When you look at the leadership of any corporation, it’s difficult to tell who does what within the organization. The larger the company, the more the executive roster begins to resemble alphabet soup. In years gone by, there was simply a president and maybe a vice-president or two. Now corporations are awash in a sea of Cs: COOs, CEOs, CIOs, CMOs and CFOs. What do these acronyms stand for and what roles does each corporate officer play within a company?
The CEO is the Chief Executive Officer, otherwise known as the President of the company. He or she is the main corporate executive in charge of devising and implementing policy and business strategy. The CEO is responsible for the highest level management decisions and he or she reports to the board of directors.
COO is the acronym for the Chief Operating Officer of a company. This is the person who oversees the daily operations of the business. For instance, John Ferraro Ernst & Young is an example of a COO of a major corporation. The COO answers directly to the CEO and is subordinate only to him or her. This is the office that was once referred to as the vice-presidency.
CIO and CTO
The Chief Information Officer, or CIO, is the executive responsible for overseeing a business’ communications and IT capabilities, increasing accessibility and managing the information systems. The CIO is often confused with the CTO, or Chief Technology Officer. The CIO is internally directed and is concerned with using technology to enhance daily operations from a profitability and business standpoint. The CTO is externally focused on how technology affects customers and revenue generation. The CTO is usually subordinate to the CIO, who answers to the COO, the CEO and the CFO. The CIO is skill and organization-driven, the CTO is creativity and innovation-driven.
The is the executive who oversees financial management of the company. He or she is responsible for risk management, budgeting, financial planning and analysis. The Chief Financial Officer reports directly to the CEO, but usually sits on the board of directors as well.
The Chief Marketing Officer is the person who oversees all of the company’s product development and advertising responsibilities. This is the top sales position in a corporation and the one most responsible for increasing the customer base and revenue. The CMO answers to the CEO and COO of the company.
The above listed titles are the main executive positions in a modern corporate hierarchy. Depending on the type and scope of the corporation, there can additional titles, including:
Chief Medical Officer
Chief Risk Officer
Chief Diversity Officer
Chief Compliance officer
Chief Communications Officer
The rules about the number of officers required when incorporating a business vary from state to state, though there is usually a minimum of two; there’s no law regarding an upper limit of corporate offices. The number of officers for a specific business, and their duties, must be outlined in the company bylaws. Corporate officers are usually appointed by the board of directors, and can be removed by a majority vote of the board. The procedure for appointing and removing officers will be outlined in the company bylaws when the corporation is formed.