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These Top-20 CEOs Give You an Investing Edge

Thursday - 3/28/2013, 9:59am  ET

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.

Below are the CEOs rated No. 20 through No. 16. Read below and I'll give some more detail, and at the end, offer up a special premium report on one of these five.

No. 20: Intuit
As tax season is winding to a close, millions of Americans are using one of Intuit's key products: TurboTax. It just so happens that Intuit's CEO, Brad Smith, used to head the division that produces TurboTax.

Smith, who has been with the company since 2003, also has experience managing the other side of Intuit's business: From 2006 until he became CEO in 2008, he was a general manager in Intuit's small businesses division, which offers Quicken accounting products to more than 7 million small companies.

Smith believes that Intuit's strategy moving forward will be three-pronged: penetrating deeper into traditional tax and small business markets, focusing on emerging markets, and generating a greater mix of services.

Apparently, Intuit employees tend to agree with this blueprint, as 91% approve of the job he's doing.

No. 19: NetApp
For those who might be unfamiliar with the company, NetApp is a specialist in network storage solutions; in other words, it helps save, store, and maintain complex networks of information online. NetApp's CEO, Tom Georgens, has been with the company since 2007, and has served in the role of CEO since 2009. 

Under Georgens tenure, NetApp increased revenue 59% between 2010 and 2012, with net income increasing by 51% over the same time frame. Georgens has stated that these growth rates aren't from focusing on a specific dollar target or worrying about macro issues, but rather by looking to gain "a point, a point-and-a-half a share every year." The plan seems to be working, and Georgens' employees appreciate that, giving him a 91% approval rating.

No. 18: Intel
This behemoth micro-chip maker is one of the few in its industry that attempts to keep the whole process of design and fabrication in-house. That's long been the case at Intel, and CEO Paul Otellini has continued the tradition since becoming CEO back in 2005.

Otellini has been with the company since 1974, working his way up through the ranks. Though the company had a fairly dominant position in the PC market, that market has been stagnating, leading many to wonder if Intel was late to the game in mobile computing.

Apparently, employees at the company have faith that Otellini and Intel will find a way to become just as relevant in the mobile market, as 91% currently approve of the job he's doing. Incidentally, the company was ranked the 31st best place to work in America in 2013 by Glassdoor.

It's important to note, however, that Otellini is set to retire in May.  His replacement has yet to be announced, and investors need to take that into consideration in weighing the strengths of the company.

No. 17: American Express
CEO Ken Chenault has been the leader at American Express since 1997, but had worked his way up through the ranks for 16 years prior to earning the designation. 

Although both Visa and MasterCard experienced more growth over that period, American Express focuses on a much tighter band of clientele -- although that will soon be changing with its prepaid cards.

Since seeing default rates rise post-recession and its stock take a stumble, American Express was actually the Dow's best-performing stock since 2009, rising over 550%.  That's great for investors, but employees appreciate the job Chenault has done, too: He's earned a 92% approval rating.

No. 16: Starbucks
Howard Schultz is the founder and CEO of Starbucks -- and I'm personally a big fan. Though he built the company and ran it from the 1980s until 2000, Schultz took an eight-year hiatus from 2000 to 2008 to pursue other interests, like owning the Seattle SuperSonics of the NBA.

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