traditionally Executive VP was higher that Senior VP, as the latter
was only a step up from VP, with Junior VP maybe shoved in below VP,
which was obviously "junior", just better than Manager or Dept. Head.
This mulit-tiered heirarchy developed - probably after World War II -
with the expansion of companies and establishment of conglomerates,
companies owning several other companies.
"What is the distinction?" ONe is more senior than the other, but
what that means in practice is very individual to the company. It
could reflect a clear hierarchy, the EVP having more senior
responsibilty than an SVP, and so on.
But an EVP or SVP could just be a compliment to an older, long-time
employee, who had no more responsibility than someone with the lower
title. Indeed, he might have been complimented to less responsibilty
with an obstensibly better title, but I would venture say, that EVP is
always likely to be a more serious title.
And then there is the matter of optics outside the company. Banks
have lots of VPs, SVPs, even Directors, because it flatters their
customers when a senior-sounding representative calls on them, and
also because he will be talking with the VP or SVP for Finance, and it
looks better if the guy from the bank has an equivalent title, even
though within the bank he is practically just a more senior lending
officer with a secretary and not much decision-making authority.
This can take funny forms. In the Dresdner Bank in Germany, there are
Directors (not members of the Board of directors), who really have
broader responsibilty, and on the business cards under their name is
their title and the bank's name.
And then there are Directors, on whose cards their title of "Direktor"
is followed by "in der Dresdener Bank". In the industry this is
apostrophied to "Inder". "He is an 'Inder'" "Inder" being the German
word for Indian.
Anyway, I hope you got the idea. I could go on about a US bank that
decided to give all lending officers for corporate custerms the title
of Director, which was obviously so inflated that it meant nothing.