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Editor’s letter: Old school ties

IT WAS GOOD to see Andy Higginson, ex-finance chief of Tesco, back in the headlines this month. Higginson is heading up a venture attempting to take on the 315 branches that RBS were forced to put up for sale by the EU following its bailout.

Even as Financial Director went to press, Higginson had just been quoted as bolshily saying that his investment vehicle is “the only serious bidder” for the branches. With his huge experience in retail with Burtons, Laura Ashley and his financial services role as Tesco Bank chief, he’s in a great position to leverage his expertise.

But how would a 25-year-old Peter Jones cope with being asked to join Higginson’s board? Or any high-flying and newly qualified accountants who have impressed their formative financial services clients?

Our inaugural Finance Network 2013 attempts to highlight the strong grip that accounting and finance executives have on FTSE 100 board roles. Beyond the top-line data, our cover story attempts to reveal the issues that are holding back UK plc from widening its talent pool.

It’s too easy to blame it on the old boys’ network. Boards appreciate a need for diversity, but struggle to break the cycle that sees those in existing board members’ image fill vacant positions.

But with finance, strategy, communication and risk inextricably linked, accountants will inevitably take on a huge proportion of important board roles for the foreseeable future. The trick will be in trying to recruit accountants with different backgrounds, ages and experience. Having a head for figures will always make you sought-after – but can you offer anything else?

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