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How to chat in a London pub - Revolutionised Recruitment

Andrew Banks may be a household name on Channel 10’s The Shark Tank but, in truth, he has been a pioneer of the sector and was instrumental in transforming a cottage industry into the professional service we know today.

It was in a London pub, somewhere near Waterloo Bridge on a chilly winter afternoon in the late 1980s, that three men gathered to have a chat and in doing so, arguably changed the face of recruitment forever.

Those three men were Andrew Banks, Michael Page and Robert Walters – all accomplished recruitment professionals who had started to establish their own successful recruitment empires.

“We were all really passionate about recruitment and wanted to meet to talk about how we could make a difference in the industry at the time,” Banks said. “We wanted to change the perception of the industry to one that could do better for clients, candidates and those within the sector.

“There was a common desire to raise the standard of service in the industry so we each created frameworks around how to list jobs, conduct a decent interview, candidate assessment and training.

“It meant creating frameworks around our own selection processes so we could attract and find staff with the right emotional quotient (EQ) to work in this industry, who had the right personality and knowledge to be of value.

“We had people come from accounting, finance, education, whatever sector, as long as they could sell and had the EQ we could transform them into recruiters, and good ones at that.”

Banks will be a keynote speaker at this year’s RCSA Conference to be held in Noosa on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, from September 5-7 with the theme The Art of Work – Creative Ideas for a Brighter Future.

Given the theme, Banks is a fitting keynote speaker having built two successful recruitment firms, one which held 17 per cent of the Australian and Asian markets during its heyday.

But it was a long and winding path to his true calling in recruitment. A road that travelled via medicine, acting and restaurant ownership, and across continents.

When Banks finished school in England, he had his heart set on a career in medicine before his unfortunate dislike for the sight of blood put paid to that aspiration.

So, with a knack for accents and a love of the theatre from school productions, he acquired his actor’s Equity Card and earned £50 an hour doing a variety of accents.

Meeting up with some Aussies in London, Banks was convinced to try his fortunes in Australia and arrived here in 1973 and acquired a stake in a Sydney restaurant. When he sold it 16 months later, Banks realised his first real capital and his taste for business grew.

“I had to ask myself, what does a university drop out, actor, restaurant owner do with themselves?” Banks said. “So I moved back to Europe and was working in HR for a construction company doing recruitment for them.

“I’m not a frustrated Leonardo Dicaprio who went into recruitment. I was frustrated until I found my calling at 29 and went into recruitment. Before that I really didn’t know what I wanted to do.

“And then recruitment became my obsession. It represented security, food in my stomach and was a job I loved.”

Returning to Australia in 1980, Banks knew he was destined for a recruitment career and answered a job ad for a position with Geoff Slade. Banks reflected on his four-year stretch with Slade saying “we were a good team.”

In 1985, Banks invited fellow recruiter – and his strongest competitor – Geoff Morgan out to lunch. The rest, as they say, is recruitment history.

“Morgan was the only competitor I had who I wasn’t able to get clients from,” Banks said. “I would approach Morgan’s clients and they wouldn’t even meet with me. So it made sense to go into business with him.

“Geoff had been in recruitment for 15 years and I only had four years’ experience, but we were both ready and figured that two heads were better than one. The timing was just right.”

And so Morgan and Banks was founded with just four staff and grew to realise a 17 per cent market share – a feat which has never been repeated by another company.

In 1995, the company was listed and in 1999, when it merged with US listed Nasdaq company TMP/ Monster, was realising revenue of $900 million annually with a workforce of some 2,000.

“When we started, we had 3,000 competitors and 300 of those in Sydney alone,” Banks said. “They were all small companies, with the biggest company having about 15 people. We created a platform, system and frameworks to allow us to keep growing.”

Banks said he was looking forward to attending another RCSA conference, having last attended a decade ago. He said his presentation will “remind us of the noble purpose of the industry and why that noble purpose will support excellent service delivery and therefore, success”.

“Anyone can have a great career in recruitment today,” he said. “It used to be that recruiters were paid for finding and selecting people.

“Now recruiters are finding that anyone can find a fish in the sea, with company’s databases becoming virtual oceans of candidate details. But fish swim and this is where recruiters really need to understand what bait or lure to use to attract the best fish.”

When asked what he would like his legacy for the recruitment sector to be, Banks didn’t hesitate though given his long list of achievements, he easily could have.

He could have answered he wanted to be remembered as a pioneer of online job listings with website Jobhound, the first of its kind in Australia before Seek.

He could have pointed to his successful career as an author of four books on recruitment, or being an inaugural inductee to the Recruitment International (Australia) Industry Hall of Fame in 2014.

Or perhaps being voted, in 2015 with business partner Geoff Morgan, as the Most Influential People in Recruitment in 60 years or maybe even winning the Ernst & Young Australia Master Entrepreneur of the Year Award in 2004 for sustained success in business.

Instead his answer was stunningly simple: “If I could choose just one thing, it would be helping to professionalise the industry and raise the standards of delivery.”

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