The anatomy of a ( British) CEO

Result of a survey of CEO backgrounds:

Background: 55% of FTSE 100 chiefs have a background in finance or accounting. 15% come from marketing; 14% technology. The best industries for working through the ranks are retail and hospitality, where around 21% of bosses started out in lowly roles.

Education: The majority of CEOs have at least one university degree; more than a quarter have an MBA or PhD. The number of Oxbridge graduates has fallen from 21% in 2012 to 18%.

Age and gender: The average age is 55. The oldest FTSE 100 CEO today is 71; the youngest is 40. Just six out of 100 of Britain’s top bosses are women.

Tenure: Promoting from within is out of style: some 70% of CEOs moved to their role from another organisation. Once at the top, “make yourself comfortable” – the average tenure is five years and three months.

Nationality: More than 20 nationalities are represented. (Statistics by recruiter Robert Half written up by Emma Haslett in City AM.)

My comment: What stands out is the proportion of accountants and financiers who run big companies. I have nothing against accountants. They are without exception personable, clever, amusing people with good mathematics, one hopes. What is there to dislike about them? Some of my best friends are, or were, accountants until they took up cooking or flower arranging.

The problem comes if they have no expertise or experience (or particular interest in) people, e.g customers and employees. You can tell this from the tendency in times of company stress to look at the figures and immediately trim staff. Instead, what is needed are clever ideas to boost sales and profits, charismatic leadership, bucking the trend, getting the sales force re-motivated. There are too many bureaucratised, systematised, boring to work for and out of touch people in corporations. And the bosses who are products of business schools are often weak on sales, and not too good, in my opinion, on man management (I have personal experience of this). But he with the key to the safe and the balance sheet will have his way. Meanwhile, running a company is actually mostly about actual people.

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