One in four FTSE 100 CEOs are chartered accountants

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By Andrew Harbison, CA Today

4 May 2016

If you have your sights set on the top job, a background in accountancy is likely to make it happen.

Almost one in four (23%) FTSE 100 CEOs are chartered accountants, according to a report by UK recruitment firm Robert Half.

The report indicates that finance experience is continuing to be the most common career trait amongst the C-suite, with 55% of UK CEOs coming from a financial background.

CEOs with a background in the retail and hospitality sector came second, making up 21% of the list, followed by 15% from an engineering career, 15% from marketing, and 14% coming from a career in the tech industry.

The most common CEO career backgrounds in the FTSE 100

  1. Finance: 55%
  2. Retail and hospitality: 21%
  3. Engineering: 15%
  4. Marketing: 15%
  5. Technology: 14%

Highlighting the advantages of coming from a financial career background, Phil Sheridan, UK Managing Director at Robert Half, said: “In these increasingly complex global operating environments, leaders who are able to traverse the commercial landscape while maintaining strong fiscal responsibility are in greatest demand.

"This trend is supported by this year’s findings where  experience within a single industry combined with a foundation in finance is what organisations seek from those taking the helm.”

FTSE 100: Still a boys club?

Six women are now heading up FTSE 100 companies, the report said. Although this is an improvement on last year's number by one, it means that only two women have taken up the CEO title in the FTSE 100 in the past five years.

Gender imbalance in the board room has been in the spotlight recently. Last year the Treasury announced it had invited Virgin Money Chief Executive Jayne-Anne Ghadia to lead a review into fairness, equality and diversity in financial institutions. This led to the government backed 'Women in finance charter', tying the bonuses of executives of firms who sign up to internal gender balance targets.

Last month, Newton Investment Management chief executive Helena Morrissey, who is the founder of the '30% Club' which focuses on  increasing the number of women on FTSE 100 boards, spoke of her concern that this initiative may end up 'backfiring' .

Helena said that firms  “don’t want to alienate men or have women feeling men are going to resent [them]” and that the bonus requirements of the charter may be "confrontational".

The report also found that a fifth of FTSE 100 CEOs are Oxbridge educated. The majority (60%) are British citizens, with 20 different nationalities featuring among CEOs in the FTSE 100.


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