Friday, May 30, 2008

Psst! Want to Know what S&P CFOs Earn?

The economy may have been turning down, but that didn’t stop S&P 500 firms from increasing chief financial officer (CFO) compensation last year.

Median CFO pay was up 5.2% from 2006 to 2007 for those employed at least two years, according to a study released today by Equilar, a Redwood Shores, California executive compensation benchmarking firm.

Total compensation, including base salary, discretionary bonuses, non-equity incentive plan payouts, the grant date value of stock and option awards and other compensation totaled $2,894,275 in 2007, up from $2,752,027 for the same group of executives in 2006.

That figure includes:

$525,000 in median base salary (up 9.1%);
$576,880 in median aggregate bonus (down 3.4%);
$1,523,810 in total equity awards (up 8.2%) and
$63,152 in other compensation (up 9.1%).

Looking ahead, CFOs at the S&P 500 are due to receive $1,061,198 in median accumulated pension benefits (up 17.7%, but only 67% of CFOs have those) and $779,388 in median deferred compensation (up 21.3%).

Curiously, a similar, although not directly comparable, study of CEO compensation Equilar conducted in April found median pay for CEOs was up only 1.3% from 2006 to 2007. “The fact that median CFO compensation appears to be rising faster than median CEO compensation may indicate increased prominence for CFOs in the executive suite,” the release says.

How much do CFOs at other firms earn? says median CFO total compensation was $515,225. Robert Half Accounting’s 2008 Salary Guide, which measures salary rather than total compensation, says typical salary at companies with $500 million or more in sales ranged from $257,500 to $370,500 in 2008. Meanwhile, CFOs at the smallest firms, those with sales of $50 million of less, earned a salary of $91,000 to $122,250 on average, Robert Half estimates.

What's Ahead?

Equilar Research Manager Alexander Cwirko-Godycki says two trends playing out at the end of 2007 could influence CFO salaries this year. First, bonuses were down. If markets stay where they are or get worse, bonuses will continue to fall, he says. Second, those drops in bonuses were offset by an increase in equity compensation.

Seeing last-quarter dips in business lead to lowered bonuses will please shareholders interested in seeing pay tied to performance. Meanwhile equity compensation encourages CFOs to focus on longer-term performance, he points out.

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