Good-looking CEOs may attract better stock returns
U.S. research finds correlation between how S&P 500 companies perform and CEOs' attractiveness
Companies with attractive CEOs perform better on the stock market, especially in the early days of their tenure or just after any time they appear on television, new research from two American economists suggests.
Joseph T. Halford and Hung-Chia Hsu from the University of Wisconsin published a paper recently that found a correlation between how companies listed on the S&P 500 performed, and the attractiveness of their CEOs.
The notion that people deemed to be good looking have certain advantages over others is not a new one. But the paper, "Beauty is Wealth: CEO Appearance and Shareholder Value," is one of the first to look at whether there's a spillover benefit of that attractiveness for organizations.
Overall, our findings suggest that more attractive CEOs receive higher compensation for a reason: They create value for shareholders through better negotiating power and visibility.- Joseph T. Halford and Hung-Chia Hsu, University of Wisconsin
Halford and Hsu looked at 677 CEOs of companies on the S&P 500 and rated them based on their "facial geometry" — the level to which the features in their faces are symmetircal, mirror images of each other. (Research suggests that the human eye is trained to perceive more symmetrical faces as more beautiful.)
The duo found that companies with the most attractive CEOs tend to outperform their rivals in at least two specific categories:
- In the first days after the new, attractive CEO is named.
- In the immediate aftermath of them appearing on television.
In both cases, the data suggests good-looking CEOs enjoy a greater stock bump than their less attractive rivals.
"[Attractiveness] has a positive and significant impact on stock returns surrounding the first day when the CEO is on the job, indicating that shareholders seem to perceive more attractive CEOs to be more valuable," the paper reads.
In the case of TV appearances, there, too, the researchers found signs of outperformance.
Perhaps most interestingly, the stock bump-ups appear to be limited to just TV appearances. There doesn't appear to be any impact when attractive CEOs are quoted in print articles — just when their faces appear on screen.
The research also found good-looking CEOs tend to get paid more. But when the outperformance of their stocks is considered, perhaps that shouldn't come as a surprise.
"Overall, our findings suggest that more attractive CEOs receive higher compensation for a reason: They create value for shareholders through better negotiating power and visibility," the paper said.