x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

The rise and rise of the Family CEO

On The Money: Felicity Glover finds that women are increasingly taking the reins of the family finances.

Gary Clement for The National
Gary Clement for The National

A new type of chief executive has emerged, but you won't find them in the boardroom or that much-vaunted corner office with sweeping views.

You certainly won't catch them sporting a Savile Row custom-designed suit or heading off to a high-powered meeting with their assistants in tow.

No, you'll probably find they are more comfortable with the casual approach, including their choice of attire. They have time for everybody, are always happy to do you a favour and you don't have to go through a minder to make an appointment with them.

But there's no doubting they are the boss and - collectively - control billions, if not trillions, of dollars around the world.

Their spending power is becoming legendary. And their fiscal decisions have far-reaching consequences for a very important group of people if they get them wrong: their families.

Allow me to introduce you to the "Family CEO", a title coined by IPC Media, a London-based publishing company, to describe the growing power of a band of women - both stay-at-home and working mums - over the age of 40.

According to a new survey by IPC, nine out of 10 British women in this demographic control the family finances. But the trend can be seen in many countries around the world, including in the UAE.

Women, of course, have known this for years.

We are the quiet achievers; the ones who keep the home fires burning, the bills paid, the family investments clipping along, the budgets on track, the schedules on time and do the leg work on price comparisons for household purchases, including the family car.

As usual, it's surprising that it's taken so long for so many to wake up to this so-called phenomenon.

Even more surprising is that the banks are getting in on the act - at least one of them, anyway.

We ran a story last week about Deutsche Bank, which has finally realised that the only way it can move forward and rebuild its tarnished reputation is to employ mature, tech-savvy women.

"You could say having trustworthy bankers is enough to rebuild trust in the banking industry," Stephan Leithner, the head of human resources and compliance at Germany's flagship lender, was quoted by Reuters as saying. "It is not enough. In future, you need to have other qualities.

"Let me be provocative: the banker of the future will be more female, more international, older, more team oriented and more mobile, and needs to enjoy working with technology."

But back to the Family CEO.

"Through our research, we have discovered that the words [these women] use to describe themselves and their role at the centre of the family are also the words that appear on a CEO's job description," Amanda Wigginton, the director of IPC Insight, the publisher's consumer research arm, said in a press release.

"Words like visionary, passionate, confident, knowledgeable and networker all came up frequently amongst respondents, so we coined the term Family CEO to describe that role.

"But, just as not all company CEOs are the same, not all Family CEOs are the same and that's why we have segmented Family CEO into three sub-groups: luxury, core and savvy CEOs."

The study found that 93 per cent of the more than 2,000 respondents made all or most of the financial decisions in households, 24 per cent more than their counterparts below the age of 40.

They were also more informed about the economy and twice as likely to have an opinion on it than those under 40, while 45 per cent said their partner would be lost without them to manage the household finances, the study said.

I have a few friends who more than qualify for the title of Family CEO. One of them would certainly agree that her husband, who she says is a "serial shopper", would be lost if she wasn't handling the family finances - although it's not a job she loves doing.

"CEO is a job I hate, but I am very good at it," she says. "I keep books and a calendar and it makes our life go very smoothly.

"It's much better since I took over a few years ago; we may even be able to buy a house soon. Nothing is more boring than paying bills and moving money around, but it makes our life better."

A perfect candidate for Deutsche Bank's new mantra, don't you think?