What sets the 'most admired' companies apart

The Apples, Microsofts and Amazons of the world are admired for many reasons, but one supersedes all: financial stability, according to Korn Ferry

The Los Angeles-based consulting firm partnered with Fortune on its "most admired companies" ranking for the 27th year. To compile the list, the pair examined the 1,000 largest U.S. companies ranked by revenue, along with non-U.S. companies in Fortune's Global 500 database with revenues of $10 billion or more. The highest-earning companies in each industry become candidates, which are rated for "admirability" by other executives, directors and analysts in the same industry. 

Nine attributes are used to rank firms, according to a recent article from Korn Ferry. This year, survey respondents most frequently cited "soundness of financial position" as integral to admiration status — more than quality of products or quality of management. 

"It's probably no surprise that soundness of financial position comes out on top, especially in the current climate," Laura Manson-Smith, Korn Ferry's global leader of organization strategy consulting, said in the article. 

Mark Royal, PhD, — a leader of the Fortune study and senior client partner for Korn Ferry Advisory — said this is particularly true amid political and economic uncertainty. As more companies struggle to achieve organic growth, manageable debt and a high cash supply have become revered marks of stability. 

One more climbing attribute of most-admired companies: innovativeness. Eli Lilly, Mastercard and Adobe ascended into the top 50 in part due to high scores in this category, per Korn Ferry. 

View Fortune and Korn Ferry's ranking of the world's most admired healthcare companies here

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