Cosmo Currey, head of talent acquisition at Van Kaizen, talks about the headhunting firm’s rapid growth in a tumultuous market and where investments are being made in the sector.

CasinoBeats: Van Kaizen seems to have appeared very rapidly in the igaming talent market; tell us your story.

CC: We started trading about 18 months ago, with just three of us. There was me, our back-office director Graeme, and another headhunter, Jo. We had this idea that igaming needed a firm truly focused on headhunting, as opposed to just a “place an advert and see what happens” style of recruitment agencies. The market responded really well to that approach.

It’s been quite a journey since then! We’re now up to 21 people across nine jurisdictions stretching from the USA to the Philippines. We cover enough time zones now that there’s always a Van Kaizen consultant working away somewhere in the world and I believe we are already the largest igaming focused talent acquisition firm by geographical footprint, if not quite by headcount.

CB: That’s impressive growth, especially in such a difficult year. What do you attribute it to?

CC: There are three things I would point to. First, headhunting takes some rare skill, so we decided we would build the best incentive model on the market. Our consultants take home 75 per cent of what they invoice their clients, which as far as we know is unrivalled in the market.

Second, we decided to empower that financial approach by choosing a really lean operational model, bringing in just a few consultants in each country and investing in state of the art remote working systems instead of offices, drinks machines, and other unnecessary overheads. That last one has served us particularly well in the strange times of 2020!

It shouldn’t come as any surprise that there’s a big shift into casino-focused roles”

Third, building a headhunting firm is different to building a recruitment firm: we cultivate a few, exciting clients rather than just signing anybody we can. Many recruitment firms can’t truly offer headhunting services because they have terms signed with just about everyone in the industry, so where could they pick people from? That sets us apart.

CB: What does that model mean for your clients?

CC: We have the hungriest team you’ll find anywhere on the market, for sure. If you want people who are genuinely invested in finding you the perfect person, we can point to that incentive model and say, ‘you won’t beat that’. We’re also uniquely skilled at attracting so-called ‘passive’ candidates – people who aren’t looking for a job and need to be sold on the benefits of making a move.

We’ve also found our geographical spread to be useful for multinational clients, particularly when they’re building teams to focus on new markets. Our consultants are collectively fluent in more than 25 languages, which really helps build connection with candidates. Need Swedish speaking customer support staff? A Chinese speaking country manager? A Danish HR specialist? We literally speak their language.

CB: As a recruiter you are often the first to hear where people are investing in the sector. What trends have you seen in the last few months?

CC: It shouldn’t come as any surprise that there’s a big shift into casino-focused roles. Sports betting has obviously taken a hit and games like poker just aren’t attractive to a lot of casual betters, so there are lots of roles coming up in that area. Similarly, although esports has been a growth market for a while now, the investment seems to have heated up in that area since lockdowns forced people to take it even more seriously. 

The other major trend that 2020 has brought us is an increase in the number of employers open to fully remote working. It’s opened up the talent pool for some of the more forward-thinking companies in the market and I believe they’ll reap long term rewards from opening that door.

CB: Taking a peak into your crystal ball, what comes next?

CC: We’re betting on the Americas seeing a lot more growth in the near future, which is part of the reason we’ve expanded into the USA and Costa Rica this year. I also think everyone is starting to accept that many of the market changes we’ve seen in the last six months will probably be around for the long term, so I expect the changes I mentioned above will become more entrenched.