The rise of interim executives


The rise of interim executives

Open your favourite search engine and type in the words “interim executives trend”. The results may surprise you. You’ll come across a wealth of documented findings that point towards this latest movement in management. In years gone by, companies only hired interim executives when called upon by extraordinary circumstances or crisis. All that has changed now.

Simon Drake, an HR director at Penna PLC writes in “The interim management market has become more and more sophisticated over the past ten years. A decade ago, interim management was typically a career option pursued by senior professionals towards the end of their career, having taken voluntary redundancy or perhaps early retirement. Now, it’s a fully fledged career option for experienced managers of all ages, recognised for the diversity of assignments it offers and the rewarding nature of working on a project basis, often dealing with complex issues and providing a sense of satisfaction once the project is complete.”

According to Drake, the popularity of interim executives differs in different countries. The most established markets for the practice are the UK and the Netherlands, with the economic slump acting as a catalyst to give it its current momentum. “Through recessionary periods, business leaders in these countries understood the value that interims provide,” says Drake. “With recruitment freezes and redundancies having been the economic reality for many companies, change and innovation still needed to happen to survive. Interims provided a quick-fix solution, but with lasting impact, and without a full time contract in place.”

Having to work through its own continued sluggish growth pace, the South African market has followed the lead of its British counterpart and seen a growing place for interim executives. Most of these roles remain highly specialized ones that require years of theoretical training as well as on-the-job experience. They generally pull from the areas of general management, financial, information technology and operations management.

The profile of an interim executive

As noted by Drake, the role of interim executives were traditionally filled by middle-aged men nearing the end of their career. Today, however, the profile of an interim executive is less predictable. For one, more women are being drawn to the role. Some are attracted by its diversity; others are drawn to the fact that there is less pay discrepancy between men and women in the “interim” industry than others. In this environment, people are not appointed based on internal politics or history. As such, the interim executive industry is emerging as a true meritocracy – where people are appointed and paid based on skill rather than other criteria.

Younger candidates are also entering the industry.

Because interim executive roles often require management skills, you won’t be finding someone fresh out of varsity applying for a position. But you’re no longer just choosing from people at the end of their careers. There are those at the height of their profession who have decided on interim management as their work of choice.

Interim executives often have a love of travel.

They recognize the need for their management skills as companies extend their footprints and start up in new markets and countries. Interim executives are willing to go where the next big project is, set up systems, policies and processes, and then move on to the next big thing your company needs them for. It’s what they thrive on.

If your company is looking at the possibility of bringing on interim executives in the financial sector, get in contact with The Finance Team. We have developed a niche network of experienced finance professionals who provide expertise on an ad hoc or interim basis. They help your company when you need it most, for the time you need it.


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