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CEO Focus

Route to the Top 2019

1/9/2020 Heidrick & Struggles
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In our latest Route to the Top, Heidrick & Struggles’ annual demographic study of chief executives, we combined data analysis and interviews to assemble a profile of what it takes to become a global CEO today, the skills and experience required, and how that picture is changing in the broader context of transformative economic and business shifts.

Our analysis provides not only insight into a composite view of the global CEO but also a look at some critical differences among the 906 CEOs of the companies listed on the following 16 country indexes: Australia, ASX 100; Belgium, BEL 20; China, SSE (top100); Denmark, OMX Copenhagen 20; Finland, OMX Helsinki 25; France, SBF 120; Germany, DAX and MDAX; Italy, FTSE MIB; Netherlands, AEX; Norway, OBX; Portugal, PSI-20; Spain, IBEX 35; Sweden, OMX Stockholm 30; Switzerland, SMI Expanded; United Kingdom, FTSE 100; United States, Fortune 100. The analysis has been conducted with data valid as of September 9, 2019.

Key findings on today’s CEO across all countries include the following:

  • The average age of CEOs is 56.
  • The average age at appointment to CEO is 50, with 21% appointed before they turned 45.
  • Some 66% of CEOs were promoted from within.
  • The average tenure length for CEOs is 6 years.
  • Only 5% of CEOs are women, with the highest proportion of women CEOs in Norway (16%) and the lowest in China (1%).
  • Some 76% of CEOs have prior C-suite experience, of which 39% had CEO experience, 21% had COO experience, and 18% CFO experience.

Here is Claire Skinner, Regional Leader – Europe & Africa, discussing the report findings on Ian King Live, Sky News.

Alain Deniau, Singapore CEO & Board Practice Leader, also discusses the findings on BBC World News.

In addition to the overall findings, to capture whether there has indeed been significant change in the skills and experience companies are seeking in their CEO, we contrasted newly appointed CEOs with their veteran counterparts, people with 15-plus years in the position. Key findings include the following:

  • There is far greater demand for C-suite experience across the board: 78% of new CEOs had C-suite experience, compared with 51% of veteran CEOs.
  • Demand for CFO experience is on the rise: of the new CEOs, 22% had CFO experience, compared to just 5% of the veteran CEOs with this experience.
  • This year’s new CEOs were older at their appointment: 52 years old for the new class versus 39 years old for the veterans still in the top role.
  • Newly appointed CEOs were far more likely to have worked their way to the top internally, 73% of them compared to 47% of veterans.
  • We have seen only a moderate improvement in gender diversity—with women comprising 9% of new CEOs versus 4% of veteran CEOs.
  • By other important measures, diversity is making greater gains: more new CEOs are non-nationals (20%) compared to veterans (15%), and 44% of new CEOs now have cross-border experience, compared with only 30% of veterans who do.

To read the full report, flip through the interactive version above or click the download button for the PDF.

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