The head-hunters Robert Half tell us that 27% of FTSE 100 company CEOs are qualified chartered accountants. None are qualified solicitors, apparently.
One of the most compelling reasons why accountants are often better suited for CEO roles is their deeper financial expertise. A CEO’s primary responsibility is to oversee the financial health of the company and make strategic decisions to ensure long-term sustainability.
Accountants are well-versed in financial matters, including budgeting, financial analysis, and risk management, making them well-equipped to navigate complex financial landscapes. They are expected to make data-informed decisions that help organizations adapt to changing market conditions and seize new opportunities.
Lawyers, while skilled in critical thinking, may not always have the same level of data-driven decision-making expertise that accountants bring to the table.
I do however think that lawyers are equally capable of the effective risk management that is a critical aspect of any CEO’s job. On this I’d say it’s a professional dead heat. Accountants have a strong background in assessing and mitigating risks, as it is inherent to their profession. They are well-versed in compliance, auditing, and financial regulations, which are essential to avoiding legal and financial pitfalls.
Leadership and long-term vision
Accountants often possess a longer-term perspective, focusing on the sustainability and profitability of the business in the years to come. This forward-thinking approach aligns with the strategic responsibilities of a CEO, who must set the company’s vision and navigate it toward a successful future. Lawyers may excel in handling immediate legal issues but may not be as naturally inclined to set and execute a long-term vision.
Ultimately, the choice between an accountant and a lawyer as a CEO may depend on the specific needs of the company and the industry it operates in, but the strategic advantages of accountants in these roles should not be underestimated.
As I said here in 2021 my explanation why so few lawyers become CEO is because for those of who qualify it is the practise of law that gets us out of bed in the morning, rather than the ambition to lead. The most satisfying part is all the companies that you help behind the scenes. Those projects where you can’t necessarily talk about it, but you know that you’ve made a real difference and that your work helped a business to survive.
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David Little is a Partner at Bishop & Sewell in our expert Corporate & Commercial team. If you would like to contact him, please quote Ref CB428 on either on either 07968 027343 / 020 7631 4141 or email email@example.com.
The above is accurate as at 19 October 2023. The information above may be subject to change.
The content of this note should not be considered legal advice and each matter should be considered on a case-by-case basis.