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CEO vs. COO: who is really in charge?

By July 20, 2021September 20th, 2023No Comments4 min read

C-suite executives are crucial to the success or failure of a business. With the variety of c-suite roles out there, it is sometimes hard to tell the difference between them all. The two at the top of the hierarchy are a chief executive officer (CEO) and a chief operating officer (COO) but, what do both of these roles entail?

ceo vs coo

What is a CEO?

A chief executive officer is the highest-ranking role in the business. Duties include making major corporate decisions, managing the overall operations and resources, acting as the primary contact for the board of directors, and being the public face of the company.

What is a COO?

A chief operations officer is usually the second in command within a business. The primary responsibility of a COO includes overseeing the day-to-day administrative and operational areas of the business.

The importance of a CEO and COO

The CEO and COO work hand in hand to set the companies vision, goals, and direction whilst also executing them. The responsibility of both roles vary depending on the size and culture of the organization. In smaller companies, both roles tend to be more involved in the daily work of the business whereas, in larger companies, the focus is to plan and execute the long-term strategy. It is important that both are problem solvers and can adapt to change as they will be responsible for fixing any issues that arise.

The differences between a CEO and COO

The main difference between these roles is that the CEO outlines the direction of the company, whilst COO’s manage how the company will achieve it. Here is a further breakdown of the differences between the roles:

  • The CEO is always first command, whereas the COO is second command.
  • The CEO tends to report to the board of directors, whereas the COO reports to the CEO
  • The CEO outlines the company vision, whereas the COO’s focus is to execute said vision.
  • The CEO oversees that long-term strategy for the business, whereas the COO executes the day-to-day operations to ensure the business is heading in the right direction.
  • The CEO focuses on the external such as joining forces with investors, partners, and external stakeholders. The COO focuses on the internal, collaborating with the various department to make sure all processes are running smoothly.

3 reasons why a CEO needs a COO

A CEO and COO require different skill sets, but these skillsets must complement each other to help the business grow. A COO is thought of as the CEO’s right-hand person and here is why.

1. A CEO can’t do it all

It is key for a CEO to know what they are best at, focus on that and delegate the rest. This is crucial to the growth of any company at any size. If done right the COO should fill in the gaps to help drive the company’s mission forward.

2. You need someone you can trust

A CEO will not be able to keep up with the day-to-day goings-on in his company, especially as it scales, so it is important they have a COO that acts as their ears on the ground, keeping them informed of any potential issues.

3. The change in processes as you scale

It is inevitable that processes and procedures will change as the company scales and the CEO often will not have time to fix it. This is where the COO comes in, making sure the company is always prepared for the changes as it scales by implementing new processes and procedures when needed.

The CEO is top of the FinTech food chain however, without the support of the COO role it would be difficult to build and grow the company. Both roles are just as important as each other to develop and execute the company’s vision and reach those long-term goals.

Are you looking for a CEO or COO to grow your company? Get in touch. Our FinTech executive recruiters can advise you on the process and connect you with their network of highly skilled FinTech talent.