Updated: Oct 31
Which industries harbour the youngest (and oldest) company leadership teams?
The rise of young CEOs in the UK has been thrust into the limelight in recent years with the likes of Gymshark’s Ben Francis and BBC Dragon Steven Bartlett very much at the helm. Individuals in their 20s and 30s effectively managing bigger enterprises is no longer a rarity, unlike in the past.
Millennials will make up an estimated 75% of the global workforce by 2025, meaning businesses will have to adopt more diverse styles of leadership to better suit the generation.
With the rise of technology and the ease of accessing information, young leaders are now taking their place at the forefront of the UK's most successful companies.
An emerging cohort of talented and passionate young professionals is proving that having fewer years of experience is no barrier to success in running a successful business. In fact, according to a recent study by Companies House, 49% of new business owners are aged between 25 - 40, with only those 9.6% of businesses set up by those aged between 57 - 75.
With hundreds of new companies launching every day, growing a successful business can be made easier with funding support through avenues such as asset finance to help obtain essential equipment and minimise big payments and major outlays during the early stages of a company’s growth.
In light of this, Approved Business Finance used Companies House and analysed 2,000 founders, CEOs and managing directors across 20 different sectors to reveal the average age of business leaders for different industries across the UK.
THE AVERAGE AGE OF CEO'S AND MANAGING DIRECTORS IN THE UK BY INDUSTRY*
Travel and Tourism
Warehousing and Distribution
Homeware and Interiors
Energy and Utilities
Food and Beverages
Creative Arts and Design
Accounting and Finance
Building and Construction
Transport and Logistics
Overall Average Age
YOUNG LEADERS OF TODAY:
Travel and tourism is the youngest sector on average with company leaders operating in this space aged 50 years old. Some of the notable firms with young leadership teams include Europamundo, Intrepid Travel, and Beyond the Glass Adventure having managing directors aged 45 and under despite the average age.
Following closely behind is healthcare with leaders' average age being 51. Similarly, medical devices company, Open Biopics, is co-owned by a 33-year-old who began entrepreneurship at 17. The research shows that this sector has many individuals in their 30s - which could be the beginning of change for the future of healthcare.
Similarly, fashion and manufacturing have managing directors aged 53. The youngest founder in the research, Anthony Mellor, comes from the manufacturing industry, with a 25-year-old founder and director leading one of the UK's top clothing manufacturing businesses, White2Label.
THE INDUSTRIES MANAGED BY THE OLDER GENERATION:
Architecture was revealed to have on average the highest age (59) in director positions, with the majority of managers being between the ages of 50 - 70. However, the industry may look different in years to come with reports that there has been a 5% increase in university applications for this sector in 2022 compared to 2019 potentially generating a new batch of leadership talent.
Automotive and transport and logistics are equal in the same position (58). Interestingly, across the top 100 companies in each sector, none had an average age below 50 years old. Some of the biggest companies today such as Tesla, Amazon and L’Oreal are all directed by those aged 50 and above.
The research could reveal that these similar industrial sectors could be generational, as within the construction industry 574,275 businesses are family owned and within transport over 250,000 are family enterprises.
With the changing business landscape, millennials and Gen Z are quickly climbing the corporate ladder to be in leadership positions at a younger age than the industry average suggests.
DOES AGE MATTER IN LEADERSHIP?
There is often a debate as to whether age equals experience.
Older executives possess business knowledge over the years and may have a bigger advantage in understanding how to lead an organisation. But with a constantly changing business landscape, it’s key to incorporate a diverse leadership team.
Creating a team with a mixture of ages has many benefits. Younger executives may be more tech-savvy and might be quicker to bring a fresh perspective whereas an older director will often have years of experience and contacts.
Combining both sets of expertise and knowledge could have the potential to boost productivity and create an innovative workplace. Older employees may pick up newer skills and in return, younger employees can benefit from the experience of senior executives.
Hayley Smith, Communications Director at BE YELLOW shares the impact of a young leadership team:
“It is interesting, but not surprising that we are seeing a rise in young leaders. With the rise of YouTube and social media, younger people have gained access to online training, and skill development - opportunities that previous generations didn’t necessarily have access to. They are also learning key innovative and creative skills that they then apply to leadership roles.
“Younger leaders are more likely to challenge the status quo and we have seen on several occasions that young people drive and make permanent change.”
Whatever someone's age, deciding to start a business or take the next step into leadership can be daunting. Having financial support can help to kickstart the processes and minimise pressures.
Approved Business Finance used Companies House to discover the names and ages of CEOs, Managing Directors or Founders of the top 100 British companies across a range of industry sectors. Using this, an average age was determined.
Data correct as of July 2023.