment methodology and had an immediate impact.
In April, we placed 14 executives with our clients, and added 17 new client companies utilising our headhunting services. That’s a total of 75 active national and multinational companies that are currently engaging with us to provide recruitment services. This is a clear indication that the market trusts the Monroe Consulting Group brand and understands that we are a reliable recruitment and business partner.