Slow and steady wins the recruitment race. White collar specialist Robert Walters’ (RWA) strategy to maintain investment in struggling markets through the downturn is now paying off.

Net fee income growth, a key driver of profitability, hit 11% in the three months to 30 June 2015, with growth rates in some of its Asian markets registering triple digits.

Trading momentum is being driven by a decision to invest in new offices in Asia and Europe and avoid staff lay-offs when international economies were struggling in 2011 and 2012.

Profit for the full year is now expected to jump 22% to £22.3 million, according to analysts at Charles Stanley Securities.

RWA - Comparison Line Chart (Rebased to first)

‘We like to think we took some bold calls in 2012,’ says chief financial officer Alan Bannatyne.

‘Now we have first-mover advantage in a lot of those countries, particularly in Asia. We have an established foot print, staff in place and the offices are now profitable.’

Balance sheet flexibility is a key weapon in Robert Walters’ armoury. Maintaining a net cash position – which totals £14.8 million at the half-year mark – means management can invest through the cycle rather than be forced to cut costs at the slightest inkling of a slowdown.

‘In a business where people are our core asset, we would not want to be in a position where we had to take a knee jerk reaction to market conditions,’ explains Bannatyne.

‘The net cash position gives us flexibility. As a management team, we have made sure we’re in a position where we can make decisions which are in the long-term interests of the business.’

Shares in Robert Walters trade 5.4% higher at 435p, giving the business a market value of £337 million.

Issue Date: 07 Jul 2015