The changing face of the CEO

It's not just policeman and sports stars that are getting younger. So are CEOs, apparently.

Last Updated: 06 Nov 2012

Recruitment firm Odgers Ray & Berndtson has compared the profile of today’s FTSE 100 CEOs with their counterparts in 1984, the year the index was launched. And it found that the picture has changed considerably: today’s bosses are younger, better-educated, more international, and less inclined to spend their evenings at the club with a nice cognac.

Odgers found that the average age of a CEO has fallen from 60 to 52, while 95% were educated to degree level (compared to about two-thirds of 1984 bosses). The leaders of UK plc have also become much more cosmopolitan – the number of non-British bosses has more than doubled to 42, while a much greater range of nationalities is now represented. Although whether that will still be the case in five years, after Alistair Darling starts squeezing non-doms for another 30 grand in tax every year, remains to be seen…

Odgers hints that the upper echelons of British business are a bit less ‘old school tie’ than they used to be. The number of Oxbridge-educated CEOs has halved. The number with a membership of a gentleman’s club has dropped from 63 to a measly 18, with the most popular clubs in 1984 (Boodles, White’s and the Athenaeum) not meriting a single mention this time around. And there are now just five knights of the realm, compared to 32 in 1984. Ian Fleming will be spinning in his grave...

Of course it’s possible that gentleman’s clubs – like hunting and shooting, also much less popular now than in 2004 – are considered less socially acceptable, so CEOs just won’t admit to them. Or it could be that the international influx means that traditional British backgrounds (and pastimes) have become less prevalent. ‘London is unambiguously the one-world city in Europe,’ says Odgers boss Richard Boggis-Rolfe (whose ex-Cambridge/ ex-Army background suggests he’s no stranger to the odd game of backgammon with an old school chum in the Boodles pipe-smoking room of an evening).

Then again, in some ways we've hardly progressed at all. Back in 1984, there were no female CEOs – 25 years on there are only two. Plus ca change, and all that...

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