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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