Article: World's Top 100 CEOs 2017: HBR

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World's Top 100 CEOs 2017: HBR

Harvard Business Review listed the top 100 CEOs in the world this year. Find out more about the list.
World's Top 100 CEOs 2017: HBR

Harvard Business Review (HBR) came out with a list of world's best-performing CEOs in 2017 . The list, in its sixth edition since 2010, is as comprehensive as they come, yet by its own admission, might not be as inclusive as is possible. The list, unlike several other ranking mechanisms that use a singular yardstick in a short-term time frame, ‘relies on objective performance measures over a chief executive’s entire tenure—numbers that often hold steady.’ Furthermore, in addition to long-term stability, HBR also takes into account multiple other factors besides the financial performance. Let’s take a look at how the list was determined, what are the larger trends this year, and who made it to the list:

How did HBR decide who makes it to the list?

Companies that were a part of S&P Global 1200 Index at the end of 2016 were considered at the very first stage. CEOs who had been at their job for less than two years were then dropped to account for a fair evaluation of a sufficient record, as were those convicted of a crime or arrested. In the end, 898 CEOs from 887 organisations in 31 countries were selected for further study. 

The organisation’s financial data from the CEO’s first day on the job till April 30, 2017 was then compiled, and various parameters filled, like country-adjusted total shareholder return, industry-adjusted total shareholder return, and change in market capitalisation. The 898 CEOs were then ranked from best to worst, and then data from Sustainalytics, a leading provider of ESC research and analytics, and CSRHub, which collects, aggregates and normalises ESG data, was incorporated. The final ranking included an 80% share of the overall financial ranking, and two 10% ESG rankings by the two firms. 

A CEO’s capability was initially measured only on the basis of financial performance up until 2014. This methodology was revised in 2015, when the list was in its fourth edition, and in addition to the financial aspect ESG (Environmental, Governance and Social) Ratings were also included in the metrics. As a result, Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s founder, who was at the top spot in 2014, dropped to the 87th rank in 2015 (he has since climbed to 76 in 2016 and 71 this year). 

What are the general trends in this years’ list?

Several interesting patterns and observations have been highlighted in the 2017 edition. The research team that drew the list itself notes that there are noticeable consistencies from 2016, owing to the same ranking methodology; it is open to admit that the ranking is a ‘work in progress to look for ways to improve the methodology’. Here are some of the more interesting trends:

  • The list if topped by Pablo Isla, of Inditex, from Spain, who is at the top spot for the first time. Inditex is the parent company of retail fashion brands like Zara, Pull&Bear, Massimo Dutti, Bershka, Stradivarius, Oysho and Uterque and of the housewares retailer Zara Home. 
  • During his tenure, the market value has grown sevenfold, and if only financial returns were accounted for, Isla would have been awarded the 18th rank. However, Inditex’s stellar performance in the ESG factors pushed him to the top spot. 
  • 72 of the last year’s 100 leaders recur this year, and 23 of them are making it to the list for the fourth year running. Of the 28 who didn’t make it to the list, 11 retired.  
  • 20 CEOs are heading organisations outside their countries of birth, and the average age is that of 44 years – with office tenure of 17 years.  81 of those who made it to the list were insiders of the company. 
  • 29 of the leaders have an MBA degree (Pablo Isla doesn’t have one), and 32 have an engineering degree. 
  • The most disappointing fact is that only two of the 100 leaders are women. 


The complete list of Top 100 CEOs is as follows:

  1. PABLO ISLA - INDITEX
  2. MARTIN SORRELL - WPP
  3. JENSEN HUANG - NVIDIA
  4. JACQUES ASCHENBROICH - VALEO
  5. BERNARD ARNAULT - LVMH
  6. MARTIN BOUYGUES - BOUYGUES
  7. JOHAN THIJS - KBC
  8. MARK PARKER - NIKE
  9. ELMAR DEGENHART - CONTINENTAL
  10. FLORENTINO PÉREZ RODRÍGUEZ - ACS
  11. RICHARD COUSINS - COMPASS
  12. MARC BENIOFF - SALESFORCE.COM
  13. CARLOS BRITO - ANHEUSER-BUSCH INBEV
  14. BERNARD CHARLÈS - DASSAULT SYSTÈMES
  15. LARS RASMUSSEN - COLOPLAST
  16. BENOÎT POTIER - AIR LIQUIDE
  17. ANDERS RUNEVAD - VESTAS
  18. HISASHI IETSUGU - SYSMEX
  19. WES BUSH - NORTHROP GRUMMAN
  20. SUH KYUNG-BAE - AMOREPACIFIC
  21. MICHAEL MUSSALLEM - EDWARDS LIFESCIENCES
  22. JOHAN MOLIN - ASSA ABLOY
  23. FRANÇOIS-HENRI PINAULT - KERING
  24. ROBERT IGER - DISNEY
  25. FABRIZIO FREDA - ESTÉE LAUDER
  26. HUGH GRANT - MONSANTO
  27. RICHARD TEMPLETON - TEXAS INSTRUMENTS
  28. STEPHEN LUCZO - SEAGATE TECHNOLOGY
  29. PAOLO ROCCA - TENARIS
  30. TAI-MING "TERRY" GOU - HON HAI PRECISION INDUSTRY
  31. RICHARD FAIRBANK - CAPITAL ONE
  32. LAURENCE FINK - BLACKROCK
  33. DANIEL AMOS - AFLAC
  34. FREDERICK SMITH - FEDEX
  35. MARILLYN HEWSON - LOCKHEED MARTIN
  36. XAVIER HUILLARD - VINCI
  37. TAKASHI TANAKA - KDDI
  38. RENATO ALVES VALE - CCR
  39. DOUGLAS BAKER JR. - ECOLAB
  40. AJAY BANGA - MASTERCARD
  41. SHIGENOBU NAGAMORI - NIDEC
  42. TADASHI YANAI - FAST RETAILING
  43. HAMID MOGHADAM - PROLOGIS
  44. BLAKE NORDSTROM - NORDSTROM
  45. MICHAEL MAHONEY - BOSTON SCIENTIFIC
  46. GILLES SCHNEPP - LEGRAND
  47. MICHEL LANDEL - SODEXO
  48. HOCK TAN - BROADCOM
  49. GERMÁN LARREA MOTA VELASCO - GRUPO MÉXICO
  50. DEBRA CAFARO - VENTAS
  51. DAVID SIMON - SIMON PROPERTY GROUP
  52. THIERRY BRETON - ATOS
  53. SERGIO MARCHIONNE - FIAT CHRYSLER
  54. WING KIN "ALFRED" CHAN - HONG KONG AND CHINA GAS
  55. LEONARD SCHLEIFER - REGENERON PHARMACEUTICALS
  56. LESLIE WEXNER - L BRANDS
  57. DANIEL HAJJ ABOUMRAD - AMÉRICA MÓVIL
  58. IGNACIO GALÁN - IBERDROLA
  59. REINHARD PLOSS - INFINEON TECHNOLOGIES
  60. MARTIN GILBERT - ABERDEEN ASSET MANAGEMENT
  61. HUATENG "PONY" MA - TENCENT
  62. SHANTANU NARAYEN - ADOBE SYSTEMS
  63. BRAD SMITH - INTUIT
  64. MARK BRISTOW - RANDGOLD RESOURCES
  65. MASAYOSHI SON - SOFTBANK
  66. YASUYUKI YOSHINAGA - SUBARU
  67. PIERRE NANTERME - ACCENTURE
  68. OSCAR GONZÁLEZ ROCHA - SOUTHERN COPPER
  69. JAMIE DIMON - JPMORGAN CHASE
  70. STEVE SANGHI - MICROCHIP TECHNOLOGY
  71. JEFFREY BEZOS - AMAZON
  72. DAVID CORDANI - CIGNA
  73. BRUCE FLATT - BROOKFIELD ASSET MANAGEMENT
  74. GREGORY CASE - AON
  75. MARK BERTOLINI - AETNA
  76. KENT THIRY - DAVITA
  77. BRIAN ROBERTS - COMCAST
  78. STEPHEN HEMSLEY - UNITEDHEALTH
  79. JAMES TAICLET JR. - AMERICAN TOWER
  80. ANDRÉ DESMARAIS - POWER CORPORATION OF CANADA
  81. PAUL DESMARAIS JR. - POWER CORPORATION OF CANADA
  82. PAUL POLMAN - UNILEVER
  83. HIROO UNOURA - NIPPON TELEGRAPH AND TELEPHONE
  84. BOBBY KOTICK - ACTIVISION BLIZZARD
  85. RICHARD FAIN - ROYAL CARIBBEAN CRUISES
  86. THOMAS EBELING - PROSIEBENSAT.1
  87. JEAN-PAUL AGON - L’ORÉAL
  88. JEF COLRUYT - COLRUYT
  89. REED HASTINGS – NETFLIX
  90. LUI CHE WOO - GALAXY ENTERTAINMENT
  91. JOHN MACKEY - WHOLE FOODS MARKET
  92. STEPHEN SMITH - EQUINIX
  93. JOHN WREN - OMNICOM
  94. TIMOTHY RING - C. R. BARD
  95. ROB SANDS - CONSTELLATION BRANDS
  96. XAVIER ROLET - LONDON STOCK EXCHANGE
  97. ENRIQUE CUETO - LATAM AIRLINES
  98. SEAN BOYD - AGNICO EAGLE MINES
  99. JEAN-LAURENT BONNAFÉ - BNP PARIBAS
  100. IAN COOK - COLGATE-PALMOLIVE


If a quick glance at the list leaves you confused, worry not. Many companies listed here are unheard-of parent groups of much more famous brands and products. Furthermore, if you are wondering how are Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO and Jack Ma, the Chinese mogul (two names that you must have surely heard) not a part of this list – read the methodology of creating the list again! The most popular or famous leaders might not necessarily ace all the parameters of the list. 

You can view the 2016, 2015 and 2014 editions as well. 

Topics: C-Suite

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