The Harvard Business Review previously reported that a wave of around 700 retirements would mean the loss of over 27,000 years of experience. With this much talent leaving the workforce, it would most certainly have a serious effect on the economy. The wealth of knowledge and experience held by retirees is so valuable that it has given rise to the term, the Expert Economy.
The term refers to a sector of retired experts in their respective industries who generally hire out their skills and knowledge on a consultancy or interim management basis during their retirement days. With the ongoing struggle among employers to identify, hire, and retain top talent, the thought of tapping into the “expert economy” and bringing experts back to the workplace but on a consultancy or ‘associate’ basis is now a popular option.
One such company taking advantage of this hiring trend is EXEO Capital, an Africa-focused private equity firm, who is working with retired and semi-retired senior executives with successful track records from across Africa to assist as ‘associate executives’ on their investee company’s growth strategies. Herman Marais, Managing Partner at EXEO Capital, says that because of these associates’ many years of experience, they are well placed to mentor and support younger management teams in driving operational performance improvement.
Marais explains that nowadays it’s becoming common for businesses to choose to bring in semi-retired executives whose years of industry experience help them advise on specialised short-term projects or problems instead of hiring someone in on a permanent basis. “It’s not always feasible to hire a full-time specialist especially from a cost perspective, which is why companies are deciding to rather hire in experienced talent from a select network on an ad hoc basis. Often these associates are also able to bring in a fresh perspective and offer valuable lessons for internal company management.”
Marais says that EXEO also chose to make use of the expert economy to strengthen the execution capacity within the firm’s portfolio companies. “We have seen that our associate executives can evaluate and guide, in a matter of days, a practical resolution to a problem situation that might take a young manager or analyst weeks to do before any action starts. The feedback from our associate executives is that they derive great fulfilment from the opportunity to plough back their experience into the growth and success of younger companies and managers. Our positive experience in working with associate executives leads us to encourage other retired or semi-retired executives to consider doing the same.”
One such associate executive currently working with EXEO Capital is Willard Zvitya, a retired Zimbabwean executive who is now extending his industry experience to companies in the rest of the East Africa region. Zvitya says “Working as an associate executive has given me a golden opportunity to share my experience with younger executives, however, I am not doing their work for them. I am able to help younger executives to learn and complete tasks faster because I have in the past seen and dealt with most of the problem situations they are encountering”.
Mr Terence Davidson, a retired banking executive from Kenya, found himself very busy in serving as non-executive and independent director at small and medium-sized growth companies in East Africa. Davidson says “I derive great satisfaction and excitement from working with these younger entrepreneurs and their growth companies. It seems that they value what I can bring to the table. It is a win-win situation.”
Marais concludes by saying that it is counter-productive for businesses and the economy not to capitalise on the valuable experience and expertise of senior executives with successful track records. “South Africa is one of the focus countries in EXEO Capital’s operations. We find it paradoxical that, while South Africa has the strongest base of managerial and technical experience in the region, this resource is not well utilised in the economy at large”.
About EXEO Capital
EXEO Capital is a pan- African, mid-market private equity investment manager with operations in nine countries in Sub-Sahara Africa. Operating from offices in Cape Town and Nairobi, EXEO Capital manages the Agri-Vie Funds I and II (www.agrivie.com), focused on the food & agri sector of the region since 2008. The firm tracks complementary growth investment opportunities in the region with a view to future investment platforms.
EXEO is a financial service provider authorised by the Financial Services Board, Registration number 46251. For more information visit www.EXEOcapital.com.