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Majority of UK CFOs aspire to be CEO, reveals Robert Half

The majority (86%) of UK chief financial officers (CFOs) are driven to reach the top role of chief executive officer (CEO) in their current organisation, reveals new research from Robert Half UK.

The toughest competition for the hot seat comes from marketing directors, with 23% of CFOs perceiving them as the greatest threat. Following closely behind are chief information officers (CIOs) and chief technology officers (CTOs) with 22% of CFOs perceiving their niche skill sets as an advantage when trying to reaching the top. This supports current trends that IT is a key driver in delivering business growth. However, finance continues to be the route to the top as 55% of current FTSE 100 CEOs have a background in finance, giving CFOs an edge over other roles.

200 UK CFOs were asked: “In your opinion, which role do you view as the greatest competition to the CFO in reaching the CEO/Managing Director role in a company?”

Roles perceived as the greatest competition 

Percentage of CFOs

Marketing Director




Head of Legal


COO, VP Operations


Human Resources Director


Sales Director




*Total percentage does not add up to 100 per cent due to rounding

CFOs believe their knowledge in investor stakeholder management (44%) and economic and business awareness (40%) sets them apart from the crowd. Other benefits that CFOs can deliver are finance and data-driven business decisions (32%), fiscal management and efficiency improvement (22%) and commercial and business growth awareness (12%). 

Phil Sheridan, senior managing director at Robert Half UK, UAE and South America, said, “The ‘perfect’ CEO will combine strong functional and technical knowledge to drive the business objectives with an understanding of the industry and competitive landscape. As CEOs continue to be challenged with improving the financial position of the organisation and delivering increased shareholder value, hiring an individual with a strong financial background is often key.

“As new challenges can impact the wider business, companies should regularly review their succession planning strategies to ensure they can fully utilise the range of talent available and develop potential leaders as early as possible.”

Picture courtesy of Pixabay

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