Career in finance and accounting is fast track to the top of companies worldwide

09 June 2014
  • Vast majority (87%) of companies across the world say that a career in finance and accounting improves chances of being appointed to the executive board.
  • Similar proportion (86%) believe that finance professionals have stronger chance of becoming Chief Executive.
  • Two thirds of companies (67%) believe that compared to 10 years ago there are more opportunities today for women to progress through the ranks in finance and accounting.

London, 9 June, 2014 – A background in finance and accounting makes you much more likely to secure a position on the executive board and even bag the top company spot of CEO, finds new international research1 from specialist recruiter Robert Half UK.  The majority (87%) of senior finance professionals surveyed across 16 different countries said that a background in finance and accounting improves one’s chances of being appointed to the executive board, while 86% said that it would make it more likely for individuals to secure a CEO position.

The study suggests that finance and accounting professionals are most likely to secure positions on the executive board in China (98% of respondents), Brazil (96%), Australia (95%), Singapore (95%), Hong Kong (94%), Japan (93%) and France (91%) and least likely in Switzerland (78%) and the Netherlands (75%).  Eighty-three per cent of UK Financial Directors (FDs) believe that those with a finance and accounting background are more likely to be promoted to the executive board.

The majority (86%) of companies also believe that a background in finance and accounting lead to a CEO position, echoing findings from Robert Half’s recent FTSE 100 CEO Tracker, which found that half (50%) of FTSE 100 leaders had a finance background.  There is a stronger perceived link between finance and accounting and securing a CEO role in Australia (96% of respondents), Hong Kong (95%), Singapore (95%), China (95%), Brazil (91%) and Japan (90%), but a weaker link in the Netherlands (75%) and New Zealand (74%).  Eighty-one per cent of FDs in the UK believe that those with a finance and accounting background are more likely to be promoted to CEO.

CFOs were asked, “In general, do you think that a background in finance and accounting improves one's chances of being appointed to the…”:

 

Executive board

Chief Executive

Global average

87%

86%

China

98%

95%

Brazil

96%

91%

Australia

95%

96%

Singapore

95%

95%

Hong Kong

94%

95%

Japan

93%

90%

France

91%

89%

Austria

88%

84%

UAE

88%

83%

Chile

86%

87%

New Zealand

86%

74%

The United Kingdom

83%

81%

Germany

82%

79%

Belgium

81%

81%

Switzerland

78%

80%

The Netherlands

75%

75%

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As well as contributing to individuals’ progression through the ranks, finance and accounting skills stand females in good stead when advancing their careers, according to the study.  Overall, 67% of global respondents said that compared to 10 years ago, there are more opportunities for women to progress in accounting and finance.

This rose to 88% in Singapore and 86% in China, whereas expectations are lower in Belgium and the UK (59%) as well as France (51%) and the Netherlands (50%). This may be attributable to the maturity of the market, where the rate of progress is accelerated in emerging economies when compared to more mature markets. 

Regardless, women who want to reach the top CEO position should consider a career in finance and accounting, with an overall 91% of global FDs reporting that this will help women achieve their ambition to become CEO.  FDs also report that a background in finance and accounting will help women reach the executive board: an overall 95% of FDs agreed.

Phil Sheridan, senior managing director, Robert Half UK said: “There exists an explicit link between finance and accounting skills and senior leadership opportunities, suggesting there is a clear career path for individuals to follow when trying to progress to the top of the company, to executive board level or even to become CEO. 

“A career in finance and accounting can also help women achieve their career goals, demonstrating a clear understanding of commercial acumen, financial analysis and cost management. With the finance function increasingly playing a role in developing and delivering corporate strategy, partnering with various business units to deliver growth and efficiency, women who also excel in soft skills, including collaboration and communication will be well positioned to rise in the ranks. This trend means that organisations have access to a wider pool of skilled professionals to draw on.” 

-ENDS-

Notes to editors

1 The survey was conducted by an independent research firm and includes responses from 2,431 finance directors/CFOs in 16 countries: Australia; Austria; Belgium; Brazil; Chile; UAE; France; Germany; Hong Kong; New Zealand; Singapore; Switzerland; The Netherlands; UK; Japan and China.

About Robert Half

Robert Half is the world’s first and largest specialised recruitment consultancy and member of the S&P 500. Founded in 1948, the company has over 340 offices worldwide and 18 in the United Kingdom providing temporary, interim and permanent recruitment solutions for accounting and finance, financial services, technology and administrative professionals. Robert Half offers workplace and job seeker resources at roberthalf.co.uk and twitter.com/roberthalfuk.