C-level iGaming executives in high demand

Recruitment in the iGaming sphere has never been more important than now, as companies both try and move into the Asian gaming sphere and try and tap the Brazilian and LatAm market.

Ellen Fröjd, CEO of SmartRecruitment.com, points out what is most in focus and why mid- and high-level executives are in demand and how AI is being implemented – but can never replace human nuance.

We’re joined today by Ellen Fröjd, CEO of Smartrecruitment.com. Thank you for being with us.

Thank you so much for having me.

From our view, and being a recruitment agency, we see much more international companies opening up businesses here in Manila, either focusing on the full commercial teams or more on the support functions, I would say. We have understood that they are choosing Manila because most of the clients are based in Manila, or in other countries nearby, Southeast Asian countries, which obviously makes Manila a very convenient travel hub in that sense.

Another thing that I think is worth mentioning is also the cost question. These companies do tend to hire expats as well here, it is more cost effective, rather than flying in people from Europe. And having a local presence here as well makes it easier for them to go more to the face-to-face meetings with clients more frequently, which is always very important in the terms of the business that we are in.

So, we also see growing demands for our services for newer markets in Asia, and just outside of Asia, which is Bangladesh, Pakistan, Laos, and Myanmar. And they’re hiring for roles like business development managers, marketing managers, key account managers. Also worth mentioning, Japan has been a popular market for some time, and it continues to be so as well, for us at least for what we can see from the demand from our clients, both from the B2B as well as the B2C side.

For the type of people that are being procured by the recruiters, is it more of the top management? Or is it kind of more of the account representatives?

Speaking from our perspective, being an agency, we’re mainly working with mid-level to C-level positions. This is where we see the demand still being at its highest. While companies tend to – when it comes to more junior positions, or entry level positions – they tend to use either internal recruiters or non iGaming focused agencies to support those roles.

But we see a notable increase in demand for our services for more C-level positions for these companies in various departments. It can be in finance, it can be in commercial, it can be in operations. And this is a trend that we have been seeing growing quite steadily for the past couple of years, which most likely is because of the fact that the companies here are also growing, and they are in need of such roles at this stage.

These Asian operators themselves, who are they looking for? Is it for certain area, is it a certain type, is it a certain background, a certain profile? What are they looking for?

Through the work that we’ve done from the clients that we do have here, it’s a very high focus on the commercial teams, as I mentioned earlier, so it’s a lot of positions in terms of marketing directors, business development managers, country directors, commercial directors, also a lot of the C-level roles, as I mentioned, you know, CMO, CCOs, CEOs. They are also, as I mentioned briefly earlier, hiring more for the support functions as well.

But at Smartrecruitment.com, we mainly work with mid-level to C-level positions. So that’s really where our focus is. But I will say overall, they are looking for very senior candidates from the iGaming industry that have a very strategic mindset, because they needs someone to basically come in and direct them and then lead their way into Asia – both for new companies coming in that need this but also for already established companies that are here that are looking to grow their market share.

There’s been a lot of focus on the Asian market, as there’s been a lot of growth, whether we see that within the Philippines and other markets, but then there’s a huge interest in LatAm and Brazil. Is there any crossover in terms of the recruitment which is happening for Asia and for LatAm and Brazil?

From our view, the focus remains the same – with an equal if not even increased demand for services in Asia. As I mentioned earlier, we have companies looking into new markets in Asia like Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, etc. But of course, we’re also observing the growing trend of companies, platform providers, Asia operators, venturing into the Latin American markets, specifically for Brazil.

So, whether it’s a casino operator, a game provider, or a sports book platform provider, for example, they’re all seeking commercial experts who will be spearheading their LatAm expansion. And obviously, also with the legalization of sports betting in Brazil, in December 2023, we see an increase of need of our services, specifically from sports book platform providers who are either looking to hire people working remotely from other countries in Latin America, other countries in Asia, or actually also on the ground in Brazil.

AI is being thrown around as the catch word. I’m sure that we’re all probably sick of hearing it, but it’s inevitable. But how exactly is AI being integrated into the recruitment process? Is it or is it not? Is it useful? Is it not?

AI is obviously in our everyday life all the time, privately in terms of professionally as well. We are integrating it into our services as much as we can. It’s supporting us with summarizing CVs, it can help us in terms of coming up with more complex questions that we can ask during our interviews with candidates to evaluate them properly. So, it is helping our search process to be better.

However, there are still many areas where AI can’t really help us, at least from a recruitment company’s perspective. One very important thing that I firstly want to mention here is that 50 percent of our final candidates in our recruitment processes with clients, particularly in Asia, they’re not on digital platforms like LinkedIn, for example. Having a human factor, a human recruiter, doing the network building, doing the referrals and all of that, it’s a very, very crucial part of our process.

And overall, we prioritize human interaction overall in our processes. So, looking into how AI is for recruitment, I would say that it does a good job in terms of the entry level positions. So, for maybe customer support it can be a better support, while, when it comes to more mid-level to C-level positions, that human factor is needed.

Because we don’t feel like it has the same effectiveness when it comes to that kind of evaluation. So, again, having that human factor doing that evaluation, from our point of view, it is very, very crucial, specifically – the networking part – in order to reach that other 50 percent that I mentioned earlier – that are not on the digital platforms. So, overall, when it comes to assessing, for example, soft skills – like communication skills, social skills – we feel like that’s the hard part for AI to deliver.

And another also very important part in the recruitment process is to see what’s the cultural fit here between the candidate and the company. And we believe that that’s better evaluated by a human rather than an AI. So, to summarize, AI is coming, we are using it more as a copilot, I would say for us in our services. And it’s more for the entry level positions AI can be more effective, but if it’s more for mid-level to C-level roles we believe that you should be working with an agency like ours to get the top talent in the industry.

That makes total sense, and that, luckily, means that we will both be keeping our jobs for a while.

Exactly. That’s the plan.

I wanted to thank you again. Ellen Fröjd, CEO of SmartRecruitment.com, thank you for being with us.

Thank you so much. Thank you for having me.