The Fastest Route to the C-Suite

7/25/2019 The Pay Index

This month, at The Pay Index we wanted to know how many years on average it took to reach the C-Suite. We examined our global database of 22,000 of the most senior executives across 108 countries and found some interesting data.
We found that it took on average 21-24 years of experience to reach a non-CEO, C-Level position. To progress to the next step of CEO it took another 8-10 years.


While we were mining the data, we also saw some interesting variances across location and industry. We’ve highlighted a few of those variances below.
Can you reach the C-Suite faster in certain geographies?
In a word, yes. When we compared the USA, UK and Rest of World (ROW) we found that the average experience was much higher to reach the C-Level in the US and was its lowest in the ROW.

CEO's represent the largest group of executives in our data and of course are the most senior leaders in the company so were the natural place to start the analysis. We identified a trend that CEO's in the USA had many more years of experience than CEO's in the UK and the ROW and it also took longer to reach that position.


Interestingly we also saw a data spike of CEO appointments made after just 16-20 years of experience in the ROW.


As CTO’s are the second most represented C-Level position in our dataset we decided to investigate that role next. We found a similar result as the CEO data, only using 25 years as our benchmark.  52% of USA CTO’s have at least 25 years’ experience, whereas in the ROW only 25% of CTO’s have at least 25 years’ experience.


While we have only highlighted CTO and CEO data, we did see all C-Level positions follow the same trend that ROW senior executives reach the C-suite the fastest, followed by the UK and then finally the USA.
Does industry sector reveal any variances?
We also looked at industry sector to see if certain industries hired C-level executives with fewer years of experience.

A few interesting bullet points jumped out.
  • CHRO. While on average it takes 24 years to become a CHRO, in a tech firm it’s only 21 and in professional services it is just 18 years.
  • CFO. We saw an unusual distribution in the CFO data. We saw the average amount of experience for a CFO starts to tail off after 20 years. While we can draw no conclusions, we did have a hypothesis that CFO’s may start to make the jump up to CEO once they have reached 25-30 years of total experience.
  • FMCG companies. Across all C-Level positions we saw that the average experience was approximately 3 years longer to reach the C-Suite than average across all other industries.
Our Conclusions

While analysing if there was a faster route to the C-suite we saw a definitive variance in years of experience, global location and industry.
  • C-Level appointments seemed to be made the fastest in ROW, followed by the UK and then the USA.
  • Tech and professional services tended to have C-level positions with lower than average years of experience.
  • FMCG companies typically have C-level employees with 3 years more experience than other industries.
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