Belfast Telegraph

Young guns are blazing a trail to top of FTSE firms

By Staff Reporter

Top FTSE companies are hiring chief executives who are not only younger than ever, but much younger than the rest of their boards.

New research into the top FTSE-100 and 250 companies demonstrates that twice as many chief executives are reaching the dizzy heights in their 40s compared with more than a decade ago. More than 40 per cent of today's FTSE-100 chief executives are in their 30s or 40s; 56 per cent are in their 50s and only three per cent in their 60s or more.

The change has been dramatic, and swift. In 1997, only 20 per cent of the FTSE 100 had bosses in their 40s, while the balance - 70 per cent - were in their 50s and 10 per cent in their 60s.

A similar trend has been spotted across the FTSE-250 companies, where three per cent of bosses are in their 30s - compared with none 14 years ago - and 40 per cent are in their 40s compared with 20 per cent before.

By far the biggest change is among chief executives in their 50s: 45 per cent today compared with 70 per cent in 1997.

According to a study published this week by the search firm Egon Zehnder International, our leaders are not only younger but also more of the hired-gun type, often with overseas experience, who don't tend to hang around in any one job for too long.

American Angela Ahrendts, 49, has been running Burberry for five years, turning the fashion retailer into a £2.6bn company; Katherine Garrett-Cox became boss of the £2.3bn Alliance Trust when she was 39 and is now 40; Dalton Philips, 42, is Irish chief executive of Morrisons supermarkets group; Portuguese Antonio Mota Horta-Osorio, fresh from running Santander UK, is the new chief of Lloyds Banking Group aged 46.

Jill Ader, the head of chief executive succession at Egon Zehnder, says the rise of the forty-something chief executive has come about partly because companies want leaders who are in touch with new issues.

"One of the reasons is that the board is not always connected to these new worlds and new experiences so they reach out to the young candidate who has proven ability. It's also true that companies are flatter, less hierarchical and less interested in people proving themselves through time-serving. The day of the long apprenticeship is long gone."