Executive Search Leaders as Strategic Business Partners

In its transition from an association business model to a more consumer and tech enabled business, last year Visa’s international recruitment team has focused its efforts on bringing on board the right talent to help the business on its transformation journey. This has required a lot of executive hires on a global scale, Alexa Bailey, International Executive Talent Acquisition Lead at Visa, explains.

Alexa and her team have tracked their hiring data, placing emphasis on quality of hire and diversity of hire. As much as 60% of their executive placements last year were female, an achievement which has not been possible without the commitment from the business to help push their diversity messaging across, Alexa adds.

“When it comes to diversity of hires, it’s not just about hiring what you can physically see, it’s also about hiring for cognitive diversity – how people are thinking, how they’re going to challenge. Being able to predict that learning agility and problem-solving will be useful for executive hiring teams as they think about the candidate engagement process.”


Having a custom-built, flexible ATS and CRM provider has been crucial to Visa’s hiring successes, enabling them to deliver a seamless experience and an efficient hiring process. “We are currently trialling SmartRecruiters out globally, working together with the provider to help develop the system to be more user friendly to both our hiring managers and candidates.”


Winter Circle has also played a crucial role in giving Visa the necessary visibility with their target candidates. “Winter Circle is more than a talent database - it gives you proprietary data around individuals’ expectations, compensation, direction of travel so you can create a bespoke service to them.”

There are many ways that Alexa and her team have helped bring in innovation to Visa’s executive search function. She recognised that unless we are working in an R&D-intense company, we will probably lack the capability or investment to drive innovation internally. “That is why it’s important that we are vocal with both our industry partners and our business leaders to gain their support."


Finally, Alexa reflected on how executive search leaders can service the business in an advisory way and help bring in innovation. “Just because we sit in HR doesn’t mean we’re not business leaders in our own right. When building our business case, we need to think commercially about how we’re going to spend money and what the ROI is going to be.”