Cosmo Currey runs Isle of Man-based headhunting company Van Kaizen, an executive search firm specifically within the online gambling industry.
Tell us about how your career in the iGaming industry started.
Born in London I was educated in the UK and later in Moscow for university. Arriving in Russia at 18 I knew nobody, and I didn’t speak a word of Russian; absolutely nothing. I spent the next three years in Moscow getting a degree from Moscow State University in Russian language. I thought if I could speak Russian, I could attempt Japanese. Just after my 21st birthday I moved to Tokyo. Living with a family in Yokohama I took the one-hour subway ride to Tokyo each morning to study Japanese in a post-graduate course.
Having spent several years studying, I was keen to build my career. At 21 I moved to Amsterdam. Working out of the world trade centres I started my career at an international recruitment firm. It took me a while to understand how to effectively headhunt. Eventually I got it and was named group highest placer. At the beginning of 2010-2011, I moved to the Isle of Man where my grandmother was living. Noticing the growing pool of online casino gambling firms registered on the island I started recruiting for the Isle Man’s eGaming industry.
Today Van Kaizen operates all over the world. We’re a team of 10 consultants with an office in Asia and South America, a team in Malta, consultants in central Europe and a consultant dedicated entirely on South Africa.
We are incredibly discreet – we’ve never done any advertising and all our business is based on referrals. From our clients to our candidates each has been referred to us through word of mouth. Clients come to us when the position is business critical often when others have had difficulty delivering.
As someone who has focus on various markets, which market do you think has the most exciting movement as far as gaming is concerned?
We’ve seen some incredible things happen in the industry, one of which is the integration of new payment methods like blockchain. And the competitiveness of salaries in Asia against their European counterparts. Its fascinating. For example, a salary of an established eGaming firm in Manila can be up to three times the amount you’d expect from a firm in Malta, the Isle of Man, England, Gibraltar. When you take into account the minimised cost of living in the Philippines it really drives home the growth Asian is seeing. The market there is extraordinary, perhaps the most dynamic gambling markets globally. Further movements in the territory are expected.
I see you are excited for the impact the Asian market will have on the rest of the world. What are your thoughts on the iGaming sector in Russia and other territories?
Very much so. Countries like Russia and certain areas of South East Asia, where withdrawals can be cumbersome, rely on blockchain to support their daily operations. The Blockchain adoption should grow especially in countries with laxed legislation.
For the less traditional gambler there is esports betting; the growth of professional computer game players battling each other is about to explode. Games like League of Legends, Dota 2, Counter-Strike and Fornite already amassing a huge following. The punters, we suspect, are not far behind.
The synergies between gambling, blockchain and esports are evident. Their natural crossovers could open a collective, three-way spin off forming their own separate industry.
What sets you apart from other headhunting companies in the online casino and sports betting sectors?
One of the reasons we are so passionate about the eGaming industry is because it is phenomenally good at looking after staff. As a headhunter, the single most important thing is to place someone in a company and role where they feel valued.
This was one of the key elements in setting up Van Kaizen – our client base of around 35 eGaming firms globally has been specifically selected as the most exciting firms in the sector. They each really care about their staff. An ancillary benefit of not working with everyone means we can present our shortlist to clients without a conflict of interest.
We are very proud of the relocation work we do. As an international firm we are able to move large numbers of candidates across territories with relative ease. We firmly believe moving someone is a family decision – including your partner and children in the process is key. Though this approach may mean you have to answer a raft of questions from a eight year old on the variety of Ice Cream flavours a specific location offers its absolutely worth it. Detail matters.
We’ve built a reputation on honesty so if we feel an introduction isn’t the best it can be, we will speak to both parties about it – and find the candidate something else and the client someone else.
Tell us about the potential of the market where you are mainly based in, the Isle of Man. What piece of advice can you give to the region’s government?
The Isle of Man is one of the most remarkable places on earth. Nestled between the UK & Ireland it’s an hour from London with a population of 83,000. The 8th richest country in the world, recently named a ‘UNESCO world biosphere’, it boasts unemployment at 1% and a crime rate even lower.
I feel the Isle of Man needs to capitalise on what is has to offer to the demographic that will resonate with it most. That demographic being those who are looking to build their careers and start a family.
Leave the teenagers to party in London. You cannot be something for everyone.
What do you think is the role of women today in the iGaming space?
60% of Van Kaizen are women. As mothers and businesswomen, they are the most impressive, extraordinary members of our team.
We’re seeing more and more women taking lead positions inside some of the industry’s most influential organizations. Exactly how it should be.
The days of the ‘old boys club’ where drinking and partying until 2 was requisite is disappearing. Great business is about a sense of safety and trust, it’s done on merit, consistency and deliverables – your sex, race, colour or creed is irrelevant.
Considering the coronavirus crisis we’re facing, what do you think will be the big thing in the iGaming industry this 2020?
One of the most interesting things to come from the coronavirus is the capacity or ability for people to work from home and still get a result.
The reality is although eGaming is a progressive industry, fulltime, remote working is rare with only a small percentage of businesses in the sector open to it. I think there is an underlying scepticism that a result cannot be produced if you’re not office bound.
The virus has forced us to work from home – A new era of working (on an industrial scale) is upon us. It will be interesting to see how businesses will respond to this and if/how their remote working policy will change post the epidemic.
Our innate instinct to survive and work around the difficulties of our reality is the next stage in our evolution.
What are the best skills you’re looking for in a candidate that wants a successful career in the iGaming space?
The one thing you can’t teach: enthusiasm. Our industry is famous for its excitement, dynamism and passion. Its driven on enthusiasm.