Firms turn to finance for CEO posts

Britain’s largest companies are increasingly turning to chief executives with a background in finance, according to Robert Half’s annual FTSE 100 CEO Tracker.

The tracker analyses the background and experience of CEOs from the UK’s 100 largest companies by market capitalisation. In the past year 56% of new CEOs – either those recently appointed or leaders of new FTSE 100 entrants – have an accountancy or financial management background, compared with 55% in 2012.

“The risk and regulation agenda is driving demand for those with finance skills who can oversee all operational reporting groups within a business,” said Phil Sheridan, the managing director of Robert Half UK.

The proportion of FTSE 100 CEOs with finance backgrounds has remained stable at between 49% and 52% over the past four years, following a sharp rise from 31% in 2008.

“We anticipate that this demand will carry on for the foreseeable future, which means that finance continues to be a great career path for those looking to climb to the top of the career ladder,” Sheridan said.

The next most common background after finance was engineering/natural resources (21%), followed by retail/hospitality (9%), marketing/advertising (8%) and technology (4%).

A boys’ club

The vast majority of chief executives are men (97%) and are at least 50 years old (81%), according to the tracker. The average age of 53 is the same as it was 2012. 

There are still only three women CEOs; and 17.3% of directors are women, down 0.1% from last year.

“The diversity mix in the FTSE’s top boardrooms is beginning to change, but perhaps not quickly enough,” Sheridan said.

“Great talent can be found and nurtured across the gender, background and age spectrum, and companies should review their succession planning and recruitment strategies to ensure they can leverage the range of talent available.”