Finance skills are the fastest route to the top of FTSE 100 companies

Just over one in ten (12%) moved from a previous finance role within their current company to become CEO, showing immediate progression from CFO or financial management to the top spot.

  • Analysis shows more than half (52%) of FTSE 100 CEOs have a finance background
  • 12% moved from finance role straight to CEO at the same company
  • Number of Oxbridge graduates falls by 29% (from 21 to 15)
  • Women stagnant in attempts to reach CEO and Board-level roles

London, 7 May 2013 – A career in finance is proving to be the best preparation for taking the leading role in the top performing companies on the FTSE index, according to new research from Robert Half UK, the leading recruitment specialist. The annual Robert Half FTSE 100 CEO Tracker analyses the background and experience of current FTSE 100 CEOs and shows that 52% of current CEOs have an accountancy or financial management background compared to 21% with a background in engineering/natural resources, 9% in retail/hospitality, 8% in marketing/advertising, 4% in technology and 6% in other industries.

Just over one in ten (12%) moved from a previous finance role within their current company to become CEO, showing immediate progression from CFO or financial management to the top spot.  The trend continues with the constant transformation of the FTSE 100, with 10 of the 18 new CEOs1 to join the FTSE 100 (whether promoted or newly joining the Index) between 2012 and 2013 having a finance background.

The nine new companies entering the index cover a wide range of industry sectors including transport (TUI Travel and Easyjet), commodities (Glencore) and engineering support services (Babcock).  Newly appointed CEOs include Sam Walsh, CEO of Rio Tinto since January 2013 and Nigel Wilson, the CEO of Legal & General since June 2012.

While the average FTSE 100 CEO continues to be aged 53 and male, there are signs that the diversity agenda is taking hold.  The vast majority of CEOs (81) are at least 50 years old, leaving the remainder of 19 under 50.  The number of ‘Oxbridge’ graduates has fallen by 28%, from 21 in 2012 to 15 in 2013, while the number of women CEOs remains low at three. Other indicators suggest that the gender imbalance has stagnated with 17.3% of FTSE 100 board directors being female, down 0.1% from last year.

FTSE 100



% Change

#  Oxbridge





FTSE 100



% Change

%  Women joining board




Phil Sheridan, UK Managing Director of Robert Half said: “The risk and regulation agenda is driving demand for those with finance skills who can oversee all operational reporting groups within a business.  We anticipate that this demand will carry on for the foreseeable future, which means that finance continues to be a great career path for those looking to climb to the very top of the career ladder.

“The diversity mix in the FTSE’s top boardrooms is beginning to change but perhaps not quickly enough.  Great talent can be found and nurtured across the gender, background and age spectrum and companies should review their succession planning and recruitment strategies to ensure they can leverage the range of talent available.”

1 Either as new CEOs for existing FTSE 100 companies or with companies entering the index.

About Robert Half

Robert Half is the world’s first and largest specialised recruitment consultancy and member of the S&P 500. We have once again been named to FORTUNE’s “World’s Most Admired Companies®” list and remains the top-ranked staffing firm (February 2020). Founded in 1948, the company has over 300 offices worldwide providing temporary, interim and permanent recruitment solutions for accounting and finance, financial services, technology, legal and administrative professionals. Robert Half offers workplace and jobseeker resources at and