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CEO? Or More Like RiskEO?: A Cross-Sectional Study of CEO Characteristics and Firm Risk-Taking
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Umeå School of Business and Economics (USBE), Business Administration.
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Umeå School of Business and Economics (USBE), Business Administration.
2018 (English)Independent thesis Advanced level (degree of Master (Two Years)), 10 credits / 15 HE creditsStudent thesis
Abstract [en]

Risk is something intrinsic to business, and something firms are exposed to on a daily basis. This means that there exists a great deal of pressure on the Top Management of a firm to successfully navigate the different risks to which they are exposed. The CEO holds a unique position in the firm, as she is ultimately responsible for deciding which strategies to employ in order to properly respond to these risks. But what influenced the CEO when making such decisions?

The Upper Echelon Theory suggests that decisions made by the Top Management Team of a firm are influenced by their values and their cognitive base, which is formed throughout their upbringing. Researchers on Upper Echelon Theory suggest that these two abstract constructs can be difficult to measure and analyse, and should therefore be approximated using specific and observable characteristics of the Top Management Team. In our study, this theory has applied to Swedish CEOs as they are the ultimate decision-maker in a firm. The specific characteristics observed and analysed in our investigation into the relationship between the CEO and risk are; gender, age, nationality, and tenure. Thus, the purpose of this study is formulated as follows:

“The purpose of this study is to investigate the relationship between CEO characteristics, specifically age, gender, tenure, and nationality, and firm risk-taking, as measured by the leverage ratio, stock return volatility, cash holdings, and R&D expenditure, on the Swedish market. As a sub-purpose, we intend to investigate whether there is a nonlinear relationship between CEO tenure and risk-taking.”

By collecting data from the databases, Thomson Reuters Eikon and Amadeus, a dataset of 284 firms and their CEOs was collected and used in the cross-sectional analysis. Multiple linear regression analysis was employed to determine the relationships between the previously mentioned CEO characteristics and the proxies for firm risk-taking.

The majority of the relationships found were of a non-significant nature, indicating that the relationship between Swedish CEO characteristics and the strategies they employ when running their firms is weak and differs from relationships found in earlier studies, using data from different markets. The significant relationships found were between cash holdings and age, long tenures and leverage ratio, and short tenures and stock return volatility. This indicates that older CEOs are more risk-averse, while longer seated CEOs maintain less debt, and shorter seated CEOs are perceived as more risky by the market. However, as these results only entail 15% of our observed results, none of the hypotheses constructed for this study were verified.

Therefore, our conclusion is that the previously observed relationships between the characteristics of CEOs and their risk-taking is not present within our sample of firms listed on the Swedish market. Some tendencies that align with previous results have been found but are not generalisable and as a result, we cannot recommend that private actors act on these results.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2018. , p. 62
Keywords [en]
CEO characteristics, Upper Echelon Theory, Risk-taking, Agency Theory, Prospect Theory, Swedish market
National Category
Business Administration
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-149641OAI: oai:DiVA.org:umu-149641DiVA, id: diva2:1223353
Educational program
Master's Programme in Finance
Supervisors
Examiners
Available from: 2018-06-27 Created: 2018-06-25 Last updated: 2018-06-27Bibliographically approved

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