Who knew? The average FTSE 100 CEO is a 54-year-old male accountant

Half of the bosses of Britain's biggest companies are still middle-aged male bean counters.

by Rachel Savage
Last Updated: 06 Oct 2015

It’s official: accountants are still hot property. Since the financial crisis, bean counters have been taking over the top of the FTSE 100 and it looks like they’re here to stay.

Half of FTSE 100 chief execs have a background in accounting or financial management, significantly higher than the 31% in pre-credit crunch 2008 but a touch down on 52% last year (when the average FTSE CEO was a 53-year-old accountant - another year on, another year older eh), according to research by recruiters Robert Half.

Lagging the number crunchers are the 18% of FTSE 100 bosses with a retail/hospitality background and 14% who worked in engineering/natural resources. There are only three chief execs with tech backgrounds – Steve Mogford at United Utilities, Liv Garfield at Severn Trent (both water companies) and Peter Sands at Standard Chartered - unsurprising given the lack of British Facebooks and Googles.

On the other hand, marketing and ad people are increasingly making their presence felt, with 10 at the helm now, including Diageo’s Ivan Menezes, easyJet’s Carolyn McCall, GSK’s Andrew Witty and Sainsbury’s Justin King, compared to seven for the past couple of years.

Meanwhile, churn at the top of the table has gone up: 19% of chief execs have been in their job for less than a year, compared with 10% last year and 8% in 2012. The research said the improving economy might have encouraged companies to look again at their leaders; however, others have argued rising expectations are to blame for the higher turnover.

FTSE chiefs are also a pretty clever bunch (you’d hope so anyway), with 28% having done an MBA and 6% qualified with PhDs (another 4% have the honorary kind – Unilever’s Paul Polman has one in civil law from Northumbia University and a ‘social doctorate’ from the University of Gronigen). However, as MT has also pointed out until it’s blue in the face, there are still only four female chief execs.

‘We look forward to the day when diversity at the highest levels stops being a discussion item and becomes a reality,’ said Robert Half’s UK managing director Phil Sheridan. Hear hear.

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