CEO pay packets not as fat as all that

05 December, 2012

RMIT University researchers have conducted the most comprehensive study to date into the remuneration of Australia's CEOs, through a survey commissioned by the CEO Institute.

To uncover a more accurate picture of the full spectrum of CEO remuneration, the institute commissioned RMIT to conduct an online survey representative of the two million-plus businesses operating in Australia, 99.7 per cent of which are classified as small and medium enterprises.

Institute Chairman and Founder Ken Gunn said: "We often see sensational reports about Australia's high-flying CEOs and their multi-million dollar packages and lavish share options but the big corporations concerned account for a tiny 0.1 per cent of Australian businesses."

The survey was conducted between July and September this year by an RMIT research team led by Associate Professor David Gilbert and Dr Carol Tan in the School of Management.

In all, 369 responses were received from CEOs of companies representative of all industry sectors as defined by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, including for-profit and not-for-profit firms.

The study looked at the total annual salary packages - including wages, superannuation, bonuses and benefits - and found: 38 per cent of respondents received between $100,001 and $200,000; 28 per cent received $200,001-$300,000; 14 per cent received $300,001-$400,000; 8 per cent received $400,001-$500,000; and 6 per cent received $500,001-$750,000.

Only 1 per cent received more than $1 million, 1 per cent received between $750,000 and $1 million and 4 per cent actually earned less than $100,000.

RMIT's survey report suggested these results were largely consistent with average CEO compensation figures in the US, where the average salary package for 2012 was $197,000.

About 52 per cent of CEO respondents indicated that their remuneration was linked to company performance, with public companies were much more likely to structure packages this way than privately held businesses.

The prevalence of performance incentive packages varied directly with the level of salary - from 7 per cent for those receiving less than $100,000 to 42 per cent in the $100,001-$200,000 bracket and an average of 86 per cent across the three higher brackets between $500,000-$1 million-plus.

Contrary to common perceptions, there was no statistical difference between CEO remuneration levels for not-for-profit and for-profit businesses.

"These reports will be published annually to provide a far more accurate and complete picture of CEOs than anything previously available," Gunn said.

"We will be able to track movements in the demographic profile of our business leaders, and present a more balanced picture of how they're paid."

The CEO Institute was founded in 1992 as a peer-to-peer membership organisation for chief executives to connect with and learn from their peers. In 2011, it became the world's first global certification body for CEOs.