Operations Director, National Charity - Search & Rescue


The Royal National Lifeboat Institution is the charity that saves lives at sea. It delivers this through a world-class lifeboat and lifeguard service around the waters of the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland (ROI), together with a range of coastal safety services.

The charity operates a network of 236 operational lifeboat stations based at strategic coastal locations around the UK and ROI, supported by more than 31,500 volunteers who dedicate their time and risk their lives to be available 24/7 whatever the weather. There are more than 4,600 volunteer lifeboat crew members at stations around the UK and the ROI, and another 3,000 volunteer shore crew members who support them. Their selfless commitment over the years has led to the RNLI’s reputation as a global leader in maritime safety.


Following the announcement of the current incumbent’s decision to retire following 34 years of service, the decision was made by the CEO to adopt a full-scale search of the marketplace to identify a suitable replacement.

Badged as one of the most significant appointments in the UK maritime sector at the time, Collingwood were asked to conduct a full market appraisal as well as assessing the suitability of the internal candidates.


After investing significant time with key stakeholders at RNLI HQ to fully appreciate the uniqueness of the organisation’s culture and values, a dual approach of national advertising and selective approaching was decided on in order to see candidates from as many operational backdrops as possible. A highly challenging selection process was formulated involving competency interviewing, psychometric assessments, role-plays, media exercises, written exercises and a formal presentation to the board.

After identifying an initial longlist of candidates from all areas of maritime including other maritime search and rescue organisations, navy and special forces, commercial maritime, leisure marine and even several very senior, non-maritime operations backdrops, the longlist was presented to the client and a shortlist was selected. Shortlisted candidates were invited to further interview with Collingwood which encompassed detailed competency assessment as well as in-depth assessment of ‘culture fit’ before psychometric assessments were carried out. Successful candidates were then invited to an informal 'familiarisation day' with the RNLI before progressing through to a final-stage assessment day based at RNLI headquarters facilitated by key assessors from the RNLI executive Board, trustees and Collingwood consultants. 


After an extremely intensive selection process, the candidate with the strongest blend of operational leadership competencies and the most appropriate cultural fit for the charity was appointed for the role. The RNLI have also used Collingwood to recruit for a Finance Director and a Head of Health & Safety.


“Looking for candidates to fill two very demanding posts on the RNLI executive team, we hired Collingwood, they did well; learned the business fast, and went out of their way to be helpful and supportive. I am very happy with the service Collingwood have provided.”
Vice Admiral Paul Boissier
Chief Executive Officer - RNLI