The 10 success factors behind FTSE 100 bosses

If you dream of becoming a FTSE 100 boss, you might want to consider what experience you have, your age and how flexible you can be according to research.

A study by Robert Half UK recently found that there are a number of factors to consider before taking the plunge and heading off on the road to success. The ninth annual FTSE 100 CEO Tracker shows that there are 10 key factors to consider, from training to a range of experience in different sectors.

1. Gain a background in finance
More than half (55%) of today’s FTSE 100 CEOs have a background in finance and accounting or financial services, compared to 21% in retail and hospitality, 15% in engineering and natural resources, 15% in marketing and 14% in technology. Almost one in four (23%) CEOs are qualified chartered accountants, showing the value of investing time in financial education.

2. Build experience of a particular sector

The majority (66%) of FTSE 100 bosses move from a senior role in the same industry, demonstrating the benefits of understanding the particular issues faced by a sector. Some of the longest serving CEOs in sectors such as mining and brewing have spent their entire careers in one industry.

3. Or gain CEO experience by moving between industries
A small number of FTSE 100 CEOs have got to the top by learning how to tackle the top job across multiple sectors. This may well become more common as organisations look for leaders of successful digital transformation programmes who can apply learnings from one sector to another.

4. Have a university degree and/or a post-graduate qualification
The majority of FTSE 100 bosses have at least one university degree, while more than a quarter have either an MBA or a PHD. The number of FTSE 100 CEOs with a degree from Oxford or Cambridge has fallen slightly over the past few years, from 21% in 2012 to 18% in 2016.

5. Be in your 50s or older
The average age of a FTSE 100 CEO is around 55. The youngest CEO in this year’s tracker was 40 and the oldest CEO was 71, highlighting the need for experience and patience when plotting a route to the top.

6. Be a British citizen, but don’t rule out heading up a FTSE 100 company if you’re not
The majority (60%) of FTSE 100 CEOs are British citizens, yet 20 different nationalities are represented at the top of the UK’s largest companies, including leaders from South Africa, New Zealand and the Netherlands.

7. Challenge the status quo by being female

The number of women heading up the FTSE 100 has increased by one in the past 12 months and two in the last four years. There are now six female CEOs in the FTSE 100 with the appointment of Alison Brittain to Whitbread earlier in 2016.

8. Be prepared for at least a five-year stint
While some FTSE 100 bosses are in for the long haul, the average length for a FTSE 100 boss tends to remain constant at around five and a half years, suggesting a regular churn rate.

9. Be ready to switch companies

While almost a third (30%) of FTSE 100 CEOs are promoted from within the same company, the majority have moved from another organisation. In some cases, it pays to show commitment to your employer if you are determined to get to the top, but people should be prepared to consider moving for the CEO position. Some companies value the different experience that potential chief executives gain in other firms or even other sectors.

10. Prepare to be based in London
Six-in-10 FTSE 100 companies have their corporate headquarters in London, so while FTSE 100 bosses may live and work all over the world, they are likely to be based in London for a significant portion of their time.