Switzerland: a land of opportunity for foreign top managers

The dependence of the Swiss economy on executives from other countries is becoming increasingly apparent. Swiss companies often appoint top talent from abroad to their top positions, whether as CEOs or board members, provided they are sufficiently adapted to local realities.

According to Heidrick's "Route To The Top" study, foreigners hold 47% of management positions in companies included in the Swiss SMI Expanded index. This figure is almost double the global average of 25%.

Among the most prominent foreign managers of Swiss companies are American Vasant Narasimhan of Novartis, Swede Bjorn Rosengren of ABB, Italian Mario Greco of Zurich Insurance and Dutch Hanneke Faber of Logitech.

Interest in foreign executives in the Swiss economy is not limited to CEOs. According to a 2023 report by recruitment firm Guido Schilling, foreigners also hold 47% of board seats and 56% of management positions in the country's largest companies.

Foreign board members come from 39 countries and 63% of them have experience in Switzerland or Swiss companies.

According to Marion Fengler-Feith of Heidrick & Struggles, the proportion of foreign CEOs is higher in Switzerland than anywhere else. She notes that Swiss companies need specialists who know global markets and are also seeking more diversity, including more women in leadership positions.

In 2020, the Swiss government decided to introduce quotas for women in large companies from 2026, which may be one of the reasons why the proportion of foreign women on boards has increased to 54%.

However, despite the positive aspects, attracting foreign leaders also comes with challenges. Foreign leaders tend to be more sensitive to pressure from global markets and investors, as they are less tied to the company and need to maintain high performance at all times.

Some experts, including Winfried Ruigrock, professor of international management at the University of St. Gallen, recommend that Swiss companies take a more cautious approach to hiring foreign leaders, starting with lower-level positions and giving them the opportunity to integrate into the company.

Overall, despite some challenges, openness to foreign executives remains an important element of Swiss companies' competitiveness, helping them to successfully adapt to global demands and remain at the forefront of the global economy.


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