Some experts are wondering, however, whether this new title may go the same way as the chief knowledge officer, who stalked the corridors of corporate power during the Internet craze in the late 1990s, but has now either disappeared or been diluted.
Officially, chief governance officers are supposed to improve the way company boards operate and relate to management. But critics question whether this new brand of executive is just cosmetic cover for companies who want to look like they are behaving differently without changing much.
“Some companies are indicating to the marketplace a new level of corporate governance is in place, others are giving in to a fashionable trend,” said Patrick McGurn, senior vice present at Institutional Shareholder Services, a key advisor to institutional investors.
McGurn advises testing the CGO title by reviewing how many other titles — general counsel, corporate secretary, investor relations officer — the person has.
Management experts term such senior executives “CXOs,” with the ‘X’ representing whatever fad dominated headlines that particular year. They fulfill an immediate need and then fade away, said Tom Stewart, editor of the Harvard Business Review, a monthly management magazine.
So far, the numbers of chief governance officers are relatively small, with some estimating only 30-60 so far carrying the title at publicly traded companies.
However, the hype around CGOs far exceeds their number, and the announcement of a company CGO appointment is usually done with much fanfare, said McGurn.