Human Capital & Careers

For CFOs, a Small Step Toward CEO Pay

Compensation increased at a higher rate for finance chiefs than for CEOs last year.
David McCannJune 7, 2011

CFOs made a lot more money in 2010 than in the previous year, and their pay grew at a faster rate than that of their bosses. But the gap between CFO and CEO compensation remains so vast that even a solid annual gain for the finance leaders did virtually nothing to close it.

Those conclusions can be drawn from a report by Compensation Advisory Partners, which looked at 55 companies that were early proxy filers this year. The companies had annual revenues of $1 billion to $150 billion, with a median of $10 billion, and the consulting firm included only those that had the same CFO and CEO from 2008 through 2010.

Median total direct compensation for CFOs, including salary, bonus, and long-term incentives, shot up 23% in 2010, compared with 18% for CEOs. A year earlier, deep in the recession, both groups took home about 5% less than in 2008. The big jump last year reflected improved company performance, which boosted annual bonuses, and recovering stock prices, which buoyed the grant-date value of new equity awards.

Compensation Advisory Partners downplays the significance of the disparity between CEO and CFO pay hikes. “They are, basically, directionally aligned,” says Kelly Malafis, a partner at the consulting firm. “And neither CEOs nor CFOs are necessarily getting tremendously increased long-term incentives. Shares are just worth more [than they were in 2009].”

CFO v CEO pay

Indeed, finance chiefs would need many more such years to transpire to get within shouting distance of their superiors. Over the three-year period of 2008-2010, the former group’s total pay was approximately one-third of the latter’s, according to the report.

As for pay mix, 80% of CFOs’ compensation was incentive-based in 2010, three percentage points higher than the year before. That left them only six points behind CEOs, continuing a slow creep from nine-point and seven-point differentials the previous two years.