Rise and rise of the thrusting young executive

Senior managers, just like policemen, are getting younger. Roger Trapp reports
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The Independent Online
Like policemen, chief executives are getting younger. Indeed, members of the "supergroup" of CEOs of leading companies identified in recent research by executive recruitment consultancy NB Selection are especially young - aged beween 39 and 45, compared with the average of 55.

But despite their youth, they are more likely to have worked for more companies than their counterparts, have more international experience and be better educated. "They seem to form a highly impressive 'supergroup', who strive for breadth of experience and are better equipped to deal with the globalisation of business in the 21st century," says Elisabeth Marx, director of NB's psychological assessment practice.

Though becoming a chief executive is a long-term aim for only a proportion of those starting out on business careers, the study of career patterns and profiles of chief executives in Britain's top 100 companies demonstrates that these people make progress early.

As Dr Marx points out, "CEOs start where they intend to finish - they are selective in the choice of company they work for right from the beginning of their careers. Over 80 per cent of executives chose one of the Top 200 companies for their first plc position as well as for their first MD position in a plc."

Most join their first plc at 30 and reach their first managing director role at 41. Nor is the time taken to reach the top influenced by a university degree. In particular, an Oxbridge start does not ensure a faster route to the top.

However, younger CEOs are more likely to have university degrees (especially from Oxbridge) and are also more likely to have advanced degrees. In addition, they are likely to be promoted internally, to have been given their first CEO or MDship at a slightly earlier age, to move faster between companies and to have more international experience.

Members of the supergroup - reckoned to number six at the time of the research - are reckoned to have had the same number of total positions and worked in the same number of companies as their older counterparts - despite being an average of 10 years younger.

But just in case anybody reading this fears they are not going to win the ultimate prize because they have not reached a significant career milestone by the age of 30, Dr Marx does sound a warning signal. The age at which an executive first becomes a CEO or MD or at which they first join a plc "only moderately" predicts the age at which they become chief executive of a top 100 company.

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