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Filling in the gap – and much more

Interim management has been a proven method for cost reduction and gaining a competitive edge with Western European and American companies for more than a decade, but companies in Hungary have just started to realize its benefits over the last few years.

Not only have the number of interim managers in Hungary increased significantly over the last several years, but a new generation of professionals has entered the market. As a recent study conducted jointly by Interim Management Resourcing (IMR) and the Budapest Business Journal shows, the job is not only for managers over 45 any longer: nowadays, a growing number of young managers also choose this form of living.

While for obvious reasons (professional experience, stable financial background allowing a hectic workflow), the relative majority (31%) of interim managers that took part in the study were between 50 and 60 years old, nearly 20% of them were from the age group of between 40 and 45, and 22% were below 40.

The same shift, however, cannot be seen when it comes to gender issues. In spite of the fact that women in general have numerous skills that make them good in this job – such as empathy, high emotional intelligence, good communication skills, great networking abilities –, they are represented with only a 20% share on the market. The study also points out that on the other hand, women are usually less flexible due to family ties, and many of them, by nature, loathe uncertainty – which definitely comes with the job.

As for the growing popularity and acceptance of this profession, the study reveals that while a few years ago there were only about 100 registered interim managers in the country, today there are more than 1,000. However, statistics don’t always reflect reality, and this is also the case here: out of the 1,000 registered interim managers, only about 250–300 are ready to jump in to a certain position – approximately 30–40 in each area. The rest of them probably considered it as an alternative option during their job-seeking process.

Nonetheless, active interim managers tend to work in a more organized way. Two years ago, when the last research on the topic was carried out by IMR, 80% of the interim managers queried found an assignment through their own personal network, and only 20% used the help of an agency. Today, the ratio is 75% and 25%, respectively.

Despite the growing acceptance of the profession, Hungary lags behind the Anglo-Saxon manager culture, the study concludes. Data from UK-based interim management agency Pilot Partners shows that the profession went through a massive development over the last two decades. There were only six interim management service providers on the UK market in 1990. Ten year later, 30 such companies were active on the market, and the number of has exceeded 300 by today. The number of interim managers also reflects rapid growth, rising from 250 in 1990 to 6,000 now.

This job, however, is not for everyone. It requires special abilities and skills, and can be perfect for those seeking constant challenges. But it also demands the adoption of a new way of life. An assignment is only for a certain period of time during which the person needs to work at full speed without any vacations – but these periods might be followed by months without a job. According to the IMR-BBJ research, the average length of assignments in Hungary varies between three months and 12 or more months. Most commonly, a job is for 3 to 9 months (28% in the study), but assignments of more than a year are also common. The latter indicates that gap management is also a popular way of weathering a crisis in a company’s life – for example, when someone goes on maternity leave or extended sick leave.

In Hungary, companies in the automotive, manufacturing and FMCG sectors have the greatest demand for interim managers: half of the assignments are in these sectors. The health and pharmaceutical sectors come next with 18%, followed by IT and telecom with 14%. Financial and service provider companies are equally represented with 9% each.

However, the study states that hiring an interim manager has more to do with the size and culture of the company than with the given sector. Hungarian subsidiaries of international companies are the most likely to employ interim managers, but an increasing number of medium and small-sized firms are realizing the benefits as well.

When it comes to assignment fees, IMR data shows that more than 60% of interim managers make HUF 70,000–220,000 a day, only 3% of them are paid less than a daily HUF 30,000, and 4% of them earn above HUF 220,000. The study notes that while the salary of a top manager has additional costs such as bonuses, car and mobile phone expenses, an interim manager only gets paid for the days he actually worked for the company – so at the end of the day, hiring an interim manager costs less to the company than employing one on a contract.

(Patricia Fischer)