Middle East CEOs on the Rise: Heidrick & Struggles Unveils 2023 Report on Increasing Appointments Amidst Economic Boom
Mokshita P.
10x Industry

Middle East CEOs on the Rise: Heidrick & Struggles Unveils 2023 Report on Increasing Appointments Amidst Economic Boom

Heidrick & Struggles' 2023 Route to the Top report reveals an uptick in CEO appointments in the Middle East, particularly in the UAE and Saudi Arabia. The region leads globally with a 16 percent average of new CEO appointments, led by economic diversification and tech adoption. Saudi Arabia stands out with a 20 percent rate. The study indicates a preference for experienced CEOs with cross-border (50 percent) and cross-sector (27 percent in Saudi Arabia, 26 percent in the UAE) backgrounds.

In a report, Heidrick & Struggles, a provider of executive search, leadership assessment, and development services, has unveiled key findings regarding CEO appointments in the Middle East. The 2023 Route to the Top report examined 1,221 CEO placements at major publicly listed global companies, shedding light on the evolving landscape of leadership in the region.

Between 2022 and 2023, a total of 68 CEO appointments were made in the Middle East, encompassing the UAE and Saudi Arabia. The region showcased a trend, with an average of 16 percent new CEO appointments, marking the highest percentage globally. Notably, Saudi Arabia stood out with a remarkable 20 percent of new CEO appointments during the specified period. Comparable percentages were observed in other markets such as Poland (29 percent) and Switzerland (26 percent).

Heidrick & Struggles highlighted the Middle East's penchant for CEOs with prior C-suite experience, ranking at the forefront globally with an impressive 90 percent. Following closely were Latin America at 84 percent and Asia-Pacific at 79 percent. The region also reported the lowest percentage of newly appointed CEOs without prior C-suite experience, standing at only 10 percent, the lowest among all global regions.

A significant revelation from the report is the Middle East's preference for younger CEOs, boasting the lowest average age at 54.5. Specifically, CEOs appointed in the UAE demonstrated the lowest average age globally at 52.7, with Africa ranking second lowest at 55.5.

The study also highlighted the growing interest in CEOs with diversified backgrounds. Middle East companies led globally with 50 percent of CEOs possessing cross-border experience, surpassing APAC and Europe jointly at 38 percent. Over the past three years, there has been a notable rise in the preference for CEOs with cross-sector experience. In Saudi Arabia, the percentage increased from 20 percent in 2022 to 27 percent in 2023, and in the UAE, it surged from 12 percent in 2021 to 26 percent in 2023.

However, the report underscored a concerning trend in gender diversity. The Middle East lagged behind in this aspect, with only 3 percent of appointed CEOs being women, less than half of the global average at 8 percent. Notably, Saudi Arabia had no women among the appointed CEOs, marking the lowest gender diversity globally.

Maliha Jilani, Partner in Heidrick & Struggles' Dubai office and Social Impact Practice lead in the Middle East and North Africa region, tells the need for increased gender diversity in leadership positions. Richard Guest, Partner-in-Charge at Heidrick & Struggles' Middle East and North Africa, echoed the importance of companies prioritising CEO succession planning to navigate the changing competitive landscape successfully.