Mark Pearson, Ken McKellar and Jo Cochrane are partners at AGM Transitions.

Building your Career out of the UK

Dossier : RH et révolution digitaleMagazine N°727 Septembre 2017

Indé­pen­dem­ment du Brexit, les diri­geants fran­çais ne doivent pas craindre de cher­cher un emploi au Royaume-Uni. Les Anglo-Saxons ont chan­gé d’a­vis à leur égard et il sont bien appré­ciés. Cela leur ouvre de nom­breuses oppor­tu­ni­tés pour bâtir leur car­rière à par­tir de ce pays. 

June 23rd 2016 is a date people will remem­ber on both sides of “La Manche”. This was the day that the UK chan­ged its rela­tion­ship with the EU. Whil­st the poli­ti­cal impact of this deci­sion is still unfol­ding, the eco­no­mic impact is very surprising. 

The UK’s GDP is actual­ly gro­wing. Q4 2016 has shown a 0.7% year-on-year increase. This is exact­ly the oppo­site of what was expec­ted by experts. 

“ What really matters is that these professionals have a career plan ”

So what does this mean for French natio­nals loo­king to build their careers out of the UK ? The most basic fact is that times of tur­bu­lence are also times of oppor­tu­ni­ty. There are uncer­tain­ties of course. 

The immi­nent Brexit nego­tia­tions will be unset­tling and the sta­tus of EU natio­nals has yet to be fina­li­sed. Howe­ver, the famous Bri­tish prag­ma­tism mat­ters here. 

High­ly qua­li­fied pro­fes­sio­nals will always be nee­ded to drive eco­no­mic growth and com­mon sense sug­gests that the Bri­tish will not erect bar­riers against their arrival. 

What real­ly mat­ters is that these pro­fes­sio­nals have a career plan which they can exe­cute against. 


There is a perception amongst many in France that the UK is all about financial services. The reality is that there is demand for executive skills in a wide range of sectors including oil and gas, telecommunications, IT services, pharmaceuticals, retail and consumer goods as well as manufacturing.
Of course the position of London as a financial centre means that there are hugely attractive roles in the financial services, but this really is not the whole story.


The French CEO of a UK manu­fac­tu­ring com­pa­ny who wor­ked with AGM Tran­si­tions recent­ly is a good example of a man with a plan. He has enthu­sias­tic sup­port from his Board to build a glo­bal business. 

Retur­ning to France will hap­pen at some stage although it may well be that he looks to other geo­gra­phies first. His skills are a pas­sport gua­ran­teeing entry to any coun­try at the most senior level. 

There are two inter­es­ting things about this sto­ry. First, this CEO is not wor­king in finan­cial ser­vices. Second, this CEO is not based in Lon­don. The com­pa­ny he works with is phy­si­cal­ly clo­ser to France than London ! 

The mes­sage here is not to ignore the other centres in the UK. 

Mark Pear­son, Ken McKel­lar and Jo Cochrane are part­ners at AGM Transitions.


What are the oppor­tu­ni­ties that the French exe­cu­tive should be aware of when buil­ding a career out of the UK ? As a firm based in Lon­don which focuses on inter­na­tio­nal career tran­si­tions, we have a strong view about this. There have been a num­ber of impor­tant changes here. 


The identity of the Anglo-Saxon leader has changed : 10 of the CEOs of largest companies in the UK are European nationals and 5 of these come from France. A Dutchman runs Shell ; a Portuguese runs Vodafone ; a Spaniard runs Lloyds Bank ; one Frenchman runs AstraZeneca, another runs Rio Tinto and a French woman runs Kingfisher.

Per­cep­tions : In the past, there was a com­mon mis­con­cep­tion among­st some Anglo- Saxon lea­ders that the French exe­cu­tive brought empi­ri­cal rigi­di­ty to the table.
Expo­sure to French entre­pre­neu­rial dyna­mism has chan­ged these views. The ste­reo­ty­pi­cal Anglo-Saxon lea­der has evol­ved to some­thing more diverse. 

Infra­struc­ture : There are cur­rent­ly more than 200,000 French people wor­king in Lon­don alone, making it the 6th lar­gest French city. In turn, this means that a French lan­guage infra­struc­ture exists in Lon­don with high qua­li­ty lycées and sup­port groups. 

An inter­na­tio­nal hub : Ano­ther major shift which is rele­vant for French natio­nals wishing to grow their careers is the inter­na­tio­nal scope of busi­ness acti­vi­ty conduc­ted out of the UK in gene­ral and Lon­don in particular.
Again, this out­ward focus – which is real – contra­dicts public per­cep­tions in both France and the UK. This repre­sents a major oppor­tu­ni­ty for exe­cu­tives who are mobile and flexible about where they are car­rying out their role.
His­to­ric links to Wes­tern Europe, the Middle East, Asia and North Ame­ri­ca are being sup­ple­men­ted by newer trade with Cen­tral and Eas­tern Europe, Afri­ca and other emer­ging markets. 

Pri­vate equi­ty : An impor­tant deve­lop­ment over the last 20 years has been the evo­lu­tion of Lon­don as a world lea­der in pri­vate equity. 

“ The UK is a hub for broader geographic activities ”

It is impor­tant to be aware that the port­fo­lios of com­pa­nies owned by pri­vate equi­ty houses represent a sub­stan­tial part of the oppor­tu­ni­ties avai­lable in the UK’s unlis­ted mar­kets, span­ning all sec­tors and geo­gra­phies. Of course it mat­ters that you speak English, but spea­king the lan­guage of busi­ness and finan­cial rigour mat­ters even more. 

There are many oppor­tu­ni­ties for French natio­nals wishing to grow their careers inter­na­tio­nal­ly out of the UK. It is smart to think broad­ly about sec­tors, about dif­ferent com­pa­ny struc­tures and about the use of the UK as a hub for broa­der geo­gra­phic activities. 

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