UK board members are growing older as European firms look to youth

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UK corporate boards are growing older, with the average age of directors surpassing 60 for the first time, according to executive search firm Spencer Stuart, at a time when companies increasingly need expertise in cutting-edge technology issues such as cybersecurity.

The average age of non-executive directors has risen 2.4 years over the past decade to 60.3, according to the Spencer Stuart 2017 UK Board Index, released Tuesday. The average age for executive directors is 53.4.

The figures, compiled from the 150 largest members of the FTSE stock indexes, are in contrast to France, Italy and Norway, where companies are looking for younger board members to help them tackle issues related to new technologies, the firm said.

“This year’s research suggests that despite boards finding themselves increasingly in need of the experience of younger generations as they face emerging issues such as the impact of AI and automation and cybersecurity, the trend appears to be moving in the other direction,” said Will Dawkins, who leads the Spencer Stuart UK board practice.

Board members at Just Eat, which was added to the benchmark FTSE 100 Index this month, have an average age of 49.1 years, according to Spencer Stuart. At the other end of the scale is Metro Bank, where the average age is 67.8.

“Just Eat is an example that a younger board with more digital experience can be at least as valuable as age,” said Andrew Griffith, the restaurant delivery company’s 46-year-old interim chairman. Mr Griffith is also chief operating officer of Sky.

Female directors globally continue to be younger than their male counterparts, although the age gap among chief executive officers is narrowing. Female CEOs are now 2.3 years younger than male CEOs, compared with a gap of 3.3 years in 2016.

In terms of gender diversity, the index shows that women account for 19.4 per cent of executive committee members, well short of government-backed targets that aim for 33 per cent of women in those roles by 2020.

“We continue to see evidence that where there is a female CEO, the percentage of women serving on the executive committee is higher, yet the number of female CEOs has hardly changed over the past few decade,” said Mr Dawkins.

Bloomberg