We were engaged by the Vice Provost at a leading University during a period of significant transformation. The business was over 12,000 employees and had a federated operating mode. They had engaged a well-known management consultancy who had provided an updated operating model for central services across HR, Finance, IT and Procurement.


Given the nature of the change, we were engaged under NDA and had to approach the search in a discrete and confidential manor. The role was to setup and run a central services function. This was the first of such roles in the University sector, it was extremely high profile as they were the first University to undertake such a change program.


The search was challenging as we needed to balance the culture of the University, the lack of talent in the sector who would have undertaken such a program (as they were the first we couldn’t approach other Universities) and the balancing act of operational and transformative skills needed in the position.

We already had a relationship and had sponsored the Shared Services forum in Manchester. This had given us access to some of the thought leaders in the space in the UK, this helped us to get a thorough understanding of the market and key players in the industry.


We then mapped the key leaders across this market, this market is relatively small as a new concept in the UK, so we had to be mindful of the message we were giving and the fact that the search was confidential made this more important than ever.


Once we had mapped the c80 people who could do this role, we targeted 20 who were most suitable and produced a longlist for the client. We worked with the panel of internal and external interviewees to produce a robust set of assessment criteria.




Our initial phase was a period of discovery with the Vice Provost, Chief People Officer and transformation team. We spent time trying to understand the needs of the business, clearly defining the role and helping to write the brief.


Our research was focused on understanding which organisations had already successfully launched business service functions across support functions.

Our long list was accepted, the candidate signed NDAs and we shortlisted 5 potential incumbents. There were managed through process, a successful hire was made and the program was a success.


We have a good working relationship with the University and continue to work with them on their senior exec roles.


James Cumming is our MD and leads our Executive Search practice. If you’ve got a hard-to-fill role and need some help, get in touch.

If you would like to find out more about re:find and how we can support you and your business, then please get in touch Connect with him on LinkedIn here. Or email him directly


James Cumming
Managing Director

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