One in five FTSE 100 CEOs is an accountant

Having an accountancy qualification or holding a masters of business administration (MBA) are the two most common routes to the top roles in the UK’s largest companies, according to a survey from recruitment specialist Robert Half

Its research found 25% of the CEOs at FTSE 100 companies hold an MBA, the highest proportion since 2016.  This was followed by chartered accountants, who made up 20%, up from 19% in both 2017 and 2018.

The consultancy says the findings demonstrate that despite businesses undergoing periods of intense technological change including digitisation and automation, traditional business and finance-focused qualifications are still valued, carrying substantial weight at the UK’s leading businesses.

Other postgraduate qualifications were significantly less common. Only 5% of current FTSE 100 CEOs hold a PhD, half the number compared to 2014 (10%). Meanwhile, masters degrees feature on the CVs of just 8% of CEOs, a small increase compared to last year.

Regarding individual universities, alumni of the UK’s leading institutions continue to occupy a disproportionate number of the top roles. Nearly two in five (18%) of the FTSE 100 CEOs graduated from either Oxford or Cambridge universities, a figure which is unchanged from previous years.

Outside of qualifications, the analysis suggests that company experience is also becoming increasingly important. Internal promotions are on the rise, representing 70% of new appointments in the past year, and nearly half (46%) of CEOs overall. Furthermore, 15% of current FTSE 100 CEOs have spent their entire careers with the same company, a figure that has risen every year since 2015 when the number stood at only 7%.

The research shows that industry experience is similarly prized, with 71% of FTSE 100 CEOs having held a senior role in the same industry – the highest level since 2015.

Charlie Grubb, UK managing director at Robert Half Executive Search, said: ‘While traditional qualifications still carry significant weight when it comes to executive positions, it is undeniable that the future of work is changing, and with it, the make-up of the traditional CEO.

‘Digitalisation, regulatory changes and the continuously changing nature of businesses means that CEOs must continue to evolve at a rapid pace, alongside their companies. Successfully adapting and keeping up with the changing face of businesses will require CEOs with strong leadership skills such as effective communication, as well as a right blend of soft and hard skills. This will allow them to succeed in a more digitally enhanced future.

‘Traditional qualifications, experience in relevant sectors and expertise will continue to remain important factors going forward. However, adaptability to change and willingness to evolve alongside the marketplace will distinguish between those businesses that succeed and those that do not.’

Robert Half FTSE 100 CEO Tracker

Pat Sweet | 19-07-2019

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