The majority of chief executive officers (CEOs) heading the UK’s FTSE 100 companies have finance backgrounds, according to a survey by accountancy and finance recruitment firm Robert Half.
However, knowledge of finance rather than specialist experience in the finance function is seen as more important. Only one in 10 of the CEOs in this group were promoted directly from a finance role.
The survey shows a steady increase in the influence of finance in the years since the 2008 financial crisis, when the proportion of FTSE100 CEOs with finance backgrounds was 31%. The percentage quickly jumped to over 50%, except last year when it dipped to 49%.
“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, UK managing director of Robert Half.
“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 very top of the career ladder.”
The 2013 survey, conducted in March, shows 52% of current FTSE 100 CEOs have an accountancy or financial management background. A distant second, with 21%, are CEOs with a background in engineering or natural resources. While IT accounts for a major proportion of a company’s budget, only 4% of CEOs in the FTSE100 come from a technology background.
These results do not indicate that working in the finance function leads to the CEO’s office. In the data, only 12% of the CEOs surveyed had directly moved from a previous finance role in the same company. It is likely that the majority of CEOs, while having a finance background, owe their career development to other business functions.
The research shows that there are just three female chief executives in the FTSE 100 index. The percentage of women joining boards generally has declined slightly to 17.3% from 17.4% previously.
According to Sheridan: “The diversity mix is beginning to change but perhaps not quickly enough. 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.”
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