LONDON: More chief marketing officers are progressing to become chief executives, according to recent study which highlighted the fact that around one in five leaders of FTSE 100 companies have made this step.

Executive search firm Heidrick & Struggles looked at the characteristics of CEOs from the largest quoted companies in the UK, US, France and Germany, and found that, in 2011, just 11% of FTSE 100 leaders had come from a marketing background. But, four years later, this figure had almost doubled to 21%.

The figure was even higher in some areas, rising to 40% in businesses operating in the consumer and health care sectors.

Lucy Harris, Heidrick & Struggles' UK head of retail practice, suggested to Marketing Week that this development was likely to continue. "Increasingly organisations are recognising the value of a CEO who understands the importance of how their brand engages customers," she said.

"In terms of the talent pipeline, there is an increasing trend to search for leaders who have the clear ability to grow and develop brands on a global scale," she added.

One person who has made the transition is Jill McDonald, stepping up from CMO to CEO at McDonald's UK before moving on earlier this year from the fast food chain to an appointment as CEO at Halfords, the autoparts and cycles retailer.

She emphasised the importance of getting experience outside the marketing function. Earlier in her career, for example, she took a step down into an overseas role when she realised that international experience would pay off in the future.

"You own your future" she told Marketing Week. "Build your experience, put your neck out [and] put yourself forward for projects outside your remit."

McDonald also argued that some organisations valued marketing more highly than others, which was a factor to consider if aiming for the top slot.

Another is geography. Heidrick & Struggles' analysis indicates that marketers have a better chance of becoming CEO in the UK than in the other countries considered.

Just 10% of CEOs in the US Fortune 100 and France's SBF, and 12% of CEOs in Germany's DAX, come from a marketing background.

Data sourced from Marketing Week; additional content by Warc staff|