Uncommon Job Titles

Jul 18, 2019

When we talk about C suite, we normally think of CEO (Chief Executive Officer), CFO (Chief Financial Officer), COO (Chief Operating Officer), CIO (Chief Investment Officer), etc. But sometimes there’re rather uncommon titles given to the senior managers. I came across some like: - “Chief Deception Officer” - “Chief Interactive Officer” - “Chief People Officer” - “Chief Knowledge and Client Value Officer” - “Chief Learning Officer” - “Chief Instruction Officer”

It is kinda hard for me to understand what exactly do they do simply from looking at these job titles. If I were to receive a business card that writes “Chief Interactive Officer”, my first guess would be that he/she is probably head of design, managing something like user experience/interface. Personally I think an uncommon title gives more confusion than clarity in most cases, and is sometimes unnecessary.

My natural response follows that who are these people? What companies do they work for? Are these companies big or small? What’s the performance of these firms? … So I did some quick check using the BoardEx and Compustat data from WRDS.

Specifically, I merged the two datasets and kept only the executive directors and senior managers. Next, I kept only distinct job titles for each firm-year on the most aggregated level. That means, “Senior VP - Marketing” and “Senior VP - Sales” are both Senior VP and thus counted as the same since I’m looking at the diversity of job titles.

The plot below shows the average number of senior managers and distinct job titles per firm from 1960 to 2019.

job titles

There’re some evident facts from the plot:

  1. Both the average number of senior managers and distinct job titles increased significantly since the 90s. Nowadays an average firm in the sample has as many as 13 senior managers.
  2. Before the mid-2000s, the average number of distinct job titles per firm is higher than the number of senior managers, which means a manager may assume more than one position in the firm. An example is that the CEO is also the CFO of the firm.
  3. Since the mid-2000s, on average some managers share the same title but are responsible of distinct businesses. An example is that a firm may have two VPs - one for sales and one for marketing.

Further, the plot below shows the aggregated frequency of the most frequently used senior job titles.

most used job titles

No surprise. But what about those very rarely used titles, like those used only once in the past 60 years?

There’re just way too many such job titles - hundreds of them. The list below is those “C suite” titles and I randomly highlighted some interesting ones:

  • Chief Algorithms Officer
  • Chief Architect Officer
  • Chief Awesomeness Officer
  • Chief Brand and Digital Strategy Officer
  • Chief Business & Product Officer
  • Chief Business Affairs and Legal Officer
  • Chief Business Marketing Officer
  • Chief Business Transformation and Information Officer
  • Chief Business and Analytics Officer
  • Chief Clinical and Regulatory Officer
  • Chief Collaboration Officer
  • Chief Communication Officer
  • Chief Communications and Engagement Officer
  • Chief Compliance & Communications Officer
  • Chief Compliance & Ethics Officer
  • Chief Compliance Privacy and People Officer
  • Chief Compliance and Ethics Officer
  • Chief Control Officer
  • Chief Corporate Affairs and Customer Care Officer
  • Chief Corporate Finance Officer
  • Chief Credit & Operations Officer
  • Chief Development and Product Officer
  • Chief Digital & Information Officer
  • Chief Digital Product Officer
  • Chief Digital and Information Officer
  • Chief Digital and Innovation Officer
  • Chief Diversity & Engagement Officer
  • Chief Enterprise Services Officer
  • Chief Evangelist
  • Chief External Affairs & Communications Officer
  • Chief Financial & Strategy Officer
  • Chief Financial and Operating Officer
  • Chief General Counsel
  • Chief Geophysicist
  • Chief Giving Officer
  • Chief Global Business Partnership Officer
  • Chief Global Business Services Officer
  • Chief HR & Diversity Officer
  • Chief HR & Services Officer
  • Chief Human Resource Services Officer
  • Chief Hyperscale Officer
  • Chief Impact Officer
  • Chief Informatics Officer
  • Chief Information & Innovation Officer
  • Chief Integrated Supply Chain Officer
  • Chief Internal Audit Officer
  • Chief Investor Relations & Strategy Officer
  • Chief Legal & Human Resource Officer
  • Chief Legal Compliance and Privacy Officer
  • Chief Legal and Development Officer
  • Chief Legal and Human Resource Officer
  • Chief Lunar Officer
  • Chief Manufacturing Technology Officer
  • Chief Marketing and Brand Development Officer
  • Chief Media and Marketing Officer
  • Chief Merchandising & Design Officer
  • Chief Merchandising & Marketing Officer
  • Chief Mobile Officer
  • Chief Operating Executive
  • Chief Operational Risk Officer
  • Chief Operations & Digital Innovation Officer
  • Chief Operations & Integrations Officer
  • Chief People Operations Officer
  • Chief Pilot
  • Chief Platform and Globalization Officer
  • Chief Practice & Project Officer
  • Chief Product Development Officer
  • Chief Product and Operations Officer
  • Chief Product and Strategy Officer
  • Chief Product and Technology Officer
  • Chief Regulatory & Compliance Officer
  • Chief Regulatory & Development Officer
  • Chief Risk & Pricing Officer
  • Chief Sales and Revenue Officer
  • Chief Science & Strategy Officer
  • Chief Scientific Affairs Officer
  • Chief Scientific and Innovation Officer
  • Chief Service Officer
  • Chief Services Officer
  • Chief Strategic Development Officer
  • Chief Strategic Growth Officer
  • Chief Strategy & Business Development Officer
  • Chief Strategy & Global Marketing Officer
  • Chief Strategy Growth & Data Officer
  • Chief Strategy and Commercial Officer
  • Chief Strategy and Data Officer
  • Chief Strategy and Development Officer
  • Chief Strategy and Engagement Officer
  • Chief Strategy and Growth Officer
  • Chief Strategy and Innovation Officer
  • Chief Technology Evangelist
  • Chief Transformation and Digital Officer
  • Chief Trust and Security Officer
  • Chief User Engagement Officer
  • Chief Value Officer
  • Chief of Learning and Innovation
  • Chief of Research

Quite a long list. The following plot shows the number of those uncommmon job titles that were used only once from 1960 to 2018. Although it’s biased in that new job titles in recent years may appear less in history, we still can see a significant boom of uncommon job titles since 2017. Well, people are becoming more and more creative to cope with the growing complexity of the world I guess.

number of uncommon job titles

I further checked the size of firms giving uncommon job titles and those who do not, and found that bigger firms give more rarely seen job titles to senior managers. This is understandable. If smaller firms are those who keep inventing new job titles, that’ll be surprising.

So, if a firm gives rather rare and uncommon job titles to its senior managers, does it have a better performance or a worse one? I don’t have an ex ante expectation.

  1. If the uncommon job title is invented to represent the advance of business ahead of the market, it might be a good thing. For example, the Chief Algorithms Officer position is probably a signal that the firm puts exceptional focus on the research of algos which can promote efficiency.
  2. If the rare job title is only for fun or for some meaningless nonsense like Chief Awesomeness Officer and Chief Giving Officer, the firm is probably just not so serious in its own business as well.

I again did some quick checks and found that firms giving uncommon job titles on average have better a ROA. This however is not conclusive. I didn’t control other potential confounding factors and I did not use industry average, peer firms or matched firm as benchmarks. The finding is also not causal. Because a better performing firm may need specialised senior manager to take charge of a specific field of work so that the firm makes a new position and title for it – pure reverse causality.

In some cases, an uncommon job title is more likely a signal that the firm deliberately sends out to the market. For example, a firm may have a “Chief Awesomeness Officer” to showcase its vibrant culture and a “Chairwoman” to showcase its support for woman rights, all of which may be valued and priced in the market. This might be an interesting topic to study in corporate finance.

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