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Latest News - The New Generation Of Interim Managers (22/03/2009)

Sunday Mar 22

Young Guns look to make their mark in Interim world

A new breed of interims is invading the territory traditionally held by 50-something white males. Steve Hemsley finds out how three of them cope with clients' preconceptions about age and experience.

The world of interims has long been characterised by the colour grey - grey-haired 50-something executives whose life skills and experience is what makes them so employable. They are the business elders who trade on long service rather than youthful looks.

However, this traditional interim world of 55-plus white males eschewing the corporate life to maximise their earning potential and work more flexibly is being invaded. A new breed of young high flyers in their 30s (see case studies left and pages 40 and 42), with an increasing number of women in their ranks, is striving to make its way in this potentially lucrative sector.

The latest Russam GMS Interim Management Monitor survey of 7,500 interim managers in December 2007 confirms the trend: more young interims are in work than their older counterparts. Some 56% of those in their late 20s and 30s were on assignment, 55% in their 40s were in work, while the figures for those in their 50s and 60s were 52% and 44% respectively. There is no accurate breakdown of just how many interims are in their 20s and 30s, but providers agree that this group is increasing in size.

"Over the past 15 years there has been a big shift in demographics as interim management has become a more acceptable career path at an earlier age. Younger interims bring different skills," says Raj Tulsiani, CEO at Green Park Interim and Executive Resourcing. Paul Blant, head of interims at recruitment firm WH Marks Sattin, says: "The interim market was built almost entirely on people who had reached the pinnacle of their careers. 'Newer' interims tend to have had backgrounds at a 'top four' accounting firm, or are heavily transactional-focused or have extensive consulting experience at an operational level. They will have been exposed to a number of different businesses in a short period of time and at an early age, and are able to assess problems and decide on solutions quickly."

Nick Robeson, chief executive of Boyden Interim Management and chair of the Interim Management Association (IMA), says the average age of his interims is 43. "All members of the IMA report real diversity on their databases with more women on their books and more people coming in aged 35 to 37," he says. "These younger executives have been through 10 years of growth, done very well professionally and are now choosing the interim route to get a better work-life balance."
Interim providers agree younger people have had the chance to prove themselves in permanent management roles at a much earlier age than their predecessors.

According to Tulsiani younger interims also tend to have the technical as well as management expertise clients crave. Companies are being forced to become leaner and show more loyalty to their shareholders than to their employees and that is forcing more use of young interims. "It means younger managers and directors are taking more responsibility for their own career progression," he says.
Cynics might argue that younger interims are simply a cheaper alternative to their older counterparts and, increasingly, to management consultants. Caroline Oates, executive managing consultant at interim provider Strategi Search and Selection, fiercely disputes this. "Their rates are the same or sometimes higher because they tend to be more focused on finances," she says. "When people are coming to the end of their career they often take interim roles because they are not ready to retire. It is not so much about money. Younger interims are more driven by their hobbies and families and they are more confident about the rates they expect."

The Russam GMS poll shows how salaries vary. In December the average daily rate for interims in their 20s and 30s was £496, while those in their 40s commanded £599, the 50-somethings £593 and those in their 60s £524.

So should older interims be crying into their beer? Not yet. There is a feeling that as the country creeps towards recession many clients will look to employ interims with experience of economic downturn. Only those in their late 40s, 50s and 60s would have been in senior management posts during the early 1990s deep recession.
"A bit of grey hair may make the client more comfortable in some industries, although in other sectors it will still be more important to recruit an interim with relevant and up-to-date skills to get a company through difficult times," says Alan Horn, chief executive of The Albermarle Group.

Bruce Page, CEO at Ashton Penny Interims, is cautious about whether the trend towards younger interims will accelerate this year. "Two things have to happen before someone under 45 can make a good career as an interim. They need to get the experience other people are prepared to pay for and must have the confidence to sell that experience, something that often only comes with age," he says.
- Deepa Patel, age 31

When the next elections to the European Parliament are held in 2009 don't rule out seeing Deepa Patel campaigning for a position of power.
This 31-year old lawyer has been an interim since 2004 and says her career has allowed her to indulge her passion for European politics. "I am fascinated by the diverse cultures and communities across Europe and how they deal with the same barriers differently," she explains.

Her love of politics was the springboard to her life as an interim. She persuaded the legal director at the law firm where she worked to hold open her job for three months while she tested the political waters as a temp at the Department of Education and Skills. "People there realised I had more to offer and they liked my risk-taking approach so I was offered projects to manage," she says. "I worked on the Sector Skills Development Agency (SSDA) launch and was at the department for two years." Her knowledge of the SSDA led to project management roles in other government departments and organisations such as Investors in People before she moved to London from her home in Yorkshire to take her interim career to the next level. In the past few years she has tended to work in stakeholder engagement and contract management positions. "People were telling me to move to the capital to make it as an interim," she says. "I took on a role at Help The Aged which was a stepping stone into the charity sector."

When Patel first decided to carve out an interim career she feared discrimination because of her cultural background as well as her age. She is a British-born Indian. "People do discriminate consciously or otherwise, more so in cities outside of London," she says. "To succeed as a young interim you must be confident and professional, but I do not put my age or nationality on my CV as these are not as relevant as the skills I have." She admits there can be difficulties managing teams comprising members who are older than her. "There can be conflicts if older people report to you but this is all about building relationships and equal respect whatever their age."


Patel is on the books of interim provider Penna and feels clients get many benefits from using younger interims. "We are often more flexible with fewer personal ties so we can move around at short notice." Patel is single and loves the flexibility that being an interim offers her. She usually takes a two-month break between contracts to enjoy holidays and catch up with DIY jobs at home - as well as add to her political experience.

- Craig Ing, age 35
As a former marine who has played tennis with Tim Henman, Craig Ing is not your typical interim. With a bit more practice he might have spent the past 20 years touring the professional tennis circuit, having represented Great Britain as a youngster. But his life took a different turn at 16 when he admits "beer and birds" took over. He joined the marines at 17 but left to work at a friend's computer business in Slough. "I preferred getting up at 9am and earning £11,000," he says.
Ing's ability to focus on what he wants to achieve, whether in sport or in his personal life, has served him well as an interim. At 35 he has held several change and integration management roles at director level. Since December 2006 he has been working at Transport for London (TfL) as head of programmes and operations in a role organised through agency Green Park Interim and Executive Resourcing. A replacement has just been recruited by TfL so Ing expects to move on within months.


His interim career began at 3Com in Hemel Hempstead where he trained the IT team. He then spent one year as a project manager at Unipart in Cowley near Oxford, developing pre-sales software solutions. "This gave me exposure to the retail sector and the Department of Health and MoD." He remembers only one occasion where age has been an issue. "When I was 25 I was put forward to deliver software solutions for IBM Global Services' clients," he says. "One of the clients wanted to meet the team first and I was asked directly how someone as young as me could help them with their strategy. I was confident enough to push the question back to them and promptly listed my experience and asked if these were the skills they wanted. The subject never came up again.


This should never be a debate about age, but the older interims I work with are not always that dynamic," he adds. "They will tell me this is the way something has worked for them for 30 years so why should they change. I can often see different solutions by thinking more laterally." He adds: "It is encouraging that the interim market has become less ageist and younger people are being given the chance to show what they can do."

- Benne Peto, age 40
Benne Peto is a prime example of experience knocking age for six.
She is only 40 but her career is impressive. As an interim she has held HR director posts at Thresher Group, Lloyds TSB Consumer Banking and Starbucks UK. She has been project consultant for Whitbread Group and spent two years as group HR director for Austin Reed Group. Her last permanent role was as head of HR for Superdrug. She is just coming to the end of a six-month human resources contract at BAE Systems booked through provider Strategi Search and Selection. She is responsible for human resources within the e-Capability division and has identified and delivered a new structure and recruited a permanent head of human resources.
"I have worked in HR since I was 30 although my background is in retail management and in consultancy with Accenture," she says. "I have been an interim for seven years but it was not a planned career move - I was made redundant. But the lifestyle suits me because I have a young family."


Peto is strict about when she works so that she can spend more time with her three children during the school holidays. "I tell clients I always take the whole of August off and they can usually accommodate this," she says. She adds that her earnings have increased by about 50% since she moved from a permanent role to an interim career. "There are some downsides to being an interim with a young family because when you are working it is full-on. Luckily my husband works from home and we have a nanny," she says.


Clients love to tap into her strategic HR, organisational development and design skills as well as her change management, training and generalist HR abilities.
She believes age can be a big advantage in the modern world of interims. "I have headed some big projects at major employers, some when I was relatively young," she says. "When clients are paying a premium for that experience they also need to know that person will deliver. Today they want interims who have energy, drive and are adaptable and hands-on."

Source: HR Magazine - 2008

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