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[The Korea Herald] Search Firm Gives Top Priority to Quality Control for Clients (2004.10.19)
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Search Firm Gives Top Priority to Quality Control for Clients


Koh Kang-shi


Top Business Consultants Services Inc., one of the oldest and largest executive search firms in Korea, is not interested in expansion for expansion`s sake. The first rule at the company is not to take on too many jobs.

This way, says Koh Kang-shik, the chief executive officer and president, the company has room for quality control and clients are more likely to return a second and third time around

Still, Top Business Consultants makes about 400 placements each year ranging from mid-level managers to CEOs of major Korean and foreign companies` Seoul offices. It has 22 research and consulting staff, including two foreigners.

The list of the company`s multinational clients include 3com Corp., Apple Computer Inc., British Telecom and Microsoft Corp.

As the Korean partner to Chicago-based Signium International, which ranks among the Top-10 global search firms, Top Business Consultants also plays an important part in the group`s Asian network amid increasing human resources exchanges between Asia and the West.

Koh himself has been in the media spotlight over the years concerning a number of high-profile scoutings, the latest being the recruitment of Hwang Young-key, a former Samsung man, to the position of CEO at Woori Bank, Korea`s third-biggest lender, in March. Koh was also behind the recruitment of the first CEO of Hanvit Bank, now Woori, and CEO for Korea Exchange Bank.

Before founding Top Business Consultants, Koh, a graduate of Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, worked seven years at Commercial Bank, and worked another four years as general manager of the local subsidiary of an American-Swedish joint venture.

The veteran headhunter says the secret to staying at the top of the search market is to acknowledge one`s limits and not take on excessive jobs, in addition to having a competitive database and carrying out an accurate analysis of candidates in complete confidentiality.

Koh predicts increased use of search firms in Korea in the future, now that companies consider human-resource management as one of the most crucial, if not the most crucial, factors in assessing competitiveness.

"Whereas headhunting firms used to cater mostly to foreign-invested firms prior to the 1997-98 Asian currency crisis, our clientele now nears 50:50 between multinational companies and Korean ones," Koh said.

Koh cites the open system for senior-level government officials as one of the most notable recent developments in Korea`s search industry. Started five years ago, about 20 percent of the government`s high-ranking positions are now open to outside candidates.

Also, top Korean companies such as Samsung Electronics Co., LG Electronics Inc. and Hyundai Motor Co. are hiring more foreigners in western Europe and the United States, and even in Russia and eastern Europe, into key positions of their overseas subsidiaries, Koh noted.

However, Koh said that while Korean companies often find the right foreigners, they are not as good in retaining the workers. "I also think Korean companies should more actively put foreigners in key positions," he said.
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