More FTSE100 CEOs hired with tech background

Digital disruption has heightened the need for technological experience amongst leaders of the UK’s biggest businesses, yet broader boardroom diversity is failing to progress, according to new research.

Specialist recruitment firm Robert Half conducted its annual research on chief executives (CEOs) of the FTSE100 Index by analysing publicly available sources of information including company websites, financial and company announcements and press releases to track trends, including their career backgrounds, age, gender, nationality and length of tenure.

The proportion of FTSE100 CEOs with a background in technology has increased by 27 per cent in the last year, with 14 per cent now having a background in the sector – including 30 per cent of all new CEOs appointed in the last year.

In contrast, the number of leaders with retail and hospitality experience is in decline, from 21 per cent in 2016 to 15 per cent in 2019.

Financial experience has seen a resurgence amongst the UK’s leaders, with the number of CEOs with a financial background increasing from 40 per cent in 2018 to over half (52 per cent) in 2019. While finance remains the most common route to the top, this reverses a declining trend, from 55 per cent in 2016 to 43 per cent in 2017.

Despite a shift in the skillsets of today’s leaders, diversity remains mostly unchanged. The average age for a FTSE100 CEO is 55 - unchanged from the previous two years - while 18 per cent are Oxbridge educated - unchanged from 2018 and increasing from 16 per cent in 2017.

Furthermore, despite numerous initiatives to improve gender representation in the boardroom, the number of female CEOs has decreased from seven per cent in 2018 to six per cent this year.

Individual commitments to workplace diversity and equal opportunities become even more significant when considering that nearly half of current CEOs (46 per cent) were appointed as a result of internal promotion, compared to 30 per cent in 2016. Of the latest CEOs to join the FTSE100 in the last year, 70 per cent were internal promotions.

Charlie Grubb, UK managing director for Robert Half Executive Search, commented that backgrounds in technology and finance are a trend that is increasingly becoming a focus for executive and senior leadership hires.

“The research also highlights the importance of encouraging diversity at all levels of an organisation – a broad range of views, experience and backgrounds will not only benefit the business today, but also bolster its overall talent pipeline and pool for future leaders.”

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