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Cornerstone International Group’s global Chairman SIMON WAN speaks on what talent top performing companies need and want and why they ought to have it…yesterday! By GLENN ROGERS.

Steve Jobs once said, “When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: ‘If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right,” according to

That’s what came to mind when speaking to Simon Wan, the unassuming, hugely understated chairman of the Cornerstone International in Hong Kong.
Wan is a ‘doer’ not a talker. Widely held in Greater China as ‘the man with the right connections’ Wan is not here to talk about the fine art of head hunting. “I’d rather talk of relationships. “Yes, matchmaking is the result but ‘sustaining relationships’ is the method to get the right results.”

But, in this day and age of competitive extravagance and market exuberance who has the time to put work before results? “We do,” says Wan.

“Cornerstone International is about quality. It is about a sense of humble pride in the quality of personalized service we offer our customers not merely because we want referral business but simply because it is the right thing to do. Our values are the pillars of our foundation and greed or haste will never replace them.”


The glut for the best corporate talent grows unabated but finding the right fit, just in time remains a heady task for competitive companies wanting much more than a ‘search’.

“Here’s when customers need a headhunter with a proven track record of successful matches that have lasted. This is easier said than done simply because the whole head hunting landscape has changed thanks to ‘the Internet of Things’.

Online services like Linkedin suggest a DIY approach but nothing could be further from the truth, says Wan.

“A proper match between human beings can only be qualitatively brought about by an expert. The Internet will never replace the human element.”
“Take the case of China. Ideally, matches made across East and West ought to be in place, right first time. A happy marriage between employer and employee is wishful thinking today, particularly if the match is carelessly and hastily put together. Scores of foreign companies have learned bitter lessons by underestimating the Greater China market. There is a need for an experienced, well-connected, reputation-conscious placement firm with a proven track record. Hiring companies want not just the search but the consultation element too.”


Time is money and the wheels of competition stop for no one, says Wan. “Dialogue between service providers and customers ensures that we know when vacancies will arise, in advance. You only get to this stage of trust between customer and head-hunter after many years of building a working relationship. It is not only a question of trust but one of bi-lateral learning each other’s corporate DNA. It is only when you take time to invest in a relationship that you earn this trust with which comes the opportunity to serve accurately.”

There is merit in taking the time to nurture the relationship. With patience comes greater accuracy which translates into savings in time and effort, better quality of match making and hence satisfied clients.”

The market today wants a head-hunting firm with a global presence. There is no geographical footprint anymore when it comes to sourcing candidates. Customers are growing more objective in their choice of candidates so mandates are growing more performance-based than before.


Candidates today know their options better. The Internet has seen to that. Compensation, rewards, lifestyle options, relocation benefits and drawbacks and portability of related factors like career prospects, insurance and family, are factors that head hunters have to be clearer on (not to mention convincing enough) so as to ensure that candidates are placed properly. The task of convincing the candidate falls largely, if not completely on the shoulders of the match-maker.

“But, perhaps the more important of all are; – the match in the philosophy or thinking of both, the candidate and the company, and the mutual expectations both have. See? The Internet cannot achieve these goals. You need the human element to bring about this synapse. In order for the corporate marriages to last you need both employer and employee to want the same goals and to achieve this marriage of minds, you need free and frank dialogue.”


Consultation is free with Cornerstone International, you just pay for the service, says Wan. Every opportunity to understand you and help where we can is a step toward building a mutually trustworthy relationship, he believes and cites this attitude as fundamental to the Cornerstone thinking.
“We are where we are only because of our customers and so we can’t but help feel an overwhelming gratitude to all the people who gave us the opportunity to serve them. Sharing their views, goals, hopes gave us a better insight into their industries and that experience remains a priceless part of our offerings to the world today. Customers are impressed not just with our global reach and industry-specific competence but more so because we guard our founding principles of service zealously.”


Winning the globally known HKMVC Services Award is not an end in itself but a means to reaching for better standards of service, says Wan. Our real Awards come in the form of satisfied clients, he said.

“The HKMVC Services Awards have a ring of synergy about them and we identify strongly with the very mission of the Awards – to inspire more people to reach beyond their comfort zone and find within themselves to add value to our economy and thus make Hong Kong a city synonymous with higher standards, improved quality and a insatiable hunger for excellence in all we do,” concludes Wan.


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