NEW YORK: There appears to be some career volatility among top marketers because a new study has found that the turnover of CMOs in the US reached its highest level in the first half of 2016.

Executive search firm Russell Reynolds has been tracking the appointments and departures of CMOs at leading companies since 2012 and noted there were 175 marketing-leader appointments in the first two quarters of this year.

It said that was the highest on record – or at least since it started examining CMO trends four years ago – and that the retail sector was particularly volatile.

For example, among the top 30 US-based retailers by revenue, almost half (48%) turned over their marketing leader in the last 12 months alone. Retail appointments also accounted for 17% of all CMO hires, up from 9% in the same period last year.

"The high level of turnover among retail marketing leaders is undoubtedly the result of ongoing industry turmoil, as legacy brick-and-mortar retailers continue to adapt to the reality of multichannel commerce and the rapidly changing consumer landscape," the report said.

Companies are also continuing to hire talent from outside their organisations, the report found, although the trend is less pronounced than in recent years.

Almost two-thirds (64%) of companies hired externally in the first half of this year, compared to 84% in the second half of 2014, and the financial services sector recruited the most from outside.

By contrast, the consumer and technology industries appeared to be less open to outsiders and maintained their habit of appointing marketing leaders from within their own sectors.

Russell Reynolds also explored the reasons and motivations for CMOs to leave their company. According to the study, 61% left to pursue a new opportunity, 4% retired, while just 23% were promoted internally to a senior role, such as CEO or president.

Of those who moved to pursue a new opportunity, three-quarters (75%) remained in the same industry while another 55% took on a marketing leadership role.

The data also revealed that gender diversity is continuing to improve, albeit at a modest pace. Women accounted for 40% of all new hires among marketing leaders, up 1% since the second half of 2015, and up from 34% in the first half of last year.

Data sourced from Russell Reynolds; additional content from Warc staff