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America's 7th Best CEO Will Give You an Investing Edge

By Brian Stoffel - Apr 3, 2013 at 7:00PM

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This CEO is praised for his focus on a global presence, diversity in the executive suite, and flexibility.

Once you get the hang of it, it's pretty easy to dissect balance sheets, income, and cash flow statements. This is the first step in getting your feet wet in the investment world.

But it doesn't stop there. If we were to base investing decisions solely on what we read in these statements, that would be akin to picking a significant other based solely on their Facebook profile -- to many, it just doesn't make sense to avoid real-life interaction.

Investigating these "soft" aspects of a company is important for investors. And although we can't capture all of the intangibles of a company in one article, Glassdoor.com -- a website that collects employee sentiment for companies across the world -- recently came out with a list that could help: the Top CEOs of 2013.

Over the past few days, I've covered CEOs 25 through 8. Today, I'm going to introduce you to the company with the 7th-highest-rated CEO, give you some background on the company, and at the end, I'll offer up access to a special free report that covers the biggest names in tech.

Accenture (ACN 4.32%)
Unlike some of the other companies on this list, unless you're in Accenture's field, its unlikely you're familiar with the businesses. In fact, until recently, I knew Accenture for only two things: it was the first company to drop Tiger Woods after news of his philandering came out; and the company's stock was one of the hardest hit during the "Flash Crash" of 2010 -- it traded for just a penny.

But there's more to this Dublin-based business than a few tidbits of trivia. Over the years, Accenture has become the second-largest technology-consulting firm in the world, second only to IBM (IBM 1.74%).

CEO Pierre Nanterme, who has been at the helm since 2011, heads the company. Though that's a pretty short tenure, Nanterme has been with the company since 1983 and has headed up several of the company's foreign divisions.

Going global, staying mobile
Many times, "technology-consulting" is a fancy term for teaching companies how to outsource their work to areas where labor is cheaper. Perhaps it was Nanterme's experience with several geographical divisions on his way up that helped him earn the top spot at the company. He has made it quite clear that there are three drivers that will guide his tenure at the company: global expansion, diversity, and working flexibility.

Of the company's 250,000 employees, roughly 70,000 are located in India alone. The country accounts for half of Accenture's annual revenue. But Nanterme isn't too pleased that the executive suite is devoid of any Indian representation. "We are still very Anglo Saxon at the top," says Nanterme. "We have extraordinarily qualified people in India and we will bring them to the top...It is definitely going to happen in my tenure." 

As Accenture attempts to fill the outsourcing needs of emerging BRIC countries, don't be too surprised to see the executive office include more than just Anglo-Saxon and Indian blood.

Headquartered where?
Though its official address is in Ireland, Nanterme looks at it differently: "We are a company with no physical headquarters. We operate on a virtual level."  

That kind of flexibility has two big advantages. First, it allows for the type of flexibility that can lure top talent with the promise of staying in one's home country (Nanterme himself still operates from France, not Ireland.) And second, it cuts down on overhead costs, as most meetings are conducted via teleconferencing or on-site visits to clients' businesses.

These are the types of advantages Nanterme is going to need in taking on IBM, which has more than double the employees and a market capitalization five times Accenture's. IBM also has healthier returns and margins than Accenture.

Metric 

Accenture 

IBM 

Operating margin

14.12%

21.33%

Profit margin

10.85%

15.89%

Return on assets

15.51%

11.77%

Return on equity

61.32%

84.67%

Source: Yahoo! Finance.

The numbers being what they are, Accenture's employees clearly approve of the direction Nanterme is leading the company, as 95% give him their vote of confidence.

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