Watermark Search: Interim Executives in Demand to Help Australian Companies Transform

This article written by Lucille Keen was originally featured on the Australian Financial Review website on the 7th July 2016.

Twice as many interim executives have been appointed this year compared with the same time last year, according to executive search firm Watermark Search International.

Some 65 per cent of interim executives found a role within less than five months of 400 interviewed.

Significantly more interim executives are currently “on assignment” this year than in previous years: 42.6 per cent compared to 33 per cent in 2015, Watermark Search said.

The interim executive search pool remains male dominated, and the age group most likely to be working in such role is the 50 to 59 bracket.

Because of the seniority of the roles, 84 per cent of those surveyed earned above $1000 a day.

Watermark managing partner Graham Willis said as demand grows Australian businesses were increasingly seeing the interim opportunity as an active choice, not a stop-gap.

Half of the assignments are filling functional ‘head of’ roles filling in for the incumbent,” Mr Willis said.


The other half of assignments, interim executives are hired to drive projects and implement programs, bringing a select skills set.

Mr Willis said companies often looked for interim executives when they’re going through a certain transaction or a transformation. The average tenure was five-and-half months.

The report found the financial and professional services sectors were where the majority of the workers had recently been placed on assignment.

Watermark partner and head of the interim management section Martin Searle said the NSW government was a growth sector for interim executives, as was the education, health and aged care industries.

He said the east coast of Australia was adopting the phenomenon, which began in Europe and spread to the United States.

The report found 62 per cent of candidates preferred working in interim management positions as opposed to permanent roles.


One of those is Sydney-sider Lisa Rouse, who decided to leave her senior management role in the not-for-profit sector, wanting to explore work in the financial services field.

I started as a way to develop my portfolio,” Ms Rouse said.

Ms Rouse has worked in interim management roles including as head of talent at insurance giant TAL.

She said in some assignments she led teams, while others she was sole operator.

What I love is that I can transfer knowledge and skills to different organisations. I can show and tell the business the output of work done on the business problem or activity. When I develop the benchmarks organisations want to hear about it, see the value of the proposition. It’s a breath of fresh air, leaving a legacy of a skill set.

Ms Rouse said she was surprised how easy it was to find work and said once a reputation was built often roles merged into new projects for companies or new roles with other businesses by word-of-mouth.

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