BEIS to shell out up to £63k in search for next permanent secretary

Successful candidate will succeed Alex Chisholm, now civil service COO


Photo: Louise Haywood-Schiefer

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has agreed to shell out up to £63,000 to a recruitment firm to find its next permanent secretary.

BEIS perm sec Alex Chisholm was promoted to become civil service chief operating officer and Cabinet Office permanent secretary in April.

The department signed a contract to find Chisholm’s successor at the end of last month with Russell Reynolds Associates, an executive search company. It is worth up to £63,000 – nearly six times the sum offered to find a perm sec for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs last year.


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The company uses a combination of competency interviews, leadership questionnaires, culture assessment, references and “deep market knowledge” to find and assess candidates for high-level roles.

Several government departments have used Russell Reynolds Associates to recruit personnel in the past. In 2016 the firm was paid £56,000 to find a chief people officer for HM Revenue and Customs – in return for which it marketed the role, advised HMRC on market salary roles and carried out a targeted search.

Last summer the company won a contract worth £163,000 to act as a recruitment agency for the Ministry of Defence.

The perm sec role has not been advertised on the civil service jobs website.

Sam Beckett, director general for trade, Europe and analysis at BEIS and co-head of the Government Economics Service, is acting perm sec while the department finds Chisholm’s permanent replacement.

When Chisholm’s move to the Cabinet Office was announced at the end of March, BEIS said it would announce plans to appoint his successor “in due course”.

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