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DEFRA lead on the delivery of priority outcomes for environment, net zero, floods and resilience, agriculture, food, fisheries, animal welfare and biosecurity, and have a set of strategic enablers that aim to strengthen their capacity and capability. They aim to improve the environment through cleaner air and water, minimised waste, and thriving plants and terrestrial and marine wildlife. They reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase carbon storage in the agricultural, waste, peat and tree planting sectors to help deliver net zero and they aim to reduce the likelihood and impact of flooding and coastal erosion on people, businesses, communities and the environment.
They have a further objective to promote a green, fair and resilient UK and global recovery, and to help ensure the UK has an effective border and contributes to a strengthened and prosperous union.
Allen Lane were retained, via the CCS Exec Framework, with the recruitment of the new Chief Financial Officer – someone to take on a senior leadership role critical to delivering DEFRA’S strategic objectives. The brief included that the candidate would have the vision, drive and expertise to help shape and lead the organisation, focusing on the ability to build an outstanding finance function that leverages the expertise of the finance profession across DEFRA group and beyond. They must have strong strategic input and integrated business planning skills, ensuring excellent outcomes and deliver value for money.
An incredibly challenging campaign due to the current political environment and salary challenges, we utilised our relationship with the Government Finance Function to delve into the specific requirements of this role, understanding the intricate details and complexities of DEFRA’S agenda so we could streamline our approach and find the perfect candidate. We needed someone with strong technical and operational finance knowledge, plus the ability to engage with and sometimes challenge senior stakeholders/ministers. A strong leader, yet personable and approachable, with extensive experience of working in large-scale multi-faceted organisations. Previous government experience was not essential, so we began a bespoke search approaching candidates from Big 4 accountancy firms, local government and housing, and the NHS. Our extensive database and network produced exceptional candidates from both the private and public sectors and we were mindful and progressive with our approach to diversity and inclusion.
The result was a strong talent pool of over 50 potential candidates, in which we then vetted and interviewed all longlisted candidates, considering factors key to DEFRA, including leadership qualities, resilience, business acumen and high-level policy experience. Following this, we produced a brilliant and diverse shortlist of candidates which we presented to our client which included two women, 3 men, one candidate from an ethnic minority and one candidate with a registered disability.
The campaign was a success, with an exceptional candidate sourced and appointed, and several other candidates now on the central government radar in talks about potential future roles. We are very proud of the results we achieved, the incredibly diverse shortlist we produced and we hope to partner again in the future with this excellent government department.