Never fall behind on the latest trends in CEO pay ratio with CAP’s CEO Pay Ratio Tracker. The CEO Pay Ratio Tracker uses each company’s most recent pay ratio disclosure.


Data effective: July 15, 2020

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Sector Breakdown Chart

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Pay Ratio – Percentiles Chart

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For questions or more information, please contact: Ryan Colucci Senior Associate 646-486-9745 or Joshua Hovden Senior Analyst 646-512-9135.

Click here to read more about the second year of CEO Pay Ratio disclosures:

Each year CAP analyzes non-employee director compensation programs among the 100 largest companies. These companies can provide early insights into trends for compensation practices. This report reflects a summary of pay levels and pay practice trends based on 2019 proxy disclosure.

CAP Findings

Board Compensation.
pay levels remained generally flat

  • Total Fees. Board compensation continues to be in a steady state with low single-digit annual increases. Median is now $305K, up from $300K last year. This is the lowest year over year increase we have seen recently.
  • Pay Structure. Companies rely mainly on annual retainers (cash and equity) to compensate directors. Pay programs for large companies are simple and tend to rely less on meeting fees or committee member retainers. We support this approach as it simplifies administration and eliminates the need to define what counts as a meeting, though this simplified approach may not be appropriate in all situations.
  • Meeting Fees. Consistent with prior years, only 12 percent of companies studied provide meeting fees. Companies could consider having a mechanism for paying meeting fees if the number of meetings in a single year far exceeds the norm (“hybrid approach”). Also consistent with prior years, 5 percent of companies studied used this “hybrid approach” to meeting fees, with the threshold number of meetings ranging between 6 and 10.
  • Equity. 98 percent of companies used full-value awards (shares/units) and only 4 percent used stock options (3 of the 4 companies granting stock options used both vehicles). Almost all companies denominated equity awards using a fixed value, versus a fixed number of shares. Using fixed value is generally considered best practice as it manages the “target” value awarded each year.
  • Pay Mix. On average, total pay is comprised of 62 percent equity and 38 percent cash, which is consistent with findings in other recent years.
  • Process. One-third of companies disclosed increases to board cash and/or equity retainers versus prior year.

Committee Member1 Compensation.
prevalence continues to slowly decline

  • Overall Prevalence. 45 percent of companies paid committee-specific member fees for Audit Committee service, 28 percent paid member fees for Compensation Committee service, and 26 percent paid member fees for Nominating/Governance Committee service. Companies rely more on board-level compensation to recognize committee member (non-Chair) service, with the general expectation that all independent directors contribute to committee service needs.
  • Total Fees. Of the companies that paid committee member compensation, the median was $13K in total, down from $16k in prior year.

Committee Chair2 Compensation.
little/no change

  • Overall Prevalence. More than 90 percent of companies studied provided additional compensation to committee Chairs to recognize additional time requirements, responsibilities, and reputational risk.
  • Fees. Median additional compensation remained at $25K for Audit Committee Chairs, $20K for Compensation Committee Chairs, and increased to $20K for Nominating/Governance Committee Chairs. In the past, Nominating/Governance Chairs were paid around $15K. Most often, such fees were delivered through an additional cash retainer.

Independent Board Leader Compensation.
little/no change

  • Non-Exec Chair. Additional compensation is provided by nearly all companies with this role. Median additional compensation was $225K. As a multiple of total Board Compensation, total Board Chair pay was 1.75x a standard Board member, at median.
  • Lead Director. Median additional compensation was $35K, consistent with prior year. Additional compensation is provided by nearly all companies with this role3. The differential in pay versus non-executive Chairs is in line with typical differences in responsibilities.

Pay Limits.
prevalence continues to increase

  • 62 percent of companies have an award limit for director compensation, up from 54 percent in the prior year.
  • Director pay limits are largely due to advancement of litigation where the issue has been that directors approve their own annual compensation and are therefore deemed to be inherently conflicted.
  • Similar to last year, limits range from $250K to $4.75 million, with a median limit of $750K. Companies that denominate the limit in shares tend to have a higher dollar-equivalent limit, with a median of $925K. The median for the companies with value-based limits is $675K.
    Limit Range Prevalence
    <= $500,000 29%
    $500,001 – $1,000,000 50%
    $1,000,001 – $2,000,000 16%
    > $2,000,000 5%
  • The limits are generally much higher than annual equity grants. Approximately one-third of limits are equivalent to more than 5x the annual equity grants.
    Limit Multiple Range Prevalence
    <= 3x annual equity 37%
    3.01x – 5x annual equity 31%
    5.01x – 7x annual equity 17%
    > 7x annual equity 15%
  • Approximately 60 percent of companies with limits apply it to just equity-based compensation, compared to 70 percent last year. We anticipate the prevalence of limits that apply to both cash and equity-based compensation (i.e., total pay) will continue to increase.
  • Some companies exclude initial at-election equity awards and/or additional pay for Board leadership roles from the limit.
  • The higher limits above likely are intended to address the possibility of having a non-executive Chair. However, in terms of potential perceived conflict of interest when it comes to setting pay for the non-executive Chair, the incumbent can be recused from discussions and the vote on their pay.

Some Changes CAP Suggests Companies Consider (Looking Ahead).

  • Recruiting New Directors. As boards look to refresh and diversify their membership, this may be the time to re-visit initial at-election equity awards for new directors. There has been a considerable “move to the middle” with director pay programs, and at-elections grants can be a way to differentiate your company’s pay program in the recruiting process without a broader, more costly, increase to standard director pay levels.
  • Board Leadership Roles. Taking on the role of non-executive Chair, Lead Director or Chair of a major Board committee can come with considerable additional time requirements, responsibilities, and reputational risk, yet additional compensation provided for most of these roles only reflects a market premium on the standard director pay program. Providing greater additional compensation for the role of non-executive Chair, Lead Director of Chair of a major Board committee should be considered, in recognition of the typical time requirements, responsibilities and reputational risk individuals in these roles take on.
  • Stock Ownership Requirements. Many boards, especially among the largest companies, require equity-based compensation be deferred until retirement (i.e., termination of board service). While we encourage further aligning director and shareholder interests through equity ownership, another approach is maintaining a standard stock ownership guideline (e.g., multiple of annual cash retainer). A stock ownership guideline may be a competitive advantage when recruiting new directors who may be more focused on current compensation, versus having to hold all equity-based compensation until termination of board service.


Range between 25th and 75th percentiles Median Value

Total Board Compensation ($000s)4

$274 $280 $285 $290 $300$305$319 $328 $334 $250$300$350201620172018

Additional Compensation for Independent Board Leaders ($000s)

Lead/Presiding DirectorsNon-Executive Chairs$29 $30 $30 $35$35$35$50 $50 $50 $20$30$40$50201620172018$193 $200 $188 $220$233$225$275 $275 $288 $125$175$225$275$325201620172018

1 Audit, Compensation and/or Nominating and Governance committees.

2 Audit, Compensation and/or Nominating and Governance committees.

3 Excludes controlled companies. Also excludes instances where Lead Director role is assumed by Chair of Nominating and Governance Committee, who receives compensation for the role.

4 Total Board Compensation reflects all cash and equity compensation for Board and committee service, excluding compensation for leadership roles such as committee Chair, Lead/Presiding Director, or non-executive Board Chair.

CAP reviews and publishes an annual update on pay levels for Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) and Chief Executive Officers (CEOs). This year’s update is based on a sample of 119 companies with median revenue of $13 billion. Additional information on criteria used to develop the sample of companies is included in the Appendix.

Highlights 2017 vs 2016

Component Highlight
Base Salary
  • Frequency of base salary increases in 2017 for CEOs and CFOs was comparable to 2016. 51% and 70% of companies made increases in 2017 for CEOs and CFOs, respectively
  • Among companies that made salary increases, the median CEO increase was 3.8% and median CFO increase was 4.6%, respectively. Salary increases were comparable to our 2016 study (3.3% and 4.4%, respectively)
  • Actual bonuses increased, 12.0% for CEOs and 12.7% for CFOs, reflective of stronger operating performance (on a revenue and operating income growth basis) in 2017
  • Median target bonus opportunities remained unchanged for both CEOs (150% of salary) and CFOs (100% of salary), with CEO target bonus unchanged for the fifth year of our study
  • Long-term incentive opportunities increased at a higher pace this year, 8.1% for CEOs and 10.4% for CFOs, compared to 4% growth for each in 2016
Performance Results
  • Performance in 2017 was better compared to prior year with median revenue and operating income growth of 7% each (compared to 1% and 4%, respectively, in 2016)
  • Total shareholder return (TSR) of 20% in 2017 was comparable to 16% TSR in 2016
Total Compensation
  • Median 2017 increases in actual total direct compensation (i.e., cash plus equity) for CEOs and CFOs were 10.9% and 9.9%, respectively. These increases were much higher than our 2016 study (5.4% and 3.9%, respectively) driven by higher bonus payouts and LTI grants
  • CFO total compensation continues to approximate one-third of CEO total pay
Pay Mix
  • The emphasis of variable pay over fixed pay, and performance-based equity over time-based equity, continues

Study Results


In the past, we have seen a steady growth in the number of CEOs and CFOs receiving salary increases in each year. However, for the 2016-2017 period the salary increase prevalence of 51% for CEOs and 70% for CFOs was very comparable to the increases for 2015-2016. The median 2017 salary increases were 3.1% for CFOs and 0.6% for CEOs.

2017 Salary Increases

All Companies Only Companies with Increases 0.0% 0.6% 3.8% 0.0% 3.1% 6.1% 25th Percentile Median 75th Percentile CEO CFO 3.0% 3.8% 8.1% 3.0% 4.6% 7.1% 25th Percentile Median 75th Percentile CEO CFO

Actual Pay Levels

Salary increases were higher for CFOs since only about one-half of CEOs received an increase. Yet, the median increases in actual bonus and long-term incentives were at similar levels for both CFOs and CEOs.

The median rate of increase in actual total direct compensation levels for CEOs and CFOs was 10.9% and 9.9% in 2017, respectively. We found that in 58% of the companies, the CEO received a higher percentage total compensation increase than the CFO.

Median Percentage Change in Pay Components

Pay Components

2015 – 2016 2016 – 2017
Salary 0.0% 3.0% 0.6% 3.1%
Actual Bonus 1.5% 1.1% 12.0% 12.7%
Long-Term Incentives 3.8% 4.1% 8.1% 10.3%
Actual Total Direct Compensation 5.4% 3.9% 10.9% 9.9%

While target bonuses remained relatively the same, actual bonuses had significant increases indicating a strong performance year among the sampled companies. Year-over-year revenue and operating income growth was 7% for both measures which was much higher than 2016 performance of 1% and 4% growth, respectively.

Median Pay Increase by Industry1

Actual Total Direct Compensation2

15.1% 12.6% - 0.5% 2.0% 13.3% 11.3% 17.3% 10.3% 16.2% 12.5% 11.8% 2.3% 3.9% 15.0% 10.6% 11.4% 9.6% 13.0% -5.0% 0.0% 5.0% 10.0% 15.0% 20.0% Financials (n=24) Information Technology (n=8) Consumer Discretionary (n=13) Consumer Staples (n=6) Energy (n=6) Industrials (n=21) Utilities (n=11) Healthcare (n=14) Materials (n=14) CEO CFO

Median TDC increases by industry were generally aligned with the year-over-year revenue and operating income improvements.

Total compensation increases lagged the total sample for the Consumer Discretionary and Consumer Staples industries. While the companies in Consumer Staples improved total shareholder returns, revenue growth, and operating income growth in 2017, the overall industry performance still lagged the total sample. On the other hand, the companies in Consumer Discretionary generally saw a decrease in operating performance and an improved total shareholder return in 2017, but total compensation was generally flat.

The underperformance of the Consumer Staples companies is partially attributed to the pressure on sales volume as a result of taxes on soda, competition from store brands / smaller upstarts, battle for shelf space, and health conscious consumers.

For Consumer Discretionary companies, the trend is less clear as this industry is more diverse and covers a lot more sub-sectors (for example: media and entertainment, distributors, retail, hotels, automobiles, etc.). When we look at the companies in this industry individually, the compensation changes year-over-year were most often aligned with improved or deteriorated performance.

Target Pay Mix

The structure of the overall pay program (salary, bonus, LTI) has remained largely unchanged since 2011. CEOs continue to receive less in the form of salary and more in variable pay opportunities, especially LTI, than CFOs.

CEOs CFOs 13% 13% 22% 21% 21% 20% 22% 20% 66% 67% 56% 59% 2011 2017 2011 2017 Salary Bonus LTI

Target Bonuses

Target bonuses as a percentage of salary remained unchanged at median and only changed slightly at 25th and 75th percentiles. We do not foresee any major changes in target bonus percentages in the near future.

Target Bonus as % of Salary

Summary Statistics

2016 2017 2016 2017
25th Percentile 138% 135% 85% 85%
Median 150% 150% 100% 100%
75th Percentile 190% 200% 120% 125%

Long-Term Incentive (LTI) Vehicle Prevalence and Mix

Prevalence of performance plans continued to increase in 2017. The use of two different vehicles to deliver LTI remains the most prevalent approach and approximately 25% of companies studied use all 3 equity vehicles (stock options, time-based stock awards, and performance plan awards).

Performance plans account for around 60% of LTI awards on average among companies studied. The other portion of LTI is delivered through an almost equal mix of stock options and time-vested restricted stock awards.


LTI Vehicles

2011 2016 2017
Stock Options 32% 32% 23% 22% 19% 17%
Time Vested Restricted Stock 17% 22% 20% 24% 18% 24%
Performance Plans 51% 46% 57% 54% 63% 59%


2017 performance overall, was higher compared to last year. Median revenue growth was 7% (vs 1% in 2016) and operating income growth was 7% (vs 4% in 2016). Total shareholder return in 2017 was comparable to 2016; the full year return was 20% (vs 16% in 2016). Total pay increases were much higher than in 2017, which we believe were directionally aligned with the performance improvements. A strong year of financial performance led to high annual incentive payouts in 2017 and after multiple years of sustained TSR growth companies are increasing LTI opportunities among their top executives.

The pay mix has been relatively consistent since 2011, but where we are seeing the most change is within LTI delivery vehicles. Since 2011 performance-based LTI plans have increased about 13% for both CEOs and CFOs with a similar drop in the prevalence of stock options, and time vested stock being relatively the same. With the focus on aligning pay outcomes with company performance by Boards and investors, we are not surprised to see large increases in total compensation after multiple years of sustained strong performance across industries.


Sample Screening Methodology

Based on the screening criteria below, we arrived at a sample of 119 public companies with median 2017 revenue of $13B.

Revenue At least $5B in revenue for fiscal year 2017
Fiscal year-end Fiscal year-end between 9/1/2017 and 1/1/2018
Proxy Statement Filing Date Proxy statement filed before 3/31/2018
Tenure No change in CEO and CFO incumbents in the past three years
Industry All industries have been considered for this analysis

1 Excludes one company in the Telecommunications Services industry and one in the Real Estate industry.

2 Total compensation equals the sum of base salary, actual bonuses, and long-term incentive awards granted in 2017

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