What is an Interim Executive & How Can Cornerstone Help?

Interim Executive

We have seen executive careers take many forms in the past.  Sometimes these career changes were caused by economic conditions, while at other times personal preferences have predominated.  Experienced executives now have a number of options when making their next career choice, which include taking a full-time position, retiring, or focusing on Board work.  And another range of options has become quite popular in recent years: joining the workforce as an interim executive, as a management consultant, as an advisor or as a coach.

As much as these alternatives seem to be independent of the other, over the past 10 years we have witnessed a general trend of executive career options becoming more fluid, interchangeable and often overlapping.  Cornerstone China is at the forefront of helping executives and organizations navigate the options available to them.

What is an Interim Executive

Cornerstone China is a partner firm of Senior Management Worldwide (SMW),

We work primarily with executives who want to work on project basis. We are often asked a number of questions concerning project-based or interim career choices, especially with regard to what an executive can expect and why executives choose this path.  The best way to provide fact-based answers is to find out from a large group of executives, so we asked 13,000 interim managers in 27 countries to participate in a survey. The purpose of this multinational survey was to identify who interim managers are and what they do.  (The Netherlands, Spain, Turkey and USA did not participate in the survey, but comparative values from local surveys that were completed early 2016 in these countries were available to be factored in.)

What is an Interim Executive

Who makes up the interim executive workforce?

With over 54 percent  of the executives surveyed being baby boomers, it is clear that being independent isn’t reserved only for a retired executive who isn’t ready to play golf full time. More executives are seeing the advantage in working as interim managers and the executive-level contingent workforce is growing globally as a pillar of top-quality leadership. This contingent includes an increasing number of female interim managers globally. In Sweden 25 percent and in the UK over 30 percent of interim executives are women, while the rest of Europe counts nearly 20 percent and the APAC countries include over 35 percent of interim managers who are women.

Other key facts about this group of executives (men and women):

  • Their average age is 53 years old
  • They work 200 days or less per year
  • 66 percent were currently on assignment
  • 55 percent who responded were in C-level assignments

What type of positions do interim executives take on?

 We are seeing a growing demand for interims at the CEO and senior executive level.  There are a number of variables impacting these top positions, especially concerning whether a business is family-owned, privately-owned or publicly-traded.  Retirement, health issues and even executive resignations(forced or not) have led to an increased demand for senior interims.  This is reflected in our survey: over 53 percent of the executives provide top-level expertise as CEOs, presidents, CFOs, GMs or VPs. The CFO cohort alone makes up 22 percent of interim senior executives. The top-level executive group is followed by two roles which track in at 24 percent – the non-executive director (NED) and line mangers.

As for functional areas, marketing and sales are the most common interim assignments with 31 percent of respondents leading these initiatives.  While every industry sector was represented in the survey, the top four sectors using interim executives are: (1) manufacturing/engineering, (2) banking/insurance/financial services, (3) biotech/pharmaceutical/chemical, and (4) Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG).

What is an Interim Executive

Why does an executive do interim or management consulting work?

It was clear from our survey that interim executives love the freedom offered by this type of work. Fifty-seven percent of respondents are committed to being interim executives: this option provides a better work/life balance than was available in their previous careers, and they value the ability to choose the types of challenges they want to take on.

It is also consistent work – 75 percent of interim managers find that they have had the same number of enquiries or more over the last five years. This is promising, since we know that the number of enquiries reflects the business or economic cycle in countries where Senior Management Worldwide serves clients.  It also illustrates that more organizations are leveraging the “gig economy” (an environment in which temporary positions are common and organizations contract with independent workers for short-term engagements.)

What are their business and occupational profiles?

Most interim managers accept part-time contracts to have the flexibility to accomplish Board-level or Advisory commitments. For clients, a part-time contract gives them opportunities to obtain more value for their money — a high-caliber interim executive at a reasonable cost.

The average length of a contract is one year, with 90 percent of interim managers having completed two to three assignments during the last three years.

Though there is an extensive range of rates for interim executives and management consultants, over 63 percent of the executives reported client rates between 800€ to 1,400€ per day.

International service is growing in the global economy, with 67 percent of interim managers working for domestic companies with international operations and 57 percent working for international companies in a domestic market.

What is an Interim Executive

How do interim managers find clients?

The route to market for an interim manager is using their personal network or a service provider. Twenty-two percent find new engagements from their personal network and 10 percent from service providers. However, 58 percent of respondents approach one to three service providers for enquiries. In Germany and UK 35 percent of the interim managers approach more than six service providers for enquiries.

International organizations have reduced costs down to the bone in management resources, which means that lack of leadership is one of the most common areas of high risk. This need leads to opportunities for interim executives to engage with new clients. Organizations turn to interim executives for their senior leadership capabilities or strategic perspectives in the following domains:

  • Growth initiatives
  • Turnaround projects
  • M&A integration
  • Change management

It sometimes seems that the life and career of an executive can change as quickly as the weather. The good news is an executive’s career now comes in every shape and size — corporate executive, business owner, start-up entrepreneur, interim executive, management consultant, coach, advisor, board member…the list goes on.

At Cornerstone Interim Executives, we have been educating, advising and placing executives in China for over 20 years. Our partners at Senior Management Worldwide are located in 40 countries and have earned a justifiably sterling reputation for placing interim executives.

For more about us, please email:

Simon Wan

Chief Executive

Cornerstone International Group


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *