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There was quite a bit of change going around in the UAE's C-suites, particularly in the banking and real estate spaces. Image Credit: File photo

Dubai: Pick from within – that’s what a majority of companies in the UAE decided to do with their new CEO appointments this year. In fact, 56 per cent of all such appointments this year have come from senior executives already with the organisation.

That does compare well with the global average of 65 per cent of organisations that did the same with their CEO appointments this year, according to the US headhunting firm Heidrick & Struggles. “The findings from this year’s report show that trends in UAE are in line with global standards in most areas,” said Alain Deniau, head of CEO & Board of Directors Practice of Heidrick & Struggles in MENA region.

“It’s worth mentioning that the first-half of 2021 shows a record number of CEO appointments globally - the highest since 2018.”

In the UAE, the change at the top has been happening across sectors, with banking and real estate leading the way.

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Gender advance

On gender diversity in the C-Suite, the UAE is closing in on the global average. The survey finds that women make up 5 per cent of the CEO base in the country, against the 6 per cent global average. The report shows that compared to their predecessors, new CEOs are more likely to be women (11 per cent).

More women are launching businesses and being appointed as CEOs (or in other senior executive roles) as the UAE sets a clear direction on creating a gender balance.

“COVID 19 has raised expectations on the role of businesses in addressing concerns such as climate, equality, cybersecurity and other external realities,” said Deniau. “Boards are rethinking the process of the CEO succession to cope with these changes. This means that companies will open up to new perspectives and ideas. In addition, we expect more attention to shift towards leadership skills rather than specific skills.”

  1. UAE CEO profile: On average, they were 49 years old at the time of appointment and 42% were appointed before the age of 45. They hold the tenure for 5.9 years of average tenure. The average age now is 55 years.
  2. 30% of the CEOs appointed were formerly heads of divisions.
  3. Only 2% had previous COO experience, compared to 14% globally.