CEO hires reach record levels, surpassing pre-pandemic highs

Publish November 23, 2021
technology

Globally companies in the first half of 2021 appointed a record number of CEOs, making up for a significant slowdown in the second half of 2020, a report said.

The report also showed that compared to their predecessors, new CEOs are more likely to be women (11%), to be from countries other than where the company is headquartered (30%) and to have cross-border experience (46%), according to the 2021 Route to the Top report from Heidrick & Struggles, a premier provider of executive search, leadership assessment and development, organisation and team effectiveness, and culture shaping services globally.

The UAE report showed that 42% of the new CEOs have advanced degrees, and 16% have cross-border experience, while 23% have less than one year of experience as CEOs.

“The findings from this year’s report show that trends in UAE are in line with global standards in most areas, however when it comes to non-national CEOs, UAE stands out (with 42% compared to 24% globally). It’s also worth mentioning that the first half of 2021 shows a record number of CEO appointments globally, the highest since 2018,” said Alain Deniau, head of CEO & Board of Directors Practice of Heidrick & Struggles in Mena region.

Female CEOs in the UAE make up 5%, almost on par with the global number at 6% and 35% of CEOs hired in the UAE had previous CEO experience in the last two roles.

Some 56% of CEOs in the UAE were internally appointed in 2021 compared to 65% of internal CEO hires globally.

Over one-third of CEOs with previous C-suite experience appointed in the UAE in the first half of 2021 (35%) came from a previous CEO role, 30% of the CEOs appointed were formerly heads of divisions and only 2% had previous COO experience, compared to 14% globally.

Sweden has the highest percentage of CEOs with cross-sector experience (45%) while CEOs in the UAE have the lowest share (12%).

“Looking ahead, Covid-19 has raised expectations on the role of businesses in addressing concerns such as climate, equality, cybersecurity and other external realities; boards are rethinking the process of the CEO succession to cope with these changes,” said Deniau. “This means that companies will open up to new perspectives and ideas. In addition, we expect more attention to shift towards leadership skills rather than specific skills.”

The annual study of CEO placements provides an analysis of the profiles of the 1,095 CEOs at the largest publicly listed companies in 24 markets as of July 5, 2021. Included in the report’s data are companies from Australia and New Zealand, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, Netherlands, Portugal, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the UAE, the UK and the US.

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