Hiring the CEO may be one of the most important jobs of any board. But are boards attracted to the right characteristics in the hiring process?
In the 2017 Harvard Business School article, “What Sets Successful CEOs Apart,” the authors from consulting firm ghSMART wrote that boards often gravitate toward charismatic extroverts with high levels of confidence, while introverts are more likely to surpass the expectations of their boards and investors. And CEO confidence doesn’t necessarily lead to results. They also found that educational pedigree in no way correlated to performance: Only 7% of high-performing CEOs had studied at an Ivy League school, and 8% hadn’t graduated from college at all.
I first read about that study in the excellent weekly newsletter by longtime bank investor and Second Curve Capital CEO Tom Brown. I couldn’t help but think about how those trends play out in banking. Although there are certainly top performing bank CEOs who graduated from Ivy League schools, more often I think of the phenomenal class of CEOs from less sacred institutions. Look at Kenneth Vecchione, the CEO of $68 billion Western Alliance Bancorp. in Phoenix. The banking company has repeatedly outshone its peers and was the No. 1 bank above $50 billion in assets in last year’s RankingBanking study, Bank Director’s annual report on the financial performance of banks. He has an accounting degree from the University at Albany.
Andrew Cecere is the CEO of Minneapolis-based U.S. Bancorp, another large, top performing bank. He’s a graduate of the University of Minnesota and the Catholic school known as the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota.
Greg Carmichael, the former CEO of Cincinnati-based Fifth Third Bancorp who helped transform the $207 billion institution’s performance over the last few years, is a graduate of the University of Dayton and Central Michigan University. Last summer, he handed the job to current CEO Tim Spence, a graduate of Colgate University, a private school in New York.
Picking CEOs from the Ivy leagues may be the easiest route to find people who have great connections, intelligence and drive. But those schools are not the only sources of greatness.
• Naomi Snyder is editor-in-chief of Bank Director