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Case Study- Defra

03/06/16
Completed May 2015

Through an open competition Veredus was appointed by Defra to assist The Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas) with the recruitment of the new Chief Executive. Cefas is the UK Government’s foremost source of marine evidence, applied science and impartial expert advice.  Its primary remit is to help secure healthy marine and freshwater environments.  In addition to its UK government activity, Cefas also provides monitoring and evaluation services for other public and private organisations in the UK and internationally.  It has over 500+ staff and an annual budget of £50m.

Cefas has recently conducted a strategic review and, having identified significant opportunities, the organisation embarked on a course to accelerate the growth of its commercial income and to pursue strategic partnerships with academic and other partners.  We were tasked with finding a strong and credible individual to lead Cefas during an exciting period of transition. 

The successful candidate had to be an exceptional senior leader who is both experienced and credible at Board Level.  They needed to bring a strong strategic outlook and commercial impetus to the organisation, and a track record in leading a technical research or scientific organisation through a period of change and growth. Experience in the marine sector was deemed to be beneficial but not essential.

We faced a number of challenges during the search. The salary of £100k which, while deemed reasonable for some sections of the government, was not seen by the wider public or the commercial sector as attractive or competitive. The HQ location in Lowestoft, in Suffolk, provide to be a limiting factor for many individuals who were not willing or able to relocate to commute there. Also, the skillset required for the post was fairly unusual, with the successful candidate needing to be able to very quickly establish credibility with the marine scientific community, both within Cefas and externally, but at the same time bring a strong commercial background and experience of driving business growth internationally.

This was a demanding and challenging role, and, in addition to a small advertising campaign, we conducted a vigorous and thorough international executive search campaign across a wide range of organisations in the public and private sectors in the UK and internationally. The industries included: fisheries, marine and aquatic research, science and technology companies; academic institutions; marine environmental consultancies; Cefas counterpart organisations overseas; the fishing industry; offshore renewables and oil & gas sector; and shipping.  

We elicited 30 applications, 8 of which were progressed to a long list screening interview. These 8 were then reduced to a short list of three, all of whom were search candidates. These final three candidates were then presented to the selection panel for final panel interviews, after which a successful external candidate, Rear Admiral Tom Karsten (former Deputy CEO of UK Hydrographic Office) was identified and appointed to the post.
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