British CEOs are a declining species

Jan 16 2008 by Nic Paton Print This Article

They may be leading some of the biggest businesses in the UK, but more than four out of 10 of the country's top 100 chief executives are not from Britain.

The new research has illustrated not only the increasingly international, globe-trotting environment in which management high-flyers live today but has also raised worrying questions about whether UK firms are doing enough to bring on the leaders of tomorrow.

A study by recruitment firm Harvey Nash has found that more than four out of 10 – 42 per cent – of current FTSE-100 chief executives come from outside the UK.

While the analysis cited the increasingly global reach of the executive recruitment market and the continuing attractiveness of London's capital markets as key reasons for this influx of foreign stars, it also warned that UK companies were, for whatever reason, clearly not grooming enough home-grown talent.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, given its "special relationship" and common (most of the time) language, a large proportion (15 per cent) of the non-UK FTSE-100 talent hailed from North America.

There was also a relatively significant Antipodean representation, with four per cent coming from Australia, just below South Africa's six per cent.

Despite their geographical closeness, Continental European chief executives made up just over a tenth of the total figure, split between France, Ireland and the Netherlands all on three per cent and Spain and Sweden on just one per cent each.

"Recruitment is becoming ever more globalised. Talent is international and more UK firms are casting the talent net wider to find the best people", said Harvey Nash chief executive Albert Ellis, himself a foreign national.

"If the best person for the role is foreign born or based outside UK, looking beyond British shores can only serve to benefit companies," he added.

"A perfect example of the value gained from a global talent pool are the Scandinavian countries that have embraced the move toward foreign recruitment in the last few years and enjoyed great economic growth as a result," he continued. "Global marketplaces are paving the way for a global workforce."

Yet, despite becoming more cosmopolitan and welcoming of high-flying "foreigners" in its midst, there was still a long way to go before the age and gender demographic of the FTSE-100 changed, argued the company.

Most chief executives, still, were aged 45 to 55-years-old male, with two thirds falling into this age bracket, compared with just three per cent aged under the age of 40, it pointed out.

And virtually all – 97 per cent – were male, with just three female CEOs represented at the top 100 table, it added.