by Mark Chillingworth

Will ASOS struggle to find a new CIO?

Sep 04, 20144 mins
CareersIT LeadershipRetail Industry

Will the high turnover of CIOs, three since 2010, at online fashion retailer ASOS damage the organisation’s ability to recruit a top flight business technology leader? ASOS has recently issued a profit warning and Reuters reports that there is increasing speculation that the UK based global organisation may be the subject of a takeover from internet giants Amazon or eBay, which if it materialised could well make the next ASOS CIO role a very short tenure, even by ASOS’ standards. CIO UK asked the community for its thoughts and what concerns potential candidates should have?

Catherine Stagg-Macey is a leadership coach, business advisor and columnist for CIO UK, her analysis is:

“High turnover of key staff is always a concern for any future employee. Whilst always a consideration in the case of ASOS, anyone considering the CIO role should be prepared to do their homework; as there are important questions around support and expectations from key stakeholders for the role, clarity of business strategy and the current IT business relationship.”

Stagg-Macey added that ASOS has a strong brand strength that will attract CIOs, but its high staff turnover is an issue that CIOs must take into consideration.

CIO recruiter Kevin Sealey of Korn Ferry Whitehead Mann thinks the innovative nature of ASOS may well be more enticing than any risks presented by takeover talk.

“I guess it depends on what a candidate is looking for in the market.  If it is someone to continue driving investment in technology then despite the recent profit warnings and the market rumours then the brand is still sufficiently strong it will still be something that will continue to pique interest, especially with those with an appetite for a degree of risk.

“On the other hand if the issues they are facing lead to a slowdown in cash for new projects and more of a “run the shop” role, then CIOs might start to ask questions.

ASOS’ international expansion has been the engine for growth in recent times and it looks like the strong pound has really hit that business hard. How long that situation sustains may drive how much money is available to invest, Sealey said.

One CIO said interest would be high and in fact the potential for share options would be enticing if a buyout does take place.

Ross Stacey heads the CIO Practice at recruitment specialists Harvey Nash said:

“CIOs – like most executives – dislike uncertainty, so rumours of a takeover will limit the appeal of this new role to many. That said ASOS is a strong brand and their technology setup is generally viewed well in the market, so for the right CIO this could be a very good opportunity.

“So what is the right CIO? Well, at the core it will be someone who is able to assess and manage risks. Maybe they have had a strong, solid, risk free career to date and are happy to take a measured chance with this role, knowing that now the market is improving they will still have opportunities should the worst happen?  Another option that ASOS could consider is to recruit an interim CIO until the dust has settled.

“The devil will probably be in the detail. How ASOS decide to pitch the role and mitigate the risk to the next CIO will be crucial in how they go on to attract the “right” person for the job. For many, the takeover rumours will limit the role’s appear, but for some the opportunity may be just right. After all, some of the most successful CIOs are the ones who have taken measured risks with their careers.”