“Our belief is that it will only accelerate next year as people delay retirement,” said Jeff Sanders, co-management partner of Heidrick’s Global CEO and board practice, said.
There were 103 CEO appointments in the first half of 2021 out of 1,095 companies in the 24 regions Heidrick studied, including the United States, China and several European countries.
Six months ago, in the second half of 2020, 49 companies changed CEOs, according to the research.
Most companies retained their leadership positions last year as they closed ranks in response to the challenges of the pandemic. But when it retreated with vaccine support, the companies felt they were stable enough to find a new leader, Sanders said.
“Many CEOs don’t have to travel that much,” Sanders said. But communicating “virtual” in a new medium is “tired,” he said.
The reluctance of many boards to meet with CEO candidates or place risky bets on outsiders during the protracted pandemic favors internal candidates, the study found. Nearly two-thirds of all new CEOs are internal candidates, up from just over half in the same period in 2020.
Women accounted for 13% of all new CEOs in the first half of this year, up from 6% in the previous period in the regions the report studied.
However, the disturbance did not lead to huge strides in diversity, according to the study. The results show that 3% of Fortune’s 100 CEOs are black, 4% are Hispanic or Latino, 4% are Asian, and 1% are Middle Eastern or North African, less than the percentage of them in the US population.
“I don’t think (CEO diversity) is where it needs to be,” Sanders said.