The compensation for finance chiefs at America’s top companies has grown 18.7% over the past five years, with performance-based equity significantly increasing its share of the pay package, according to a new survey by Equilar. (See a list of the top-earning CFOs of 2015 at the bottom of this article.)
The research firm reported that median CFO total compensation in the S&P 500 rose from $2.9 million in 2011 to $3.4 million in 2015. That growth outpaced pay for CEOs, which increased 16.9% to $10.4 million during the same period.
Total CFO compensation at the 25th percentile saw the most growth, increasing 26.3% from $2.0 million to $2.5 million.
According to Equilar, finance chiefs in a wide variety of sectors have benefited from the pay growth, with median compensation increasing more than 9.5% in consumer goods, financial, technology and utilities from 2014 to 2015. On the other hand, healthcare, industrial goods, and services companies reduced pay by more than 4.5% at the median.
As far as pay components, the most notable trend identified in the survey is the growing prominence of equity pay contingent on performance.
“In the wake of Dodd-Frank and the passing of Say on Pay, equity compensation contingent on performance goals has become the primary vehicle in executive pay packages because it philosophically aligns executive incentives with company growth and shareholder value,” Equilar said.
Over the past three years, in fact, performance-based equity has pulled away as the most prevalent equity vehicle, with 78.7% of S&P 500 CFOs receiving these awards as part of their equity package in 2015, compared to 64.1% in 2011.
Median stock grew 50.5% overall from $905,161 in 2011 to $1.4 million in 2015, while the decreasing use of options awards led to a 26.9% decline in options compensation, from $428,229 in 2011 to $312,970 in 2015.
Bonus compensation rose 5.8% to $750,000 from 2013 to 2014 but over the next year gave away that gain, dropping 6.3% to $702,100. “Bonus compensation reductions may be a result of market volatility and missed performance targets,” the report said.