Swiss companies are increasingly turning to foreign candidates as they look to switch chief executives. Last year, 50% of all CEO candidates at the largest-listed Swiss companies came from abroad (10% more than 2014). By comparison, foreigners made up 23% of new CEOs hires worldwide.
The findings of the study, compiled by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and Strategy&, were largely in line with an earlier report by headhunter firm guidoschilling. This broader study revealed that 43% of new executive hires (not just CEOs) and 60% of new board members at a larger selection of firms last year were foreigners.
The PwC/Strategy& report listed three possible reasons for the foreign trend: an increase in takeovers and shareholder activism; more companies getting into financial difficulties; and a “natural preference” for non-Swiss CEOs, which has become more pronounced with each generation.
The wider debate over foreign workers has heated up since a referendum in 2014 called on the government to set limits on the number of migrants. Numbers of immigrants had risen significantly after Switzerland agreed a bilateral agreement with the European Union on the free movement of people.
But this has not stopped more non-Swiss being interviewed and appointed to the top executive jobs at Swiss firms.
The number of foreign companies setting up in Switzerland (264) dropped 4% last year on 2014. But the number of jobs these new arrivals created increased significantly – from 780 in 2014 to 1,082 in 2015.