Human Capital & Careers

CFO Pay Picks up Pace in U.K.

Finance chiefs in the United Kingdom are now commanding higher pay than in the past, a new KPMG study finds.
Laura DeMarsJune 8, 2007

Total-pay growth for CFOs in the United Kingdom raced ahead last year, far outpacing that of chief executive officers, according to a new compensation survey by KPMG.

KPMG found that CFO median total compensation (including long-term incentives like stock options; performance share plans; co-investment plans; deferred annual bonuses; and cash) was up 22 percent compared to last year’s figures. That’s a big jump compared to CEOs, who saw a median 3 percent spike, says Carl Sjostrom, a Performance and Reward partner at KPMG in London.

The accounting firm surveyed 53 of the FTSE 100 (with fiscal year ends in December 2006 or January 2007) as a preliminary study before its full annual compensation survey is released in the fall. The firm reported that the median total compensation level for CFOs was £1.7million ($3.4 million currently) in the most current fiscal year, compared to £1.4 million ($2.8 million) in the year before. But finance chiefs still lagged far behind CEO’s in median total compensation, with U.K. chief executives getting £2.5 million ($5.1 million) most recently and about the same the year before.

Sjostrom speculates that the fast pace in the total pay of U.K. finance chiefs may be a response to a stronger regulatory environment and a surge in mergers and acquisitions. “We do not know exactly why remuneration levels are moving up at a faster pace for chief financial officers,” he says. “However, we believe that there are too many signals to ignore that this is a new trend.”

In contrast to the acceleration in CFO total compensation, however, KPMG found that finance chiefs actually saw a decrease at the median in the most recent fiscal year— 6.5 percent, compared to 7.7 percent the last year. But U.K. CFOs in the top 25th percentile saw a 12.5 percent boost recently, as compared to a 10.2 in the previous year.

Sjostrom says the numbers also indicate that CFOs are commanding a premium when they step into the top finance post at a new company. For the eight companies of the sample able to compare the base salary of a 2005 incumbent with what a new finance director in 2006 in the same company could command, the median hike was 7.8 percent. At the same time, the levels ranged between 12.5 percent less than the predecessor to 50 percent more, says Sjostrom.

In contrast, for a similar sample of seven CEOs, the median base-salary boost was 1.4 percent. “There was nothing to say that CFOs were underpaid in the past, but the increases we are seeing show that both incumbents and new recruits are commanding higher pay now,” he notes.