CEO turnover rate declines in October

November 14, 2009
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October saw 89 chief executive officers leave their posts, 15 percent fewer than September’s 105, and 29 percent lower than the 125 CEO departures recorded in October 2008, according to the latest report on CEO turnover released last week by global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc.

October saw 89 chief executive officers leave their posts, 15 percent fewer than September’s 105, and 29 percent lower than the 125 CEO departures recorded in October 2008, according to the latest report on CEO turnover released last week by global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc.

October marked the eighth time this year that CEO turnover was lower than the same month a year ago. So far this year, 1,028 CEO changes have been announced, 18 percent fewer than the 1,257 departures tracked by this point a year ago. This year’s 10-month total is the lowest since 2004, when CEO changes numbered 561 through the end of October.

The financial industry experienced the heaviest CEO turnover last month with 19 top executives leaving their posts. While job cuts in this sector have declined steadily since the beginning of the year, volatility continues at the top of the corporate ladder. Financial firms have had 106 CEO departures this year, or about 1 in every 10 exits.

The financial industry is still incredibly volatile, as both October and September saw major announcements from leading companies including JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, and last month’s bankruptcy of CIT Group, which led to the exit of CEO Jeffrey Peek.

Moreover, the investigation into executive pay packages for institutions that received federal bailouts may also push companies into management changes. There may be many more CEO departures to come in the financial sector.

The financial services sector, however, is not the sector with the most turnover. That distinction goes to the health care sector, which added another eight CEO departures in October to bring the year-to-date total to 159. That is 22 percent more than the 130 CEO changes announced by the second-ranked government and nonprofit sector.

Meanwhile, the current economic and political conditions are causing significant changes in the energy sector. It is one of the few industries to have seen CEO turnover increase from last year’s levels, in reference to the fact that energy sector CEO changes have increased to 47 from 32 at this point last year.

Some of the change may be coming from companies seeking new leadership to address the current administration’s push to increase fuel efficiency and the use of alternative energy sources.

John A. Challenger is chief is executive officer of outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

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