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A fifth of FTSE 100 firms set to lose CEOs to retirement when Britain adjusts to life after Brexit

Rico Back, 64, is the oldest chief executive on the FTSE 100 after joining Royal Mail in early 2018

There are currently 19 FTSE 100 chief executives in their 60s

Almost a fifth of bosses at FTSE 100 firms could be planning for retirement in the next five years following the appointment of more leaders aged 60 and over since the 2007/08 financial crisis.

There are 19 FTSE 100 chief executives in their 60s, of which 16 have been hired since the recession as companies have sought experienced leaders to steer them through a difficult period, according to research compiled by retirement firm Responsible Life.

The report pointed out that firms have found it harder to maintain profit margins since the crash amid a period of quantitative easing, depressed wages and lower liquidity.

“Age alone doesn’t automatically qualify a chief executive to be a better leader but boards clearly value these industry titans’ experience in tough times,” said Steve Wilkie, managing director of Responsible Life.

“Since the financial crash, the research shows companies have been taking stock and hiring those with more battle scars in greater numbers.

“Experience and, with it, a nose for how to steer our biggest companies through choppy waters, is prized now more than ever.”

Royal Mail's Rico Back the oldest FTSE 100 CEO

Rico Back, 64, is currently the oldest chief executive on London’s top-tier index after joining Royal Mail in early 2018.

The youngest is 43-year-old Liv Garfield, the boss of water utility Severn Trent PLC (LON:SVT).

In the past 20 years, the number of FTSE 100 CEOs in their 60s has doubled from 8.8% in 1998 to 18.6% in 2018.

However, there could be a high turnover of CEOs over the next few years as some of the older leaders consider retiring.

ABF Foods boss to retire in 2019, RBS CEO expected to leave in 2020

Nicandro Durante, 62, has already announced he would retire as chief executive of British American Tobacco PLC (LON:BATS) in April next year.

Royal Bank of Scotland Group PLC (LON:RBS) chief executive Ross McEwan, 61, is expected to hang up his hat in 2020.

But being over 60 doesn’t necessarily mean FTSE 100 bosses in this age bracket are ready to retire just yet.

Garry Weston was the boss of Primark owner Associated British Foods PLC (LON:ABF) – the business his father founded – for more than 30 years before stepping down at the age of 73 in December 2000 after suffering a stroke. He was the longest-serving CEO in the FTSE 100 at the time.

On the other end of the scale, British Sky Broadcasting Group has had the youngest CEO - 41-year-old Mark Booth – in the past 20 years. Booth quit in 1999 after just 18 months in the role.

Opportunity to employ more women bosses?

Wilkie said FTSE 100 companies could use future CEO retirements as an opportunity to correct the gender imbalance by hiring a female leader.

“The rate of progress in this area over the past 20 years can, at best, be said to be glacial,” he said.

“When Marjorie Scardino joined Pearson PLC (LON:PSON) in 1997, she was the first female chief exec at a FTSE 100 company. Barely any improvement has been seen since then and there remain just six women in the top job in 2018.”

Experienced leaders still needed as Brexit looms 

But with the likelihood of a hard Brexit rising, FTSE 100 firms may continue to give priority to more experienced candidates for the top jobs, regardless of gender.

The House of Commons will vote on Theresa May’s Brexit plan in the week beginning January 14 but many MPs are opposed to the deal.

If MPs vote against the plan, the UK could crash out of the European Union without a deal. The vote was meant to happen in December but May called it off due to predictions she would lose.

"We have seen a trend towards experience on the FTSE 100, and this doesn't look likely to change," Wilkie said. 

"Brexit has created uncertainty in the financial markets, and companies will look for bosses with long track records."

FTSE 100 companies with CEOs aged 60 and over that could consider retirement in the next few years:





Royal Mail

Rico Back



Arnold W Donald


Standard Life Aberdeen

Martin Gilbert (co-founder)



Bob Dudley


British American Tobacco

Nicandro Durante


United Utilities Group

Steve Mogford



Jes Staley


BHP Billiton

Andrew Mackenzie



Ivan Glasenberg


Legal & General

Nigel Wilson


Morrison (WM) Supermarkets

David Potts


Royal Bank of Scotland

Ross McEwan


Standard Life Aberdeen

Keith Skeoch



Paul Polman


Anglo American

Mark Cutifani



Marco Gobbetti


Reckitt Benckiser Group

Rakesh Kapoor


Royal Dutch Shell

Ben van Beurden



Flemming Ornskov



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