FTSE 100 CEOs demonstrate strong financial leadership

Robert Half found that strong financial management is a vital skill for the UK’s most successful CEOs, according to findings from the annual FTSE 100 CEO Tracker.

  • Annual Robert Half FTSE 100 CEO Tracker finds a 67% increase in CEOs with a financial background since pre-recession
  • Commodities and business support services replace travel companies in FTSE 100

London, 23 April 2012 – Strong financial management is a vital skill for the UK’s most successful CEOs, according to findings from the annual Robert Half FTSE 100 CEO Tracker.  More than half (51%) of serving CEOs in the current FTSE 100 Index have financial backgrounds, compared to only 31 in 2008 - representing an overall increase of 67% since the beginning of the recession.

As well as highlighting the ongoing need for prospective CEOs to demonstrate tight fiscal control, this year’s Tracker reveals a gradual change in sectors featuring in the UK’s list of top performing companies.  Since the start of the current financial crisis in 2008, six travel companies have left the Index, while four business support services and eight mining and metal companies have joined.

Of the 11 new FTSE 100 entrants 2011/2012, three are asset management companies: Aberdeen Asset Management, Hargreaves Lansdown and Ashmore Group.  Others include plumbers’ merchant Wolseley, broadcaster ITV, aircraft parts supplier Meggitt, food ingredients and solutions provider Tate & Lyle, speciality chemicals company Croda International, building materials group CRH and Russian companies Evraz and Polymetal International.

Of those new CEOs that have joined the Index, over half (55%) have strong financial backgrounds, adding further numerical dominance to the FTSE 100. These include Weir Group's Keith Cochrane, ACA Myles Lee, ACA CEO of CRH) and Terry Twigger of Meggitt plc, who has a BSc in Economics and Accountancy.   

During the recession the number of CEOs with a financial background has risen by 67%.

Year FTSE 100 CEOs with a Financial Background (%)

2008 31
2009 51
2010 51
2011 49
2012 52


“It’s interesting to see the shift in Britain’s top listed companies, with commodity and business support services organisations displacing leisure companies; partly the result of an ongoing trend towards outsourcing business processes,” said Phil Sheridan, Managing Director for Robert Half UK. “Our research serves as a signpost for ambitious CFOs and other directors looking for their next step up the employment ladder. The importance of sound financial management in an increasingly complex international regulatory environment further underlines the necessity for leaders who understand the numbers behind the business.”

Aside from those with financial management backgrounds, today’s FTSE 100 CEOs demonstrate acumen in a range of disciplines including engineering/mining (14%), retail/hospitality management (10%), marketing (6%) and IT (4%).


The number of female FTSE CEOs continues to stall at 4%, despite the general rise in women at board level highlighted by this year’s Davies report. Between 2008 and 2010, the number of women directors in FTSE companies grew relatively slowly - but by the end of February 2012 accounted for 15.6% of all directorships, up from 12.5% in 2011.

The rise of younger CEOs under the age of 45 also appears to have slowed. Having risen from four to six between 2010 and 2011, the number remains unchanged in 2012 at 6%.


FTSE 100  2011 2012
% Woman 4 4
% British Nationals 54 55
% under age of 45 6 6


While more than half (55) of FTSE 100 CEOs are British nationals, the remaining 45 leaders come from an increasingly wide range of countries, including Russia, Chile, Lebanon, South Africa, United States, Mexico, Ukraine, Syria and India. The youngest FTSE 100 CEO is now Vitaly Nesis (36) who runs the mining company Polymetal International. Jaime Lomelín, who has headed up mining company Fresnillo for more than 20 years, retains his title as the oldest CEO in the FTSE 100 Index, aged 76.  


The number of CEOs who attended the UK’s elite Oxford or Cambridge universities remains unchanged over previous years at just over one-in-five (21%) with the vast majority of the remainder holding some form of higher education qualification.  



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 roberthalf.co.uk and twitter.com/roberthalfuk.