Chief Officer Acronyms Explained: CEO, COO, CFO and More

There are a lot of acronyms for top leadership positions that contain the words “Chief and Officer” in the title. It may be confusing to keep the players straight. It may help to explain that a corporate officer holds a management-level position, such as a President, Vice President, or General Manager. Other common positions include:

  • CEO – Chief Executive Officer – This person is the highest ranking corporate officer.  They are the head of management for an organization.  They report to the board of directors. They make high-level decisions about policy and strategy.  The people that report to the CEO include:  The CBDO (Chief Business Development Officer), CFO (Chief Financial Officer), COO (Chief Operating Officer), CMO (Chief Marketing Officer), CIO (Chief Information Officer), CCO (Chief Communications Officer), 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).  Steve Jobs was an example of a top CEO.  To find out more about these other chief officer positions, click here.  Check out:  The Best Performing CEO’s in the World.
  • COO – Chief Operating Officer – This person is responsible for the day to day operations or an organization.  Not all companies have one.  In 2006 more than 60 percent of Fortune 500 companies did not have a COO.  This person may also be called the company’s President.  This person could be thought of as the second in command behind the Chairman or CEO.  An example of a top COO is:  Tim Cook was the COO for Apple before replacing Steve Jobs as CEO. Check out: List of Famous Chief Operating Officers.
  • 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.  Peter Oppenheimer is Apple’s CFO.  Check out:  Bonus Babies . . . The Best Paid CFO’s.
  • 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.  Check out:  The Chief Marketing Officer . . . A new Boardroom Role.
  • 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 systems.  The CIO and CTO roles are often confused.  Check out:  What is the Difference Between CIO and CTO.   

There may be other chief officers’ positions in other industries as well.  For example in hospitals there could be a CMO (Chief Medical Officer), a CNO (Chief Nursing Officer) and a CMIO (Chief Medical Informatics Officer). 

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