2015 CEO
Success study

What are the world’s largest companies looking for in their leaders?


Outsider CEOs


Global CEO turnover


Women CEOs


International work experience

The Rise of the Outsider CEO

For 16 years, Strategy& has assessed what companies look for in their CEOs by analyzing the decisions companies make when it's time to choose a new leader.

In this year’s report, we take a special look at outsider CEOs and the circumstances in which they are being hired.

In addition, we have our annual analysis on CEO turnover, the 2015 incoming class of CEOs, and women CEOs.

Global key findings

  • Outsider CEOs
  • CEO turnover
  • Women CEOs
  • Incoming CEOs

22% Companies are now making a deliberate choice to bring in outsider CEOs. In the latest four-year period (2012–15), boards chose outsiders in 22% of planned turnovers, up from 14% in 2004–07.

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16.6% CEO turnover at the 2500 largest companies in the world rose from 14.3% in 2014 to 16.6% in 2015—a record high for the CEO Success study.

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2.8% Only 10 women were among the 359 incoming CEOs at the world’s 2500 largest companies in 2015. At 2.8%, that was the lowest share since 2011.

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28% The global CEO is a myth. Just 28% of incoming CEOs at the world’s 2500 largest companies had international work experience, down from 45% in 2012.

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Detailed findings

Why was CEO turnover so high this year?

The higher rate was driven by a combination of unusually strong M&A activity and a rise in the rate of forced turnovers. Using the drop-down menus below, choose a region and industry to compare turnover rates across years; or choose a region and year to compare across industries; or choose an industry and year to compare across regions.

Turnover rate
Type: Planned Forced M&A
Columns may not add to totals due to rounding.

Regional Breakdown

U.S./Canada:  This region includes the United States and Canada.

Western Europe:  This region includes Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Guernsey, Ireland, Italy, Jersey, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

Other Mature:  This region includes Argentina, Australia, Bahrain, Bermuda, Chi'le, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, Poland, Qatar, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, and United Arab Emirates.

BRIC: This region includes Brazil, Russia, India, and China.

Other Emerging:  This region includes Cayman Islands, Colombia, Egypt, Indonesia, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mexico, Morocco, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Papua N. Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Romania, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Thailand, and Turkey.

Regions are classified as mature or emerging based on the U.N. Development Programme rankings.

Industry Breakdown

Consumer Discretionary: This industry grouping includes the following subindustries: advertising, apparel retail, auto parts and equipment, automobile manufacturers, broadcasting, cable and satellite, computer and electronics retail, consumer electronics, department stores, distributors, education services, homebuilding, hotels, resorts and cruise lines, leisure products, publishing, restaurants, and tires and rubber.

Consumer Staples: This industry grouping includes the following subindustries: agricultural products, biotechnology, brewers, food retail, health care equipment, health care services, health care technology, hypermarkets and super centers, life sciences tools and services, managed health care, packaged food and meats, personal products, pharmaceuticals, soft drinks, and tobacco.

Energy: This industry grouping includes the following subindustries: coal and consumable fuels, integrated oil and gas, oil and gas drilling, oil and gas equipment and services, oil and gas exploration and production, oil and gas refining and marketing, and oil and gas storage and transportation.

Financial Services: This industry grouping includes the following subindustries: asset management and custody banks, consumer finance, diversified banks, diversified capital markets, diversified real estate activity, investment banking and brokerage, life and health insurance, multi-line insurance, multi-sector holdings, other diversified financial services, property and casualty insurance, real estate operating companies, real estate services, regional banks, reinsurance, specialized finance, and thrifts and mortgage finance.

Industrials: This industry grouping includes the following subindustries: aerospace and defense, air freight and logistics, airlines, airport services, construction and engineering, construction and farm machinery, electrical components and equipment, heavy electrical equipment, highways and rail tracks, industrial conglomerates, industrial machinery, marine ports and services, office services and supplies, railroads, research and consulting services, and trading companies and distributors.

Information Technology: This industry grouping includes the following subindustries: application software, communications equipment, data processing and outsourced services, electronic components, electronic manufacturing services, home entertainment software, internet software and services, IT consulting and other services, semiconductor equipment, semiconductors, and systems software.

Materials: This industry grouping includes the following subindustries: commodity chemicals, construction materials, diversified chemicals, diversified metals and mining, fertilizers and agricultural chemicals, gold, industrial gases, metal and glass containers, paper packaging, paper products, precious metals and minerals, specialty chemicals, and steel.

Telecom: This industry grouping includes the following subindustries: integrated telecommunication services and wireless telecommunication services.

Utilities: This industry grouping includes the following subindustries: electric utilities, gas utilities, independent power producers, multi utilities, and water utilities.

Industry classifcations come from Bloomberg.

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