Blue-chip groups picking finance heads for top job

Marion Dakers
MOST of Britain’s biggest public companies have an accountant or financial manager as their chief executive, continuing a shift towards number-crunching expertise that began with the sovereign debt crisis.

In March, 52 per cent of FTSE 100 bosses came from a finance background, the same proportion as last year but up from 31 per cent in 2008.

The figures from recruiter Robert Half show that companies from other sectors are choosing financial experts for the top jobs, since just 17 of the FTSE 100 are traditional financial firms such as banks, insurers or investment groups.

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

“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.”

Twelve of the FTSE 100’s bosses were promoted directly from a financial role at the same company.

Several others in the last year, including the new heads of BHP Billiton, Barclays and Arm Holdings, have been promoted internally from other management positions.

Taking the average FTSE 100 chief, he has barely aged since the start of the financial crisis: the typical boss was 52 in 2008, rising slightly to 53 years old this year. Just 19 blue-chip leaders are under 50.

The average chief executive is probably university educated, though the number of Oxbridge graduates at the top of FTSE 100 firms has fallen this year, from 21 to 15.

And the typical chief executive is almost certainly male, with just three of the FTSE 100 led by women. The Professional Boards Forum found in March that 17.4 per cent of new board members were women, down 0.1 percentage points on a year ago despite the government calling for more women to take seats in the boardroom.