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CFOs Earn Less than 40% of CEO Pay, Analysis Finds
Executive pay gap widens

By SHRM Online staff  9/2/2011
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The gap between CEO and CFO pay in the U.S. is growing. In 2011, middle-market CFOs earned an average of $927,743, around 40 percent of CEO pay ($2,338,874), according to an analysis of 600 public companies conducted by BDO USA, LLP, an accounting and consulting firm. Both groups saw significant pay increases in 2011, with CFO pay up 19 percent and CEO pay up 25 percent over 2010.

“CEOs have always earned significantly more than other executives, but we have seen an even greater divide in recent years due to an increase in CEO pay leverage tied to the performance of their company’s equity,” said Randy Ramirez, a senior director in the compensation and benefits practice at BDO. “We expect CFO pay to start catching up within the next few years as the emphasis on pay-for-performance trickles down to other top executives.”

Pay also varies greatly by industry, with real estate CEOs and CFOs earning the most of any industry at $3,362,145 and $1,295,864, respectively. This is about three times the average pay of the lowest-compensated CEOs and CFOs in the banking industry at $1,037,685 and $442,425, respectively. Other top earners include executives in the technology and energy industries, while retail execs joined those in banking on the low end of the pay spectrum.

These findings are from the first edition of The BDO 600 CEO and CFO Pay Study, which examined CEO and CFO compensation trends in publicly traded companies with annual revenues from $25 million to $1 billion in the energy, health care, manufacturing, real estate, retail and technology industries, and publicly traded companies with assets between $50 million to $2 billion in the banking and financial services industries. The study included proxy statements that were filed from May 15, 2010, through May 15, 2011.

CEO and CFO Compensation by Industry

2010 CEO Pay

2010 CFO Pay

CFO as % of CEO Pay

Real estate












Financial services—nonbanking








Health care








Financial services—banking








Source: BDO USA

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