Human Capital & Careers

Study: CFO Pay Higher at Public Cos.

Like salaries, bonuses are proportionate to company revenues, a compensation survey of finance execs reports.
Laura DeMarsMay 21, 2007

Public or private? For CFOs, public companies come with demanding investors, quarterly reporting, and, of course, Sarbanes-Oxley compliance. But, according to a study by Financial Executives International released Monday, a job with a public company also comes with a bigger paycheck.

The study looked at the pay packages of more than 1,800 financial executives, about half of them CFOs. It found that public-company CFOs had higher base salaries and bonuses than their private-company peers. For example, among companies with less than $25 million in revenues, public company finance chiefs earned median salaries that ranged from $176,000 to $200,000, while their private company peers took in $126,000 to $150,000.

Bonus percentages were also lower at privately held companies. The median award at publicly held companies was 41-50 percent of base salary, while private-company CFOs got a median of 31-40 percent. At public companies with more than $10 billion in revenues, the median CFO bonus was a whopping 91-100 percent; at private companies was almost half that, ranging from 51-60 percent.

FEI says it launched the new report, which it plans to produce annually, to help CFOs and other finance executives benchmark their compensation packages against those of their peers. The base-salary differences among controllers at public and private companies, for instance, follow the same pattern as those of CFOs. The median annual base salary of all private-company corporate controllers responding to the survey, for instance, ranged from $100,000 to $125,000. Their public company counterparts earned a higher median of $176,000 to $200,000.

The study also found that the most prevalent perk was a company car — 34 percent of participants use one.

As for long-term incentives, 23 percent of all respondents received cash-based awards, while 60 percent received stock-based awards.