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Managing Directors vs CEOs - What Are C Level Execs

by Jo Shaer, on April 24, 2015

When I first started working in the City back in 1979, the top job in any business was the Managing Director or Senior Partner.


However, after limited companies became public limited companies or PLCs, our system for categorising our executives has become more and more American.  

Managing Directors vs CEOs

So should business owners be Presidents, Managing Directors or CEOs?  According to Small Business Chron

The corporate titles of chief executive officer, president and managing director carry distinctly different meanings. Chief executive officers serve as companies' strategists and cheerleaders, with the implementation of objectives left to senior management.

Company presidents are more actively involved as managers, on the other hand, but also report to a board of directors that guides the organization's direction.

Managing directors act like CEOs, but operate in the two-tiered corporate board setup characteristic of British firms.  The director is also bound by the Companies Act of 2006, which requires him to consider the social and environmental consequences of his decisions. 

The MD is legally responsible for the company's affairs, so they must comply with the appropriate rules and regulations set out in company law. These include following the proper audit procedure and not allowing the company to break any trade embargos or dealing in any illegal goods. 

As the title suggests, the Managing director needs to manage everything. This includes the staff, the customers, the budget, the company's assets and all other company resources to make the best use of them and increase the company's profitability. 

The MD or Senior MD reports to the Board of Directors to keep them informed of how the company is doing. The board will offer suggestions and ideas about how to improve the company to the Managing Director. It is the MDs responsibility to implement, improve upon or ignore these ideas. 

Shareholders tend to prefer that CEOs cannot hold additional titles like Chairman or President.This separation allows CEOs to run the company, leaving the chairman to run the board. Critics argue that such setups often trigger power struggles, particularly if an outside chairman is chosen to run operations.


So what are these C Level Executives and what do all the initials stand for?

  • Chief Executive Officer (CEO)
  • Chief Financial Officer (CFO) 
  • Chief Operations Officer (COO) 
  • Chief Technology Officer (CTO) 
  • Chief Information Officer (CIO) 
  • Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) 
  • Company President 
  • Board of Director 
  • Senior Vice President 
  • Vice President 
  • Senior Director 
  • Director

Where previously, Director was a real role to aspire to, the US hierarchy makes it the  the equivalent of an old-style British Manager!

CEO - Chief Executive Officer is the head of management for an organisation.  The highest ranking corporate officer, reporting to the board of directors and making decisions about policy and strategy.

Whilst the CEO is the head of the company, the remaining C Level positions are heads of department who report to him.

CFO Chief Financial Officer - This person manages the corporation’s financial risk.  They deal with data analysis, financial planning and record keeping.  Although they report to the CEO, they may also sit on the board of directors.

COO Chief Operations/Operating Officer is responsible for the day to day operations of an organisation.  Not all companies have one. The second in command behind the Chairman or CEO. This person may also be called the company’s President.  

CTO - Chief Technology Officer  or Technical Officer>, is focused on scientific and technological issues within an organisation.

CIO Chief Information Officer - This person is the head of information technology.  They may report to the CEO, CFO or COO.  They must create strategic goals to increase information accessibility and manage integrated system.Some organization CIO is called as CTO also.

CMO – Chief Marketing Officer – This person is the head of sales, product development and all things marketing-related.  The CMO can report to either the CEO or COO. Their job is to obtain growth through sales and marketing.  The CMO has become more commonly discussed in recent years. 

And there's more C Level Executives

CBDO - (Chief Business Development Officer) is a professional who focuses on improving profits and growth for a company. This person determines its direction and market share, coordinating with others in departments throughout the company and typically is responsible for employee assessment and training.

CCO - (Chief Communications Officer) is the corporate officer primarily responsible for managing the communications risks and opportunities of a business, both internally and externally involving employees, shareholders, media, bloggers, influential members of the business community, the press, the community and the public.

CXO Chief experience officer - A chief experience officer (CXO) is theofficer responsible for the overall user experience (UX) of an organization. This executive is ultimately responsible for the strategy behind and user interface design of the organization's products and services, and may further oversee marketing communications, community relations, internal relations, HR relations, investor relations, and other interactions between the organization and its various audiences.

And still more...

CLO (Chief Legal Officer), CTO (Chief Technology Officer), CRO (Chief Risk Officer), CCO (Chief Creative Officer), CCO (Chief Compliance Officer), CAE (Chief Audit Executive), CDO (Chief Diversity Officer), and CHRO (Chief Human Resources Officer). 


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