Foreigners swell Swiss managerial ranks

One Swiss hotshot who's not Swiss: Converium's CEO Inga Kristine Beale is British (Converium) Converium

Switzerland has the highest number of foreigners in managerial positions in Europe - around half of its top managers are not Swiss.

This content was published on January 4, 2006

The main reason offered by the study from Fribourg University is that many important firms in Switzerland are actually domiciled outside the country.

Researchers said that part of the reason for the high concentration of foreigners was due to companies domiciled abroad sending someone from headquarters to work in a branch in Switzerland.

This would explain, for instance, why so many Germans were managers of the Swiss arm of a German company.

While the market for managers is international in Switzerland, language barriers appear to be harder to overcome.

Germans are almost exclusively economically active in German-speaking Switzerland.

The study found that homegrown talent tended to stick to the region which spoke their mother tongue. Hence, those from the French- and Italian-speaking parts of the country did not stray far when pursuing their careers.

Not as educated

The results also revealed that the percentage of managers who have a university degree is lower in Switzerland than in Germany.

Managers with a doctorate are rare – 25 per cent in Switzerland compared to 50 per cent in its neighbour.

Swiss managers tend to begin their careers as bank employees, bookkeepers, insurance salespeople or as administrative staff.

For those with a university degree, the subject of choice was economics and business studies.

About half of first degrees were taken in Switzerland, with St Gallen University and the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich being the most popular.

Swiss firms hold one principle dear – those who wish to rise in the ranks have to work their way up the ladder, one step at a time.

Chief executive officers tend to start their careers in other companies but work on average for nearly ten years at one firm before taking over the reins.

Only 16.7 per cent of managers have changed companies more than three times.


Key facts

The study by Fribourg University analysed the CVs of 700 managers from 100 firms listed on the Swiss Performance Index (SPI).
59% were Swiss.

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