EyeSpy Recruitment: “We Have Natural Empathy for Staff as We’ve Been through These Circumstances Ourselves”

Behind the curtains of the iGaming industry, there are teams of unsung heroes that work tirelessly to make sure that the right people are matched with the right jobs. As iGaming continues to grow and face new challenges, demand for qualified talent is equally increasing.

When sisters and business partners Emma Clayton-Wright (Managing Director) and Jo Sykes (Founder & Director) realized the potential and need for a quality service that helps businesses find the right talent for their companies, they quickly set out to create a new type of agency that would lead to stability in the job-recruitment market in the industry.

The industry’s growth has brought on new challenges that EyeSpy is capable of addressing. Much of this expertise comes from events that Emma and Jo can relate to and from years of experience in the recruitment sector.

With mergers & acquisitions intensifying over the years, new narratives have emerged for the industry’s workforce, but with Jo and Emma on the job,  no talent goes unnoticed.  

Q: Can you tell us a little more about EyeSpy Recruitment and how the idea behind the agency came to be?

Emma: EyeSpy Recruitment is the result of 17 years in the iGaming industry. I started off as an Internal Recruiter for Party Gaming, then I went on to work for an external recruiter in the iGaming industry but in more of a business development role, looking after the Gibraltar region.

When the recession hit in 2008, I was made redundant and had just become a mother which was a very challenging time for me.

I then decided to start my own recruitment company, building off the foundation of contacts I had already built during my time working in the industry. After 9 months of hard work, the growth potential of the business became very apparent, but I needed help. At the time, my sister was already running her own company called EyeSpy Media. It was at this point we decided to join forces and EyeSpy Recruitment was born!

The business continued to grow, we had a large staff, offices in Gibraltar and the UK, plus a great reputation across Europe to go with it. Originally, our aim was to grow the business with hopes of it one day being acquired but in 2019 after a period of reflection we decided to scale the business back down to just us two. This allowed us to focus 100% on what we’re most passionate and skilled at.

Applying our unique understanding of our client’s needs, to not just fill a vacancy but also to get the right person that will fit the team culture and help push the company towards reaching its goals.

Now, after 12 years in the iGaming recruitment industry we have built a tremendous network of clients who have continuously worked with us, helping them to achieve industry success across global markets and jurisdictions.

Q: We have seen some exciting changes in terms of mergers and acquisitions in the gambling industry over the past few years. Companies have rebranded, merged, and acquired parts of others. How does this affect the recruitment landscape?

Jo: The impact of M&A activity is multi-faceted. The key things we’ve observed in these situations is that more often than not, the ultimate objective is to retain talent through the process. This is always a challenge because new corporate structures can sometimes frustrate senior members or Heads of Department, effecting their mental wellbeing and inevitably leads to high levels of attrition as all investment into growth related projects are paused while the deal gets pushed through.

The bigger the company gets, the more centralised the decision-making process becomes. Senior staff find that they’re no longer able to get decisions made as quickly and bringing new ideas to market becomes delayed by an additional layer of ‘red tape’. This breeds frustration and of course some talent will end up leaving the company. Some businesses have reacted to situations like this by imposing 6-month notice periods, but we’ve found this to be ineffective and actually has the opposite effect on productivity, making our job harder as a recruiter.

Unfortunately, M&A’s usually mean some talent will be lost but it’s part of the natural process and as recruiters, it’s our job to consult with these companies to help make the staff’s transition as smooth as possible, with minimum disruption to company operations.

Q: How has EyeSpy Recruitment helped during those monumental changes over the years? Where do your strengths show?

Jo: Over the years we’ve helped a lot in these key situations. We’ve been called into businesses on many occasions to consult companies that have a large number of staff at risk of redundancy due to mergers or acquisitions. We’ve worked with major companies such as GVC, William Hill and LadbrokeCoral to name just a few.

Our role is to act as a business partner to these companies, coaching their staff through the challenging situation. We have a natural empathy for staff as we’ve been through these circumstances ourselves. Even when we’re not able to secure a new job for staff who’ve been made redundant, our skill set allows us to coach employees and give them solid, dependable advice on how best to approach the recruitment market.

The key thing for EyeSpy is that we’re not about profit first and foremost. Our core aim is to genuinely help equip businesses and their staff with the resources they need to succeed and grow in the iGaming industry.

Q: When you started twelve years ago, did you imagine gambling would continue to grow so quickly and continually require new talent?

Emma: Although we always knew that iGaming was a growth industry, we had no idea it would achieve the level of progress it has globally in such a short space of time. iGaming is one of the few sectors in the world that has proven to be recession proof and recent circumstances caused by the pandemic have actually accelerated the growth of our industry.

Early on in my career when I worked for Party Gaming we went through an IPO and that was probably my first experience of things to come in our industry, I also saw the level investment made in recruitment, demonstrating to me just how important attracting and retaining the right talent was to a company achieving its commercial goals.

Q: What are the challenges that you meet on a day-to-day basis and how do you overcome those?

Jo: One of the biggest challenges we regularly face is the increasing competition for the highest calibre of candidates, especially when sourcing country specific skillsets. When new markets open up or implement new legislation, we will often see many companies radiate towards that specific region.

For example, we recently saw a huge demand across the board in Asia for roles such as Japan Country Managers and language specialists. As you might imagine, there are only a finite number of potential candidates with the relevant experience and skillset, which of course makes it a challenge to find the best candidates. However, our industry experience and extensive network is what we have depended upon to meet these objectives and continuously place the best talent with our clients, ensuring the best fit and strongest foundation for companies to build on.

Since the onset of lockdown and the introduction of widespread remote working, situations such as this have become a lot easier to handle. This is something we’re really excited about because it helps us to widen the pool of talent and better source candidates that are the perfect fit for our clients, regardless of skillset or geo location.

Q: What are the skills individuals who want to work in the industry need to be competitive and sought-after candidates in the years to come?

Jo: There is no straightforward answer to this question as it hugely depends on the particular role in question. However, there are things candidates can do to ensure they have a strong career path ahead of them. Key skills such as learning how to code, SEO or even a new language will definitely give candidates a competitive edge. Personal development is a major aspect that we always encourage our candidates to actively pursue as it’s a great way to separate themselves from the crowd.

To succeed in the iGaming sector, candidates need to be comfortable working in fast paced and often, highly pressurised environments where decision making can be mercurial because of constantly shifting regulations and market conditions. The most successful candidates in our sector will have a passion for conceptualising ideas that customers can responsibly enjoy and be brought to market relatively quickly. We work in a fascinating industry with constant product innovation and new markets opening up, if these sorts of environments excite you as much as they do us, then we believe you can have a truly successful career.

Q: Have you seen a shift towards specific job offerings over the last years?

Jo: As iGaming legislation continues to change and gaming commissions implement more restrictions and license requirements, the need for candidates in the compliance and anti-money laundering space has increased significantly. Business structures are a lot more sophisticated compared to 10 years and subsequently has caused a big supply and demand issue for candidates with regulatory experience as operators rush to strengthen these functions of their business.

Compliance is an area where businesses are constantly looking for strong talent. Now that they are more open to remote working, the opportunities for placing these sorts of candidates have significantly increased. For example, I recently placed a Compliance Manager based in the UK for a company that before Covid, would’ve insisted that they be relocated to Gibraltar, but this has all changed and we believe it’s for the better.

Q: What’s next for EyeSpy Recruitment? Do you have any immediate short or long-term goals you would want to mention?

Jo: Just like everyone else around the world, the lockdown has been a challenging time for us. So, in the short term we’re definitely looking forward to a well-deserved holiday!

From a more commercial perspective, our objectives largely remain the same. Going forward, we simply want to continue working with businesses around the world, helping them to build the most talented teams. C level and Senior Management placements are an area that we specialise in and we’re looking forward to putting more business leaders in position to take their companies and more widely, our industry, to the next level.

We’re at a point in our careers where we have the privilege of being able to concentrate on what we love doing the most. Our commercial objectives for this year are very ambitious but we’re confident it can be done and we’re looking forward to building on what we’ve already achieved to solidify EyeSpy Recruitment as the premier Senior Management recruiter in the industry. Exciting times ahead!

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