Fireside chat with Julian Frankum and Stuart Wilson

“In digital transformation, businesses want to replicate what they already have, but make it better. It’s not enough.” RP International’s Stuart Wilson, CEO and Julian Frankum, CEO MEA, talk us through the vital role that strategic executive talent plays in digital transformation.”


Our world is changing. With RP International, Stuart Wilson, CEO, and Julian Frankum, CEO MEA, have established a specialist recruitment business that isn’t just ready to embrace that change – it’s helping their clients to drive it, propelling businesses into the future through smart talent decisions.

From the start, the founders’ core objective was to bring a truly international perspective to recruitment, one that looked beyond a single region to help their clients access global talent streams. Launched by Julian, Stuart and Steve Lovelace (now a non-executive director) as a telecommunications recruitment specialist in 1998, RPI has since diversified to specialise in a wide range of technology sectors across four continents.

“All markets evolve,” explains Julian. “Our core market was originally telecoms, but now, everyone communicates for free via the internet. Our original clients can’t make money the way they used to and have had to diversify. We’ve supported them through that process and effectively changed our business to address their changing talent needs – and we’ve done that very well.”

Now, RPI offer a blend of executive search, contingent recruitment, contract placements and, in some regions, hosting – a compliant visa solution for non-permanent placements – to bring flexible talent solutions to their clients. Combined with their unique global and multi-sector vantage point, it’s enabled RPI to become a vital resource for clients looking to facilitate digital transformation: a trend that is dramatically shifting the way that executive talent moves between businesses.

With digitisation – and the rapidly increasingly take-up of Industry 4.0 – sourcing the right skills has become far from straightforward. It is no longer enough, say Julian and Stuart, to move professionals from one business to another within the same sector. Digital transformation requires a more creative approach, looking across different markets to find the skills that can provide the right business solution.

“It’s not just technology,” says Julian. “Transformation is about changing business processes, doing things differently. We are not just supplying tech experts, but business experts: the people who understand what’s really needed to drive change.”

“It’s the coming together of technology and simplification that allows real transformation,” adds Stuart. “A big issue we’ve found is that organisations want to replicate what they already have but make it better. It’s not enough.”

Advising clients on what skills – or even new executive titles – they need to drive change before they begin the recruitment process has become a core part of RPI’s service. Yet with so many technical, cultural and geopolitical challenges implicated in this process, how do Julian and Stuart ensure they, and their team, stay up to date on developments?

“Both of us are out there, living it, breathing it, feeling the pulse of clients and candidates all the time,” explains Stuart. “We spend 70% of our time with our clients, which is rare in an organisation of our size. Generally, a CEO doesn’t spend the majority of their time on client work, but we play to our strengths. It gives us on-the-ground insight that we wouldn’t otherwise have.”

Both founders maintain a ‘lead from the front’ approach that has allowed them to steer the business and shape its values effectively. It’s resulted in a business that has its finger on the pulse of global talent: an agile, engaged organisation ready to respond to change at all times. Building a team of likeminded individuals has been a crucial part of this: to be part of the RPI team an international, inquisitive mindset is a must.

“People have to have an interest in the international world to work with us. That’s a question I ask in every interview,” says Stuart. “People who have been successful with us tend to have that international outlook on life.”

As Julian goes on to add, RPI is a complex organisation, operating across an eclectic range of services. Every region of the world where RPI operates has its own, additional layer of complexities – political, geographical, cultural. “It’s not easy, but it makes us unique. There’s no one quite like us – but you need a lot of patience and a positive attitude to get through it.”

Change is, essentially, at the heart of RPI’s ethos. It’s the lifeblood of the business. Spearheaded by Julian and Stuart, change is always on the agenda: in client interactions, in sourcing opportunities, even in the way that RPI’s experts are always encouraged to challenge themselves.

“We’re good at throwing ourselves out of our comfort zone,” comments Julian. “This manifests itself in the way we do business – internally and with our clients. We’re firm believers that this is when we do our best work.”

With the rate of global transformation showing no signs of slowing down, that willingness to step into the unfamiliar is a huge advantage for RPI, and their clients. Our world is changing – and RP International are ready to embrace the challenges and opportunities that brings.

If you’d like to find out how RP International’s consultants could help you find the executive talent you need to drive transformation in your business, call us on 0203 597 7150.