By Daniel Hunter

The vast majority of Chairmen (92%) who took part in a recent Boardroom Pulse survey, representing some of the UK’s biggest companies from the FTSE 100, think the 2012 Olympics will have a long-term positive impact on the perception of the UK across the world.

Chairmen were overwhelmingly positive about the event: “My international contacts were universally impressed by the efficiency and general organisational capacity”, stated one, with another pointing at the overall mood of the country: “Through both sets of games, GB smiled”. Contrastingly, more than half of the Chairmen surveyed (52%) believe the Olympics will not have a positive impact on the UK Economy.

The results come from the latest Boardroom Pulse survey conducted by Korn/Ferry Whitehead Mann, the world’s largest executive search and talent management consultancy. The survey was created to give FTSE100 Chairmen a collective voice on the topical business and governance issues of the day and to offer a real-time insight into the boardrooms of the UK’s most powerful companies. The respondents to the most recent survey represent companies with a combined market capitalisation of £338.2bn and over 1.4m employees.

The survey also uncovered a notable lack of confidence in official figures on the state of the economy from the Office of National Statistics (ONS). When asked whether the ONS accurately defines the economic state of the UK, over a third of surveyed Chairman (36%) answered no. One Chairman was very critical: “Their basis of calculation needs radical overhaul and quick. The ONS are doing significant damage”.

“The official picture of the UK economy has given rise to confusion in recent months, with employment and anecdotal data seeming to belie the statistics," Dominic Schofield, Senior Client Partner with Korn/Ferry’s Board Practice, commented.

"From these results, it would appear that a sizable constituency at the very top of the business community view initial ONS figures with suspicion.”

There was more of a consensus when it came to the debate on the third runway at Heathrow. More than two thirds (68%) of the Chairmen surveyed said they would support an additional runway at Heathrow Airport, though most were quick to point out this should be just one part of a much wider focus on infrastructure in the UK: “I would go for a massive infrastructure development, including a new airport in South Essex or North Kent, including a Channel Tunnel hub.”

The survey also found that almost half of Chairmen surveyed (48%) think the governance and cultural failings of the UK’s leading banks are likely to have a lasting damage on London’s competitive position as a major financial centre. “Some Banks still don’t seem to have the message”, one Chairman said, “Until Bank behavior changes perceptibly, media and public opinion will be negative, compounding any damage.”

“The Boardroom Pulse demonstrates the complex political and business challenges facing Chairman in today’s market, and provides a compelling insight into the boardrooms of the UK’s biggest companies," Dominic Schofield added.

"From the latest results, it is clear that the ramifications of the global economy are being felt across ‘UK plc’, with a need for investment in the UK’s transport infrastructure and concerns over the reputational fallout from the financial crash high on the agenda.”

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