Fred Smith, the founder of FedEx.

 The latest brand guardianship index from Brand Finance has shown that the chief executive officers (CEOs) who   are best at providing long-term value to their brand are also the ones who have served for long.  The average tenure for CEOs in the Brand Guardianship Index is 7.6 years. The top ten performing CEOs averaged 15.9 years in their role – over twice the Index’s average. While the ten lowest ranked CEOs averaged only five years in their role.

The Brand Guardianship Index lists the world’s top 250 CEOs, or actual leaders of their business even if they have a different title, in order. From the Index, the top ten – those who most successfully manage and grow their companies’ brands – have been in their role for more than twice the average amount of time. “Brand guardianship is a skill that needs to be developed. To be able to build long-term business value, you need to balance the needs of different stakeholders – employees, investors and the wider society. It is clear, from our Index, that that takes time,” said Annie Brown, associate at Brand Finance.

“However, it could also be said that having developed the skill of brand guardianship, leaders are seen as more valuable by market analysts and so stay in their roles longer. Either way, it is true that good brand guardianship is key to a long tenure as CEO,” she added. Four of the top ten CEOs have been in their role for over twenty years. The number one ranked CEO, Satya Nadella of Microsoft, has been in his role for almost exactly the average amount of time – 7.9 years, but his time at Microsoft now exceeds 30 years. He   was an internal appointment and has therefore been groomed for the role.

The longest serving CEO in the top 250 is Fred Smith, the founder of FedEx. He has been in his role for over 50 years and is at number 76 in Brand Finance’s Index. The second longest serving CEO is Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, the man who has been credited with “putting Dubai on the global aviation map”. At number 20 on the Index, he has been Chairman and CEO of Emirates Airline for over 37 years. The longest serving CEO in the top ten is Jensen Huang of Nvidia, who has been leading the company for almost 29 years.

Seeming to confirm the idea that CEOs that best know both the business and the various stakeholders are the ones that can provide the greatest long term value to the brand, all of the top ten CEOs in the list are founders or internal appointees. The highest ranked external appointee is Jean-Frederic Dufour of Rolex at number twenty one on the list, but as he was previously the CEO of a competitor, Zenith, he already had strong relationships in the industry. “The best performing CEOs must now work as collaborative diplomats to build the value of the brand and of the business,” continued Brown. “That needs skill, experience and often patience. Boards that demonstrate patience with skilled CEOs will reap the rewards with increased business value. However, that doesn’t mean that CEOs always continue to get better with age. They can reach a ‘sell-by date’,” continued Brown. “Boards – and the CEOs themselves – need to recognise when that time is so they can make changes in the best interests of the brand.”

Ranking the world’s top 250 CEOs, the Brand Guardianship Index evaluates the performance of chief executives according to how well they manage and grow their companies’ brands. The ranking is informed by the results of an original survey of over 1,000 market analysts and journalists. The top 250 ranking is drawn from a sample of over 500 chief executives of the world’s top companies with at least one brand featured in the annual ranking of the world’s top 500 most valuable brands – the Brand Finance Global 500.



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