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Hierarchy of Corporate Titles

Updated April 17, 2017

Businesses require capital in order to start up and continue running their revenue-producing activities. In order to acquire this capital, businesses can either receive it through owner investment or through incurring economic obligations to other economic entities. Corporations are set apart from other businesses in that their owners are considered separate legal entities from the business. Each corporate shareholder is considered an owner of the corporation, and as such is entitled to elect a Board of Directors who in turn select and hire that corporation's managers.

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Corporate Titles

Corporate titles are conferred on managers and employees of the corporation in question, and corporate titles describe their position and function within that organisation. For example, the title of Chief Marketing Officer indicates that person is responsible for the corporation's marketing efforts as their head.

Board of Directors

The pinnacle of the corporate hierarchy can be considered its Board of Directors. Said group is elected by the corporation's shareholders on a one share, one vote basis. The Board of Directors is responsible for selecting and hiring the uppermost tiers of management that run and direct the corporation's operations, including the Chief Executive Officer. Membership on the Board of Directors and management can and do sometimes overlap.

CEO and Officers

Beneath the Board of Directors and above the rest are the CEO and other chief officers, whose titles can be reduced to three-letter acronyms. The Chief Executive Officer, or CEO, is the overall leader of the corporation's operations, while each other chief officer is responsible for a segment of the corporation usually defined by their function. For example, the Chief Financial Officer, or CFO, is in charge of the corporation's finances. Not all corporations share the same chief officers because of their differing activities, and some chief officers may possess other titles.

Vice-Presidents, Directors, Managers, and Remainder

Different corporations use different corporate hierarchies, and there is no actual rule on what each successive tier must be named. In general, though, vice presidents lie either directly below the CEO or other chief officers; directors are below them; managers below directors; and the actual workers fall below managers. Such terms as "senior" and "associate" might be used to further distinguish the corporate title, creating further distinctions within each tier. For example, a senior manager is likely to be higher ranked than simply a manager.

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About the Author

Alan Li started writing in 2008 and has seen his work published in newsletters written for the Cecil Street Community Centre in Toronto. He is a graduate of the finance program at the University of Toronto with a Bachelor of Commerce and has additional accreditation from the Canadian Securities Institute.

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