When you think about young CEOs your mind immediately wanders to Mark Zuckerberg, President and founder of Facebook, or Evan Spiegel, the founder and CEO of Snapchat. Both were university students when they created these social media platforms; and by the age of 23, they were already millionaires.
Monroe Consulting Group Malaysia is witnessing a trend for newly appointed CEOs younger than 40 years of age in some sectors. Although the average age remains between 45 to 55 years old, the executive recruitment company is seeing more CEOs aged under 40 and even under 30 taking over these positions.
Monica Viladot, the managing director of Monroe Malaysia, said “more and more companies are open to employing the young generation as top-level executives for good reasons.”
“One of these reasons is that the young generation possesses sought-after skills that every executive should have.”
Asked to elaborate, Monica said younger CEOs were often much more adaptable to rapidly changing markets that required innovative approaches.
“Technology is driving many of these changes and young professionals are more well versed on this new technology, or may be able to adapt faster.”
Dean Nazmuddin, a senior executive recruitment consultant with Monroe Malaysia, agreed.
“Technology is changing the game,” he said
“Technological advancement is related to entrepreneurship as well. There’s a clear tendency to have CEOs in the technology field since there’s a lot of entrepreneurship in tech, particularly Internet entrepreneurship.”
He said the Internet was an amazing platform for creating new businesses.
“Young entrepreneurs may create a business online that becomes popular and they themselves grow into a CEO position.”
While Zuckerberg comes to the top of lists of examples, others included Jeremy Stoppelman, CEO of YELP; David Karp, CEO of Tumblr; Anthony Tan, CEO of Grabcar; and Nadiem Makarim, CEO and founder of Gojek.
When asked if this was only happening in the technological field, Monica said there was a clear tendency towards it, but tech was not the only field.
“We are seeing more cases of under 40-year old professionals appointed to a number of different C-level positions, including Keith Kozza, appointed CEO and President of Icahn Enterprises, or David Knopf appointed CFO of Kraft Heinz at the age of 29.”
She said this tendency was not predictive of what was going to happen in the market.
“When talking to many Human Resources Directors, many mention that half of their senior leaders will be eligible for retirement within the next two years and half of them don’t have a successor ready to able to take over.”
She said companies were often forced into “actually delaying the retirement of these C-suite executives as a temporary solution.”
Dean said it was often difficult for some companies to decide on hiring younger C-level executives with more energy and fresh-thinking, or more mature candidates with the wisdom and experience to roll with fluctuations.
“A company has two options: Reach into the top leadership existing in the company and promote the most capable ‘insider’ or hire an ‘outsider’. If the company needs fresh leadership and new direction, if the board wants change, then you consider outsiders or younger profiles.”