Accountants Lead the Way to the Top

Have you ever asked yourself “What does it take to get to the top?” What skills do the executives, directors, CEOs and Chairpersons of this world have that has elevated them to the lofty heights of running big corporations?

For more than two decades an evolving trend has surfaced of CEOs, Chairpersons and directors of FTSE 100 companies being selected into their roles as a result of either an accounting or finance grounding. Presently 58% of Chairpersons and CEOs of FTSE 100 organisations have a background in finance. If we cast our eye back to the beginning of the nineties, only 24% of the top jobs in FTSE 100 companies were taken by number crunchers (if you pardon the phrase), so what lies behind a more than 100% rise in the money men and women leading the biggest organisations in the UK?

There are several reasons that stand out, the first of which is the understanding finance professionals have of the economic drivers in business – in hard times and good, having a leader with their finger on the organisation’s financial pulse will, more often than not, assure that solid financial judgement permeates from the top down.

The second factor is that accountants and finance professionals know that decisions, however tough, are taken with the interests of everyone in mind.  Employees, suppliers, shareholders (and every stakeholder) are directly impacted by financial choices, it is vital they are assured the person at the top has the right profile to undertake their duties with sound judgement.

Thirdly, as the world inches ever closer to all-encompassing, ethical practices, it is essential that the board of directors, chairs and CEOs grasp the magnitude of unethical, illegal, or dangerous decision making. From day one, finance professionals are trained to understand, seek and mitigate against all potential liabilities.

Unfortunately, not everyone is happy with the rise of finance professionals to the loftiest of positions. There are those who argue that a company cannot run with someone who always has their eye so keenly focussed on the financial side of the business. Some, like Richard Branson, lead with passion and vision, others, such as Anita Roddick (founder of The Body Shop) created a company based on ethical principles that many finance people would find difficult to reconcile with a lean business model.

In spite of the detractors, the elevation of “bean counters” looks set to continue. For how long this upward trend will persevere, we cannot say, but the commercial mastery and deftness required to operate a FTSE 100 company is staggering and only the best will make it. As any accountant would tell you, numbers speak loudest – only last month the FTSE 100 index reached the highest it has ever been – coupled with the fact that 84% of FTSE 100 companies have an ICAEW Chartered Accountant sitting on the board of directors, we see there being little chance that this trend will reverse at any time in the near future. For the team at Onyx Recruitment these numbers are great news. Our expertise lies in placing the finest accounting, finance, and executive talent the UK has to offer – we know what it takes to rise to the top, are you ready to start your journey?

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