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CISOs most in-demand hire of 2023, say UK CEOs

Feb 16, 20234 mins
CareersCSO and CISO

UK CISO are in high-demand as digital transformation, hybrid working, and the Russia-Ukraine conflict push cybersecurity leadership hires up the business agenda.

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Credit: Andrey Popov / Shutterstock

Chief information security officers (CISOs) are the most in-demand senior leadership hire in the UK this year, according to new research from ECI Partners. The private equity investor surveyed 513 UK CEOs, founders, and managing directors of fast-growing small- to medium-sized businesses about their senior leadership hiring aspirations, current challenges, and most important characteristics for its latest Growth Characteristics report.

More than a third (37%) of respondents said their most in-demand hire in the next five years is a CISO, with 20% citing digital transformation as their biggest challenge to address. Chief technology officers (CTOs) and chief data officers (CDOs) – roles which often carry varying levels of responsibility for data security, protection, and privacy – are also in the top four roles that UK businesses leaders are looking to hire over the next 12 months.

Demand for CISOs driven by hybrid working, pandemic, Russia-Ukraine conflict

The COVID-19 pandemic and the invasion of Ukraine – as well as the increased vulnerability of hybrid working models – have raised the cybersecurity threat level for businesses, pushing cybersecurity leadership hires further up the agenda for most business leaders, said Ash Patel, head of cyber at ECI Partners. “The right CISO will be expected to bridge the gap between the overall business strategy and cybersecurity risk management,” he added.

Recent high-profile cyber breaches have made it clear that security threats are becoming ever-more sophisticated. As a result, they are more challenging for businesses to tackle, Patel stated. “All companies are recognising the need for appropriate procedures and policies to protect the business from both internal and external risks. It is an area that investors are enhancing their capability in as well, with private equity firms hiring heads of cyber to support their portfolios with their cyber resilience.”

The report also revealed that company size plays a key role in terms of the type of roles needed. The largest businesses are prioritising roles such as CISOs (40%), CDOs (33%), and CTOs (30%), whereas smaller firms are more focused on hiring finance senior roles like CFO (43%) and CRO (39%) to support growth strategies.

In terms of the characteristics CEOs most value in their leadership teams, being inspirational (21%), loyal (21%), and adaptable (20%) came out on top, with being sceptical (11%), curious (13%), and spontaneous (14%) the least desired.

CISOs face burn out, stress, long hours

Whilst the news that CISOs are in high-demand will be music to the ears of many UK cybersecurity leadership professionals, well-known issues relating to stress and burnout associated with the role should be of consideration. The Lost Hours report from security software company Tessian, which surveyed 300 US- and UK-based CISOs, found that CISOs, on average, work 11 more hours than they’re contracted to work each week, with 10% working 20 to 24 hours extra a week. It also found that 42% have missed holidays like Thanksgiving or Christmas, 40% have missed a family vacation due to work, and 59% of CISOs say they struggle to always switch off from work once the workday is done due to stress. Burnout can lead to early departure from the role, less engagement with other executives, and a diminished capacity to lead one’s own team.

7 best reasons to be a CISO

The job of the CISO can be tough with its share of challenges, difficulties, and complications. A CISO’s trials and tribulations include responsibility for protecting a business’s most valuable asset (its data) from an evolving cyberthreat landscape, traversing complex and strict regulatory requirements, balancing security with critical business needs, and juggling a security skills and talent shortage. These are just a few of the things that keep CISOs up at night. However, it is far from all doom and gloom. There is plenty to be optimistic about if you are building or seeking a career as a CISO. Here are the seven best things about being a CISO according to those currently in the job:

  • CISOs are integral and valued business partners.
  • CISOs can develop wider business disciplines and skills.
  • CISOs can be change makers and silo breakers.
  • CISOs have good job market opportunities.
  • CISOs can champion diversity and be role models for underrepresented talent.
  • CISOs can create meaningful legacies in a purposeful profession.
  • CISOs are part of a caring, collaborative industry.