Rise of big data, AI brings new C-level opportunity: Chief Analytics Officer

As the world of data and analytics has grown during the past few decades – beyond the headlines and into boardrooms – the position of the Chief Analytics Officer, or CAO, has garnered more attention and, subsequently, become more prevalent.

This C-level officer is responsible for leading all of the company’s analytics efforts, which include business/data analytics, statistical analysis, predictive modeling, data mining, data science, machine learning, AI, business intelligence, and other analytical functions, while also being a strategic level business executive in the organization. The CAO usually reports to the President or CEO, but in some organizations will report to the CIO/CTO, Chief Strategy Officer, or possibly the CMO if the company’s analytics is heavily focused on marketing.

Forbes.jobs Founding Recruiter Crosly & Associates, a leading retained executive search firm in the analytics and data science industry based in Deerfield, Ill., has completed dozens of searches for client companies seeking Chief Analytics Officers. For the past eight years the company has been empirically tracking the growth of the CAO position and has published the results each year. Here are the results of the 2023 study.

CAO by the numbers
In June 2023, there are 1,671 people on LinkedIn who listed their current title as Chief Analytics Officer, which is a 15.2 percent year-over-year (YOY) increase. This includes all individuals that have title responsibilities in addition to being CAO, such as Chief Data and Analytics Officer, Chief Risk and Analytics Officer, etc. This is slightly lower than the annual growth rates seen during the economic growth period from 2016-2019, but almost double the growth rate in 2020 and 2021. There are 877 CAOs in the United States, a 15.9 percent YOY increase, up from a 7.4 percent increase last year.

Outside the U.S, this title grew at a rate of 14.4 percent YOY, down from the robust increase of 50.3 percent last year. This was the first time since 2018 that the growth rates were comparable within and outside of the U.S.

CAO Hotspots
Within the United States, it is not surprising that the cities with the largest number of CAOs tend to be the cities with the largest populations, except for Houston. In descending order, they include New York, Washington, D.C./Baltimore, Chicago, San Francisco, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Los Angeles, Boston, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Seattle, Austin, San Diego, Minneapolis, Raleigh-Durham and Denver.

Perhaps interesting about Houston is that it is the fourth largest city in the U.S., but only has eight CAOs (up from just three last year). This is likely due the distribution of the industries in Houston, which skew more heavily in sectors such as energy and government services. These sectors tend to have fewer CAOs compared to other industries such as financial services and technology. Dallas-Fort Worth has the largest YOY percentage increase in CAOs, increasing by 31 percent from 2022.

Outside the U.S., the countries with the largest number of CAOs are the United Kingdom at 97 and India at 44, each experiencing 11-13 percent YOY increases in the number of CAOs.

Which industries attract CAOs?
These are the industries in which CAOs classify themselves on LinkedIn: Financial Services, 30 percent; Professional Services, 26 percent; Technology, Information and Media, 14 percent; IT Services and Consulting, 12 percent; Technology, Information and Internet, 11 percent; Other, 8 percent.

It is not surprising to see financial services topping the list, as most financial institutions and FinTech firms have a CAO.

Where do CAOs study?
The universities with the most alumni that are CAOs are schools with elite STEM programs, and include (in descending order): Northwestern, MIT, Michigan, Columbia, University of Chicago, UC Berkeley, Stanford, University of Pennsylvania, Illinois, Texas, Purdue, Cornell, Harvard and Carnagie Mellon.

Many also have top-tier MBA programs. In fact, the eight schools with the highest number of CAO alumni all rank in the Top 10 for their MBA programs. Northwestern also benefits from having one of the top online master’s degree programs in Data Science (formerly Predictive Analytics). The CAOs that hold MBAs from these programs almost always have a STEM undergraduate or advanced degree as well; giving them the dynamic educational foundation in both analytics and business/people leadership.

Chief Data Science Officer and Chief AI Officer
While not nearly as common as the title of CAO, in June 2023 there are 130 people on LinkedIn who list their current title as Chief Data Science Officer, 80 of whom are in the U.S. There are also 212 Chief AI Officers, 89 of whom are in the US. These positions, while similar in nature, have a more technical sounding title. This past year, the growth rate of the Chief Data Science Officer leveled out, increasing by just 4.0 percent after years of growing at a rate of 20-40 percent, and outpacing the growth rate of the CAO title. This is the first year that we are tracking the title of Chief AI Officer. With the AI boom just beginning, we expect this title to become more prolific over the next few years.

Head of Analytics
The position of Head of Analytics is becoming heavily used within organizations, in a similar capacity as the CAO. Like the CAO, the Head of Analytics is often the senior-most executive leader within the company overseeing all quantitative functions within the organization. Based on the searches that we’ve conducted, we’ve found that the main difference between Head of Analytics and CAO is level/pay grade. A Head of Analytics is typically graded as a Director or VP reporting to a C-level executive (non-CEO), while the CAO is typically graded as an SVP or EVP reporting to the President or CEO. In June 2023, there are over 4,100 people on LinkedIn who listed their current title as Head of Analytics, more than double the number of CAOs. The YOY growth rate was compare to the CAO, at 13.9 percent.

Even more interesting is the use of the title within different geographies. In the United States, there are 660 Heads of Analytics; less than the number of CAOs. But in the UK, India, and Russia, there are 575, 395, and 333 Head of Analytics, respectively, which is 6-10 times the numbers of CAOs.

Final word
The Chief Analytics Officer position continues to grow at an average annual rate of 10- 20 percent both within and outside of the United States. Similarly titled positions such as Head of Analytics, continue to grow at comparable rates. Companies are finding it increasingly important to have a C-level executive who has the domain expertise in analytics, who can lead this business function for the organization, and who can drive value for the business using data driven insights.

To learn more, visit Crosly.com.

Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko

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