In November of 2016, BDO USA LLP released a survey of the chief executive officer (CEO) and chief financial officer (CFO) compensation practices at 600 mid-market public companies in the United States. Data collected from proxy statements filed between April 2015 and March 2016 was analyzed in the aggregate and categorically by the five standard components of compensation: 1) salary; 2) bonus and annual incentives; 3) stock options; 4) other long-term incentives; and 5) full-value stock awards. Total direct compensation was reported as the sum of all five standard components for each incumbent. All amounts were reported in U.S. dollars.

The data was presented by industry and company size to allow multiple modes of comparison. Industries surveyed included energy, healthcare, manufacturing, real estate, retail, technology, financial services – banking, and financial services – nonbanking. Company size was grouped into the following categories:

Size Category Revenue Range Asset Range (financial services only)
Group A $100 million – $500 million $100 million – $1.25 billion
Group B $500 million – $1.25 billion $1.25 billion – $2.50 billion
Group C $1.25 billion – $3.00 billion $2.50 billion – $6.00 billion


Overall, in fiscal year 2015, average total direct compensation for CEOs increased by 3.2% to $3,812,252. In comparison, average total direct compensation for CFOs increased by 4.1% over the same period to $1,446,379. The pay composition on average in 2015 for CEOs was more heavily weighted with long-term incentives (63% of compensation) than annual cash (37% of compensation). The pay composition for CFOs was more evenly distributed, being comprised of 45% annual cash and 55% long-term incentives.

An analysis of companies by size showed that pay is positively correlated to company revenue and assets under management, as is an increase in the proportion of compensation to CEOs and CFOs that is variable.[1] CEO compensation increased the most year over year in Group B companies, while CFO pay increased the most in Group C companies.

An analysis of companies by industry showed vast differences in CEO and CFO compensation practices. CEO yearly compensation ranged from $5,691,652 on average at technology companies to $751,174 on average for companies in the financial services – banking industry. Average CFO compensation ranged from $2,006,873 to $388,651 in the same two industries, respectively.

The technology industry ranked above all others for CEO pay increases year over year, with a 19% average increase in total direct compensation. By contrast, the energy and retail industries experienced a 4% drop in average total direct compensation for CEOs. For CFOs, the retail industry led all others, showing a 38% increase in total direct compensation year over year, while compensation decreased in the energy, financial services – nonbanking and healthcare sectors by 5.7%, 6.0% and 5.0%, respectively.

Looking to the components of compensation in each industry, the energy, real estate and technology industries were heavily weighted toward stock awards as the largest component of compensation.[2] The healthcare sector also provided compensation that was heavily weighted with stock awards to CEOs (49.5% of total direct compensation) and CFOs (41.4% of total direct compensation). Only the financial services – banking industry featured salary as the greatest component of compensation for CEOs (55.1% of total direct compensation) and CFOs (62.3% of total direct compensation). Bonus and annual incentives played the largest role in compensating CEOs (35.9% of total direct compensation) and CFOs (29.5% of total direct compensation) in the financial services – nonbanking sector. In all other industries, bonus and annual incentives accounted for less than 25% of CEO and CFO total direct compensation. Stock options and other long-term incentives remained a small component of compensation across all industries.

The full BDO Survey is available online at this link.

[1] Variable forms of compensation include bonuses, annual incentives, stock and other long-term incentives. Each of these categories is further defined on page 3 of the survey.

[2] All CEOs and CFOs in these industries received well over 50% of their total direct compensation in the form of stock awards, with the sole exception being CFOs in the real estate industry. The latter group received only 52.0% of their total direct compensation in the form of stock awards.