SiGMA-igaming-

An Interview with iGaming Elite’s CEO and Founder Dean Nicholls

SiGMA met Dean Nicholls, iGaming Elite’s CEO and Founder for an interview. The company was founded in 2011 with the aim of filling a gap in the talent and labour market as an innovative, trusted and high performing human resource consultancy within gaming. Presently, the company has three strong headhunting teams consisting if more than 15 experienced recruiters.

How has the recruitment market evolved in six years in the industry here in Malta?

Businesses have certainly improved their retention rates. Individuals are moving around less and companies are implementing a lot of different initiatives to proactively make the experience of working for them better. Obviously, there is also a lot more demand for talent. As more businesses launch on the island and grow their brands, companies like ourselves continue to grow with them. Our commitment to quality has not changed over the years, we are just a lot busier and always on the hunt for new recruiters to join our teams.

SiGMA-igaming-Dean Nicholls

Dean Nicholls – CEO & Founder of iGaming Elite

How do you see this important sector moving forward?

The iGaming industry in Malta is continuing to build on its successful trajectory. New schemes are always being assessed and re-launched to sustain the industry’s rapid growth. The number of licenses are always increasing year on year and my concern isn’t the market going forward, my concern is making sure all of these businesses have the opportunity to recruit talent that will ultimately add value to their business. The ecosystem for businesses is always improving and I can only see Malta going from strength to strength. And that’s not even going into the obvious new markets that look like they are going to play a major role in the continued success of the Malta jurisdiction.

Considering the strong demand for a talented workforce in Malta, how do you distinguish your services from other recruitment agencies? Are you focused on any speci c niche market? C Level? IT and developers? Middle management?

iGaming Elite, since its inception, has never been a standard “high street agency”. We are niche talent acquisition business that specialises in cultivating talent from Mid Management up to C level. Across all verticals within iGaming.

We do have a team that services the demands of our clients below middle management, however that is not our core business.

What makes igaming unique is the fast growth, with companies recruiting dozens of new employees per month. How do you keep up with demand?

That’s an interesting question and the simple answer is we have a portfolio of clients that we deal with on a day to day basis. We are not looking to do business with everybody, we carefully make the decision to enter an agreement with a business that we are confident we can add value and market their company to attract the right kind of talent for them. Dealing with everyone is not a sustainable model.

Our teams spend a good amount of hours every week hunting on an international level for suitable individuals that will be a good fit to our clients. We look for quality, consistency, cultural fit and skill/experience levels. Our network is the key to everything and what separates us as a business.

Clearly, there seems to be lack of supply, with some gaming companies relocating part of their business to East Europe. Is it that hard to persuade talent to relocate to Malta? How do salaries in Malta compare to the rest of Europe? How is Brexit affecting the recruitment industry (is it too early to tell)?

I wouldn’t say there is a huge problem with persuading people to move to Malta. I think there are other facets to consider when analysing why some companies choose to set up certain departments, in like you mention, eastern European jurisdictions. Malta salaries are competitive compared to other parts of Europe, we don’t want everyone here, we just want the game changers.

I believe the situation with Brexit will play out over the next year or so, it’s still a little too early to really tell what the ramifications will be and it is something we shall monitor going forward. But as it stands today, I don’t believe it’s had a huge impact on the recruitment industry.

Do you think the Education system in Malta is doing its fair share to equip graduates with the right skills to ll the many vacancies in igaming? A lot of private institutes are being set up – do you feel there needs to be more of a coordinated effort?

The education system is a strange one. Because on one hand, in the technical and IT sector, there seems to be vast improvements in terms of the technologies being taught and therefore these graduates will find that the skills they obtained are fairly transferable
and they will find opportunities on the Island. The same goes for creative, web design, Graphic design, illustrators Etc. Malta has always been able to produce the good in this department. I also like the idea of the private Institutes and what they are looking to do with the education system.

However, I believe some of these are still in their relative infancy and just don’t provide individuals with the kind of knowledge that will allow them to “walk” into a job. Communication between all parties is key if we are to educate the current crop of students, there needs to be cohesion and a system in place to give the next generation of iGaming Professionals the best possible start with as much knowledge as possible. At the moment, I think we fall a little short of this being a reality, however Rome wasn’t built in a day, so I am sure the people that are involved in these initiatives, are continuously looking to improve and take it forward. So the future is bright in that respect.

A bit about yourself: You have spent the last 18 years working within recruitment. What is your story? And how did you end up in Malta and in Gaming? Academia was never something

I was hugely interested in, whilst in my mid-teens living in Northern England. I was always interested in how businesses work, what makes them tick, how are they put together and ultimately how do they add value. I wanted to finish school as soon as possible and get out there in the world. So, at 16 years old, I began my life as a working and tax paying citizen. To begin with selling cars to corporate clients and then on to selling corporate finance agreements within the automotive industry. Dealing with people was always something I felt comfortable with, so it was a natural choice when I started work. (Some might say as a green 16 year old I talked a little too much).

Then at 19 I found my home. Recruitment. Working in various niche markets within corporate headhunting and interim management, both locally and internationally, recruitment has given me so many opportunities and since my first day starting in the industry, it became a passion and some might say, an obsession. Sat here now at 37, a couple of grey hairs starting to appear, when I look back never once have I had an ounce of regret playing my trade within recruitment and talent acquisition.

Founder and CEO at iGaming Elite, Nicholls Moisa and Founder and CEO of Yellow Brick Investments – assisting start-ups with services such as Structural analysis, launch capital and expertise, whilst also operating multiple online businesses, all seem to complement each other in more ways than one.

What’s brewing next? Any ventures you can share with us?

Currently we are concentrating on the expansion of our current niche recruitment businesses within our Group. iGaming Elite and Nicholls Moisa, with potentially a 3rd Brand being launched in Q2 of 2018. iGaming Elite shall be expanding further and officially opening 2 new offices internationally in 2018. As for our other businesses, you shall have to wait and see.

What keeps you entertained in Malta? Tell us what you love and dislike most about being based here, outside the work hours.

I enjoy the odd strip bar, downing 15 shots whilst chucking out shapes in Paceville. I’m joking of course… that was a while ago now. These days I’m a family man, I have a beautiful little daughter called Iris and a son.  So when I am not in the office 6-7 days a week, you will find me dancing to frozen or singing twinkle twinkle. The weather is amazing, walking along the sea front in the evening, it can be a fantastic place and culture to live and work amongst, although the weather is a little on the hot side in the summer and after nearly 8 years on this beautiful island, the heat still gets to me. But these are small details, I’m English, we always complain about the weather.

Last year we introduced a Careers Convention for the first time at SiGMA, given huge demand for talent. Do you think the show in Malta can provide a niche that is non-existent in other shows worldwide – careers? Do you think people abroad are interested in seeking a new career in Malta?

We predominately headhunt. So our market is not people that are actively advertising themselves available and looking for
new opportunities. We identify talent then go after them as it’s not something we really get involved in. Mt opinion is that they could be good and could provide a niche is executed correctly, however it may take a little time to gather traction. The entry level positions within the market will ultimately be the core areas of the demographic of people that would go to these conventions, so it can be beneficial for sure. But this is just my opinion of course.

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