Colby Howard

Published on June 29, 2023

Featured Article

Current CEO Trends

In the ever-evolving landscape of asset management, understanding the dynamics of CEO succession is paramount. As the role of CEO becomes increasingly challenging in the face of technological advancements, stakeholder demands, and market volatility, identifying effective CEO successors is more crucial than ever. In a recent discussion with industry experts, Jim Citrin from Spencer Stuart and Bonnie Gwin from Heidrick & Struggles shed light on the changing landscape of CEO succession.

The Rise of Internal Candidates:

One significant trend highlighted by Bonnie Gwin is the increasing prominence of internal candidates for CEO positions. Amid the COVID era, a staggering 78% of new CEOs were selected from within the organization. This shift indicates a growing preference for individuals who possess a deep understanding of the company’s culture, operations, and vision. For asset managers, this trend emphasizes the importance of evaluating internal talent and considering the potential impact of leadership continuity on investment performance.

COO and CFO Pathways:

While the position of Chief Operating Officer (COO) has traditionally been the most common route to the CEO role, Jim Citrin notes an uptick in the selection of Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) as CEOs in the past year, accounting for 16% of new appointments. This shift suggests that CFOs are increasingly recognized for their strategic acumen and ability to navigate complex financial landscapes. Asset managers should closely monitor this trend and assess the implications of financial expertise in executive leadership when evaluating investment opportunities.

Separation of CEO and Chair Roles:

A notable departure from the past is the declining prevalence of CEOs assuming the additional title of Chair. According to Jim Citrin, none of the new CEOs in the S&P 500 were given the title of Chair at the outset in the previous year. Furthermore, in today’s Fortune 500, only 37% of CEOs also hold the Chair title. This separation of roles suggests a growing emphasis on corporate governance and the need for independent oversight. Asset managers should consider the implications of this trend on decision-making processes, accountability, and long-term company performance.

Optimal Tenure and Performance:

Jim Citrin shared a surprising statistic: while the average CEO tenure is approximately eight years, peak performance occurs in the 11th to 15th year, as measured by total shareholder return relative to the market. This finding indicates that CEOs who can maintain their position beyond the eight-year mark tend to outperform their peers. As an investor, understanding the potential impact of CEO tenure on investment outcomes can inform long-term portfolio strategies and help identify companies with a track record of sustained success.

Additional Insights:

The discussion also touched upon other CEO succession trends. Boomerang CEOs, those who return to lead a company after stepping down, make up a small minority (3%) among S&P 500 companies. They often face challenges in replicating their prior success. Co-CEO arrangements, while showing promise in specific cases, can present complexities and questions around delineating roles and responsibilities. CEOs chosen from the company’s board have consistently performed slightly better than insiders or outsiders, accounting for around 6% of CEO appointments in the past two decades.


Staying informed about CEO succession trends is vital for asset managers seeking to make strategic investment decisions. From the rise of internal candidates to the separation of CEO and Chair roles, each trend provides unique insights into the dynamics of executive leadership and its impact on investment performance. By understanding these trends, investors can evaluate companies with a comprehensive perspective, identifying potential risks and opportunities that arise from CEO succession strategies. Stay updated and harness the power of CEO succession insights to drive your investments towards success.

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