Age and Tenure in the C-Suite: Korn Ferry Institute Study Reveals Trends by Title and Industry

- CEOs are the Oldest and the Longest-Tenured -

- CMOs and CIOs are the Youngest and Shortest-Tenured -

- Overall the Average Age for a C-suite Member is 54 and the Average Tenure is 5.3 Years -

LOS ANGELES--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- A new analysis by Korn Ferry (NYSE:KFY), the preeminent global people and organizational advisory firm, finds that CEOs are the oldest and longest-tenured individuals compared with other prominent C-suite roles.

By contrast, the study found CMOs and CIOs are the youngest and shortest-tenured.

The Korn Ferry Institute study of the top 1,000 U.S. companies by revenue was conducted in late 2016. It examines the age and tenure of individuals holding C-suite titles (CEO, CFO, CHRO, CMO, CIO), and is also broken down by industry - consumer, energy, financial services, industrials, life sciences, professional services, and technology.

When analyzed in the aggregate, the average age for a C-suite member is 54 and the average tenure is 5.3 years. However, the numbers vary depending on title and industry.

CEO – Oldest and Longest-Tenured

The average age for a CEO across industries is 58, with the oldest average CEO age 60 in financial services and the youngest 55 in the technology sector.

In terms of tenure, the average CEO tenure is 8 years. Those in financial services have the longest tenure, 9.7 years, and those in energy have the shortest tenure, 6.1 years.

“It makes sense that for large, complex companies, the executive who holds the highest leadership position would have more and diverse experiences, which would translate to more years in the workforce,” said Tierney Remick, vice chairman, Korn Ferry Board and CEO Services. “Immediately following the 2008 Great Recession we saw many boards asking their CEOs to continue to lead and navigate through an unprecedented period of dynamic change and ultimately, recovery.”

CFO – Longest-Tenured Behind CEO

The average CFO age at 53 represents the middle of the pack for C-suite members. There isn’t much variance in the age of CFOs among industries, with an average age of 54 for financial services and life sciences, and an average age of 53 for the other industries (consumer, energy, industrials, professional services and technology).

As for tenure, behind the CEO, the CFO is the longest-tenured C-suite member at an average of 5.1 years, with the longest-tenured CFOs in the life sciences industry at an average of 6 years, and the shortest-tenured CFOs in the technology and industrial sectors at an average of 4.9 years.

“In 2016 we saw internal promotions of CFOs vs. external hires jump to 58 percent, up from just 40 percent the previous year. We’re also finding that a contributing factor to the longer tenure of CFOs are boards, which are taking the time to create robust succession management processes to ensure chosen candidates are a good fit, and therefore stay longer,” said Bryan Proctor, senior client partner, Korn Ferry CFO Practice.

CHRO – Oldest Behind CEO

Behind the CEO, the CHRO is the oldest C-suite member at an average age of 55. Life sciences and energy tie for the oldest average CHRO at 56, and professional services has the youngest average CHRO at 54.

The average tenure for a CHRO across industries is 5.0 years. Energy has the longest-tenured CHRO average at 5.3 years and industrial has the youngest-tenured CHRO at 4.6 years.

“CHROs are in the business of relationship building, and that takes time,” said Joseph McCabe, vice chair, Korn Ferry HR Global Center of Expertise. “Once those relationships are built, the CHRO’s value to the organization is even greater and hence the longer tenure.”

CMO – Shortest-Tenured in C-Suite

The average CMO age is 52, with CMOs in the life sciences and professional services sectors the oldest average age at 54. The youngest average age of CMOs is 50 in the consumer sector.

The average tenure of a CMO is the lowest of all C-suite titles, at an average of 4.1 years. The longest average CMO tenure is in the financial services industry at 5.1 years, and life sciences CMOs stay on average a full two years less at only 3.1 years. The average CMO in the consumer industry stays 3.6 years.

“Today’s customer-centric CMO role is exceptionally complex and requires the right balance of left as well as right brain skills, and very importantly, a differentiated set of leadership competencies,” said Caren Fleit, senior client partner and leader of Korn Ferry’s Marketing Center of Expertise. “CMOs with this unique profile are in high demand and are often recruited to lead the next transformation. Also, in some cases, short tenure can be attributed to the organization not being well aligned behind the change that the CMO is tasked with leading.”

CIO – Youngest in C-Suite

The CIO is on average the youngest in the C-suite at age 51, with the youngest average CIO age in the consumer industry at 47, and the oldest in industrials at 54.

The average tenure for the CIO is 4.3 years, with CIOs in the consumer, energy, and professional services sectors tying for the longest-average tenure at 4.5 years. The shortest-tenured CIO is in the industrial sector at an average of 4.0 years.

“The pace of change is rapid and the breadth of increasing responsibilities continues to reconfirm the importance of the CIO role,” said Craig Stephenson, managing director of the North America CIO Practice. “CIOs continuously rise to the challenge and it’s common for this executive profile to leave after a few years, not because of dissatisfaction, but because the challenge they set out to accomplish is achieved and other, perhaps larger, opportunities await.”

About Korn Ferry

Korn Ferry is the preeminent global people and organizational advisory firm. We help leaders, organizations, and societies succeed by releasing the full power and potential of people. Our nearly 7,000 colleagues deliver services through our Executive Search, Hay Group and Futurestep divisions. Visit for more information.

Editor’s Note: Infographic can be found here

Korn Ferry
Tracy Kurschner, 612.309.3957

Source: Korn Ferry