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Young, Swedish and in charge…

A Nordic private equity firm has appointed one of the youngest chief executives in the European buyout industry, in another example of the region’s propensity to fast-track talented young individuals up the ranks.

Niklas Sloutski, 34, has become chief executive of Swedish mid-market firm Accent Equity Partners, replacing 59-year-old founder Jan Ohlsson, who is himself stepping down after 20 years at the helm.

Sloutski, previously deputy chief executive, will take over day-to-day responsibilities from Ohlsson, who becomes executive chairman.

But a meteoric rise such as Sloutski’s is by no means uncommon within the region, argues Hkan Ekström, managing partner of recruitment firm Odgers Berndston in Stockholm.

“Swedish companies do often have more of a focus on bringing on younger people. There can be a tendency to believe that drive and energy can compensate for experience, so in general you do commonly find more firms looking for younger candidates than in other countries,” he says.

In fact, two of Sweden’s leading manufacturing companies – steel firm SSAB and mobile phones giant Ericsson – are led by extremely young CEOs.

Olof Faxander, who turns 40 this year, took over as chief executive of SSAB in 2005 while Ericsson CEO Hans Vestberg, at 45, may be slightly older but was still very much able to be classed as “youthful” when he stepped into the top-spot in January.

While there is always a risk in appointing someone who is relatively inexperienced to a position of responsibility, one of the important things is the level of access they have to experienced “grey hairs” within the business, suggests Ekström.

At Accent, for example, the fact Ohlsson is staying on as executive chairman means he will still have an active input in the firm.

“What you will often get is experienced people in place behind the scenes for them to call on, such as active non-executive chairmen. At Accent the founders will still be available and at SSAB there was a very experienced non-executive board,” says Ekström.

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