Recruitment specialist Robert Walters (RWA) delivers a solid first quarter trading update which underlines once again the growth potential in its markets and lifts the shares 2% to 608p.


Group net fee income was up 11% to £98.6m driven by another strong performance in Asia Pacific, where net fees rose by 12%, and helped by a stronger than expected performance in the UK, where net fees grew by 10% compared to just 2% in the final quarter of last year.


The firm’s biggest market is Japan where employment levels are so high that the job offer to applicant ratio is 1.6 times. Even though net fee income was up over 15% in the quarter, the firm is ‘barely touching the sides’ as founder and chief executive officer (CEO) Robert Walters puts it.

It’s the same story across Asia with double-digit growth in mainland China, the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam. ‘We are nowhere near saturation’ says the CEO, ‘these markets could be absolutely huge’.

Meanwhile better than expected fees in the UK sprang from growth in new business areas like cyber-security and financial technology (‘fintech’) which were tiny a decade ago.

The UK is also supported by the firm’s Resource Solutions division which offers recruitment outsourcing for other companies. Barriers to entry are high as each account ‘win’ requires investment while the payback takes a couple of years.

This is where having a solid balance sheet and net cash of ~£60m at the end of March comes in.

According to business process outsourcing (BPO) research firm NelsonHall, recruitment outsourcing is likely to keep growing at 14% per year through to 2020 and beyond.


It may have been a punchline from every ropey Seventies sketch show on television but the fact is that these days firms really can’t find the staff, at least those who are properly qualified.

The biggest issue facing employers looking to hire is the lack of suitable applicants with half of vacancies reported as ‘hard to fill’, and Robert Walters is in the same boat as its customers.

If it could hire a greater number of talented recruiters it could grow the business even faster than it is growing at present, as there are still plenty of opportunities to expand into new territories and new disciplines.

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Issue Date: 15 Apr 2019