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25 April 2004
Scotland on Sunday
Headhunters find chief for directors search

A NEW advisory group created to reverse a shortage of non-executive directors in Scotland has finally ended its own hunt for a high flyer to lead the venture.

After months of searching for the right person, businesswoman Alison Loudon has been headhunted by Finlayson Wagner Black as managing director of its subsidiary FWB Non-Executive.

Judy Wagner, founding director of the Edinburgh-based executive search specialist, issued a wake-up call to firms when she said they should find time to nurture a potentially rich seam of home grown non-execs.

However, Wagner warned that Scotland’s home grown non-exec pool has become a shallow one caused by a continuing shortage of boardroom candidates.

Giving her first interview in her new role, Loudon said she has been tasked to reverse this trend by recruiting likely non-exec talent for FWB client firms. Loudon is much in demand. She holds six non-executive posts and has turned down numerous other roles, but claimed FWB represents a different proposition.

She said: 'This venture is sorely needed, and although it has only just started, we’ve found non-execs for four projects: a listed company, a large private firm, a mid-sized enterprise and a start-up venture.'

Loudon added that FWB has a number of others in the pipeline, covering different sectors and business models. 'What is evident is that companies desperately need new non-executive blood to help them win that funding grant, complete an acquisition or meet a customer’s challenge,' she said.

Loudon claimed that the days of ‘it’s who you know’, or business practices conducted ‘with a nod and a wink’ are gone, as companies address the corporate governance requirements of the Higgs review and Smith report.

'Now, it is a case of giving careful consideration to a firm’s strengths and weaknesses and needs plus the marketplace in which it operates,' she said.

'The good non-exec must have the ability to stand back and spot where a business is going and what skill-sets it needs to enable it to progress.'

The FWB executive role is part-time. Loudon, a chartered accountant by profession, is also chairman of Data Discoveries, Visual Thinking and Microstencil. She is also a non-executive director of Caledonian Contracts and the Scottish Exhibition Conference Centre, sits on the board of the Entrepreneurial Exchange and is an adviser to Bright Grey, a subsidiary of the Royal London Insurance Group.

In the mid-1980s, Loudon helped to found software firm Aldus Europe, which grew to a £67m turnover operation, with seven European subsidiaries and a Nasdaq listing. It merged with Adobe Systems in 1995, creating the world’s third largest software company. 

BILL MAGEE



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