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More CEOs have international experience then 20 years ago, study finds

By Mario Cywinski |

As the world is becoming smaller, with the advent of the Internet, e-mail and wireless communications, the need for international experience is more important now then it has ever been.

As a result, 37 per cent of Canadian Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) have at least some international work experience, according to a new study. Over 20 years ago, only a quarter of CEOs could say the same thing,

Breaking this down even further, CEOs who are in the financial services sector are the most likely to have international experience (47 per cent), second is a consumer business CEO (44 per cent) and an industrial and natural resources CEO is third at 34 per cent, said a Russell Reynolds Associates survey.

"While today international experience is still somewhat of a differentiator in evaluating CEO and senior management candidates, a decade from now we fully expect it to be a required competency," said Shawn Cooper, Country Manager, Russell Reynolds Associates.

In turn, where are CEOs gaining this experience? Currently, 69 per cent of CEOs are gaining their knowledge outside of the United States. This includes: Western Europe, the United Kingdom, Mexico and Latin America. Interestingly, this is a shift from 20 years ago, when 62 per cent of CEOs gained their international experience in the U.S.

Gaining experience on one occasion is an achievement; however, six per cent of CEOs have had four or more occasions.

Unfortunately, what is alarming is that 63 per cent of CEOs do not have any international experience.

"Research suggests that the ability of a CEO to operate at a global level is greatly enhanced by having prior global work experience," said Trevor Hunter, co-author of the study and Associate Professor at King's University College at the University of Western Ontario. "If the current trend holds, Canadian firms risk having an inadequate pipeline of executives with the necessary global experience and breadth of perspective to succeed in the global marketplace."

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