PULSE

Global Search from a US Perspective

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Alison James : Associate Director, PR and Marketing Alison James
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Nona is a lead on global business development and Board and C-suite executive search delivery, with an emphasis on board governance, succession planning, commercial and general management roles. She draws on an extensive track record in executive search, gained over 15 years working with emerging and established companies in the Pharmaceutical, Biotechnology, Medical Device and Professional Services sectors. Nona most recently spearheaded the Life Science practice at RSR Partners and prior to this was Client Partner for Korn Ferry’s Global Human Resources and Life Science Practices in New York, Princeton and Chicago.

In a previous role with a global human capital consulting firm, Nona was responsible for leadership development for clients in Life Sciences and Financial Services across the US. She holds a BA in English from the University of Calgary and a Master of Science, Leadership and Strategic Management from Manhattanville College, New York. A native of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, Nona is also adjunct professor at New York University where she teaches Human Resources.

Coulter:Pulse recently interviewed Nona, to learn more about how she has spent her first six months with Coulter Partners. Here are a few highlights of what she shared:

  1. J P Morgan’s 36th Annual Healthcare Conference

This was my ninth visit to JP Morgan and with 40 meetings in three days, it was as ever an intense and fascinating experience. Initially, JP Morgan was a little muted this year and a general caution around the recent changes affecting M&A was palpable. There were significant announcements during the week, such as Celgene’s acquisition of Juno and we expected a great deal of buzz around these. The more immediate focus, however, was on the money in the markets, the deals that were coming in and the activity of VCs.

It was my impression that there were more Europeans at this year’s conference, encouraged by the availability of funding and the willingness of investors in the US. JPM 2018 was all about promoting early stage activity, continuing excitement around innovation in Life Sciences and businesses clamoring for attention from investors and venture capitalists.

A US Theme – Broad Spectrum Healthcare

A key topic that resonated with many we met at the conference was the idea of broad spectrum healthcare.  Biotech clients in the US who want to populate a board of directors are now more interested in looking across the whole landscape of Life Sciences. They are really interested in the payer and provider businesses. Clients are interested in the cross-pollination of digital, telemedicine, payer/provider in addition to looking at biotech, pharma, med tech and med device and their eyes have now been opened to a much broader healthcare question.

Developing boards in this way requires a new strategy and this is quite a US-centric proposition. In Canada and Europe silos exist because of regulatory and compliance constraints, whereas in the US there is a good deal of overlap. Payers and providers are melding and redefining themselves.

At Coulter Partners we look forward to some of the challenges ahead in this area and our team in the US is enjoying the opportunity to develop new creative approaches to executive and board search in response.

  1. My first 6 months with Coulter Partners

We are currently working on multiple Board assignments across biotech and healthcare services, and we’ve been searching for top-tier talent in Human Resources, General Counsel, Chief Financial Officers space. It is exciting to be working with leading edge and ambitious organizations who are bent on become the Google or Facebook of their sector. Building strong, sustainable relationships with these businesses, we can truly make a measurable impact on advances in Life Sciences.

I have very much enjoyed the variety which I have had over the last 15 years and this has continued to be a feature of my first 6 months at Coulter Partners. At the board level this can be most impactful. Boards are, as I intimated, now looking for people across the healthcare spectrum and we can creatively make a difference here. We have developed an impressive network of global contacts because of the board advisory and search work and this leverages other insights and opportunities into a company’s executive suite.

In the US the top therapeutic themes in Life Science reflect those we see globally; oncology continues to be a very active area of interest for us and any new developments remain top of mind. Alzheimer’s, Dementia and Parkinson’s are all hot topics in the media and social media – in fact the whole neurological space is creating a great deal of buzz. There is a huge effort towards the “Consumerization of Healthcare” – how do we reach patients more effectively through technology, to improve the outcomes achieved by their medication, their treatment plans, the touch points with providers and physicians.

  1. Big Pharma Executive Search

When it comes to Big Pharma, one of our most successful strategic initiatives is continuing to build on an already strong foundation of cross-pollination across our global networks. I am working very closely, for example, with Graham Johnson from our Basel office, Monika Duerk in our Frankfurt office, and Eskil Westh in Copenhagen, carrying both the US flag and the global Coulter Partners flag and exploring cross border collaborations wherever possible.

Big Pharma companies are becoming a little fatigued with a lack of attentiveness from some of the bigger executive search firms and they like the fact that there’s a highly engaged mid-sized, specialized firm like ours that is truly global. They are somewhat wide-eyed that a firm exists specializing exclusively in life sciences, one which is truly global and has many former large-firm search people on board, who really understand the business and how to be engaged and creative.

  1. Talent Challenges

I think the biggest talent shortages are in regulatory, clinical development and medical affairs. There is a limited and crowded pool and so many open possibilities. By contrast, the commercial space is very buoyant. Chief Commercial Officer, Head of Sales, Vice Presidents all attract strong and plentiful talent and this is a healthy market. US executives are highly travelled and people don’t mind moving, commuting or jumping on a plane every week. In such a travel intensive culture, I would estimate that at least 50% of the population does not live where they work. In our business this is a great advantage.

Diversity remains a key theme in all of this. And not just gender diversity, but also geographic diversity, functional diversity, age and ethnicity. Diversity is gaining a much broader definition all round.

 

 
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