When age has its compensations

Being on the corporate scrap heap at 45 or 50 is nothing new these days. The endless quest of companies to exceed targets and maximise profitability puts increasing reliance on dynamic go-getting young blood to succeed for the good of the company. And, all the while, management seek to find ways to run leaner and fitter.

While such a philosophy is not necessarily true in all companies, it is in many. All too often, the victims are the older working generation – who said euthanasia doesn’t exist? And for those who are already victims, it doesn’t end there. Scour the appointments columns of the dailies and the stark reality of their plight becomes apparent. Up to 40, the world’s your oyster; afterwards there’s little available – especially if you’re a middle manager. It’s a situation that those still fighting to hold down their long-term positions within such companies are painfully aware of.

However, there is light at the end of the tunnel. New figures released indicate that there is a growing market for the over 45s in interim management – an industry which has doubled in the UK over the last four years and is today estimated at #400m.

It’s ironic therefore that the reason for the growth can be attributed to the quest by companies to become more competitive. This has resulted in downsizing and de-layering. Now the fragile management and boardroom structure that remains is all too prey to unforeseen circumstances – illness, a market-driven new product strategy, an unexpected resignation or a sudden change in the market.

Traditionally, as a company changes, it brings in staff by normal recruitment methods to cope. Sudden change is, however, somewhat different. More often than not sudden change results in only a temporary requirement for a replacement. But, most importantly, due to the unforeseen circumstances surrounding the requirement for the interim manager, it is vital that the specified person has the necessary experience to become fully effective from day one.

In effect, this means that the person has to be over-qualified for the job. Thus it is neither suitable for, nor will appeal to any full-time candidate looking to take on the position as a step up the career ladder.

There are currently over 10,000 people employed within interim management positions in virtually every industrial sector – a figure which is growing every year. As self-employed individuals, they reflect a trend in the UK away from permanent employment. Currently 11 percent of the UK labour force are self-employed and only 57 percent are in full-time permanent employment. Over the past 10 years, this reflects a growth rate two-and-a-half times greater in the self-employed sector than in permanent employment (Source: Office For National Statistics). Such figures indicate a growing demand for interim managers.

Recruitment and management consultancy network CNA International has seen the market develop for interim managers over the past four years.

Because the principal prerogative of interim management is for the candidate to hit the ground running, the vast majority of those working as interim managers are over 50 – in fact, 60 percent are aged between 45 and 55 and 38 percent are aged between 48 and 53.

Of those 10,000 interim managers, two-thirds are employed for six to 12 months. In their past working lives, 49 percent have been either directors or chief executives and 43 percent senior managers. They are extremely well rewarded for their work, with average earnings of over #50K a year.

However, they must be in position extremely quickly; they must have wide management experience; a good track record and communications skills; and must be able to handle complex issues and make decisions on them quickly.

Because they are older and more experienced, they are generally accepted by subordinates and the loyalty of all employees is retained – especially as the assignment will be handed back to the company at the end of its duration. Put simply, they do not pose a threat.

At present, 30 percent of interim managers are employed in general management, 17 percent in commercial management, 13 percent in the financial and legal sector and 11 percent in IT. And, with more and more chief executives recognising the value of interim management as a quick, yet effective fix to resolving unforeseen company problems, the extensive growth in the market over the last four years will be sustained. Early retirement has never looked so good!

Taken from Interim Management – a new opportunity for the over fifties by Albert Wilde. Wilde is managing director of CNA International, which specialises in interim management, management consultancy and executive recruitment.

Contact: CNA International on 01509 670022 or at

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