Number of CEOs with technical background grows to meet demands of digital economy

Growth of the digital economy

The number of CEOs from a financial background is falling as firms put more sway into technology skills, a new report claims. The annual Robert Half FTSE 100 CEO Tracker shows that in the last four years the number of CEOs with a technology background trebled as businesses prepare to compete in an increasingly digital economy. In 2014, only three CEOs had a background in technology while today this number has increased to 11. There is a also a generational shift occurring in the FTSE 100, with just eight CEOs under the age of 50 on the FTSE 100, a quarter less than in 2010 when there were 33 CEOs under the age of 50. The typical age of a CEO is 55 years old and the average tenure is five years and two months. While a majority of CEOs still have a background in finance, this figure has fallen to 43 percent from 55 percent last year and the lowest level in three years. Of those CEOs with a financial background, nearly half (19 percent) are Chartered Accountants.

Organisations are also looking to nurture home-grown talent as the number of CEOs being promoted from within has doubled in the last three years. In total, 41 percent of FTSE 100 CEOs have been promoted to the top position from within the company, while 11 percent have been in the company for their whole career. Conversely, the number of CEOs who have held the top position at multiple companies has dropped to its lowest level in three years, standing at 16 percent.

“With digital transformation, automation and GDPR offering challenges and opportunities, growth remains the number one priority for all businesses – small and large,” commented Phil Sheridan, senior managing director, Robert Half UK. “Strong leadership that can deliver profitability and create a sustainable advantage against competitors and new market entrants is key. As a result, all businesses are thinking carefully about who is positioned at the helm of the company and if he or she has the skills needed to navigate a complex business environment. Increasingly, CEOs who can combine current industry knowledge with the commercial acumen needed to navigate the fast pace of change is key.”

The study found that it is no longer necessary to have attended Oxford or Cambridge to achieve a CEO position. Since 2010, the number of CEOs with an Oxbridge education has declined from 23 percent to 17 percent. MBAs and other post graduate qualifications are also not a pre-requisite for achieving a top leadership position, with just under a quarter (23 percent) have an MBA and only four hold a PhD.

However, when it comes to leadership roles at publicly traded companies, it’s no exaggeration to say it’s still very much a male dominated world. Only seven of the CEOs currently leading FTSE 100 companies are women, increasing from four in 2014. Additional findings revealed that the average FTSE 100 CEO is from the UK (65 percent), male (93 percent) and is likely to have held a senior role in the same industry (64 percent).

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