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Slick start-up riding recovery

Kathleen Brooks
FROM the moment that Colin Webster and Robert Thesiger decided to set up their own financial recruitment business specialising in middle and back office functions, they knew they were in a race against the clock. After a torrid period during the recession, both men felt that the recruitment market would begin to turn in the first quarter of this year and had to work at double speed to get Bruin Financial up and running in order to ride the wave of recovery.

After leaving their jobs in 2009, Thesiger, who was chief executive officer of recruiter Imprint, and Webster, who was chief financial officer, embarked on a fund-raising drive on 4 January, found an office and hired staff all in time to open their doors on 1 March.

“We didn’t want to be a classic start-up, operating in our back room. We had to take advantage of this window of opportunity, and if we hadn't grown this quickly we wouldn’t be where we are today,” says Thesiger.

This could be the start of a David and Goliath story. Financial recruitment is dominated by a handful of extremely large names, for example Hays, Hudson, Michael Page and Robert Walters. But the company is making its own mark. It started with Thesiger and Webster, but in just three months the staff has grown to 26, including 10 graduates, and its client base has also passed 30.

When you walk into Bruin’s office close to Embankment station, you don't get the feeling that the business is essentially a newborn. For example they have the Bruin logo on their coffee mugs and both men seem calm and relaxed as they show me to the boardroom. Perhaps it’s because this marathon effort has already started to pay off. “We didn’t expect to see revenue flowing in until month four or five, buy it did by week eight,” says Webster.

So how did they mange it? “Partly we traded on our own track record,” says Thesiger, who has two full decades of experience in recruitment. But they both put down their initial success to having a clear business strategy and sticking to it. “We don’t have any plans to do business outsourcing or HR consulting,” says Webster. “It's always best to stick to the knitting, stick to what you know, and for us this is recruiting the best talent in financial services.”

London is only the start of this pair’s ambitions. Thesiger is off to Singapore next week to look at expanding Bruin Financial in Asia, which is where they see much of the future growth of the business. And they continue to make expansive plans. The first office is due to open at the end of this year, and by the end of year four they expect 50 per cent of their profits to come from overseas. Financial recruitment should watch out, there’s a new kid in town.

CV | COLIN WEBSTER AND ROBERT THESIGER

Age: RT: 40, CW: 38

Family: RT: son aged four; CW: married with two children

Last book you read: RT: Test Cricket: A History of Sledging. “I also read a lot of Aliens Love Underpants to my son.” CW: “I have recently become a church warden, so hence I am reading Churchwardens, A Survival Guide.”

Trivia: The name Bruin is Thesiger's son's middle name, however it was also the name of a teddy bear given to soldiers fighting in the First World War.