If you’re a CEO, rest easy this Friday jobs report day.
Economists, policy-makers and other finance spectators may lose sleep over unemployment numbers each month, but experts say that there may be no better time to be a senior executive.
The US unemployment rate for November is expected continue its downward march, after it hit a 5.8% low in October. But the Fed’s beige book predicts a mere 0.2% increase in hourly wage growth this month, which is only a modest 2% boost from the previous year.
If this appears to be only a marginal improvement from the recession years for the middle class, top-level executives have had less to worry about.
Microsoft shareholders just cleared a fat $84m pay package for CEO Satya Nadella. The amount includes base pay, of $918,917, a $3.6m bonus and $79.8m in stock grants that won’t vest until 2019.
Nadella isn’t alone. According to a the 2014 CEO compensation strategy report byEquilar, an executive compensation and corporate governance data firm which conducted the report in association with compensation consultant firm Meridian, the median income of CEOs of S&P 500 companies was $10.1m at the end of 2013. This reflects a 9.5% increase year on year and a staggering 43% jump from 2009. Hourly wages since 2009 for non-farm workers on the other hand rose 23.6%.
It doesn’t stop there. The median salary for the chief executives of S&P 1500 companies (representing 90% of US market cap) rose a healthy 8.5% year on year to $5.0m.
If you are anywhere near the top post, not for you post-recession flavoured 2% wage growth. The good times extend not just to CEOs, but across the entire upper echelons of corporate powerhouses, say hiring experts. That became evident this week when hackers released salary data from Sony showing that 17 of the company’s executives make more than $1m a year each.
Across industries, businesses are boosting pay for executives in the belief it will draw the best people to their teams. Perks abound.
“2008-09 was hunker-down mode,” says Joe Huddle of DHR International. Companies that were cutting costs in 2009 tried to make do “more with less”. But now, with the elbow room to be hire aggressively, executive compensations are even more outsized, he says.
The VP who found his professional soul
While the prosperity extends across the healthcare, basic materials and consumer goods industries, bosses had the best median compensation, according to Equilar’s report.
Technology companies, often smaller, had the lowest median CEO salaries.
However, there’s been a sharper hill to climb with other sectors since 2009, says Sam Wholley of Riviera Partners, a prominent executive search firm from Silicon Valley. But the Valley has seen less turbulence in the executive job market.
Whatever skyrocketing compensation numbers say, wealth is not the primary motivator for senior executives, says Jason Hanold, a former head of talent divisions for Deloitte and McKinsey and a managing partner of his executive search firm Hanold Associates.
He often chats with senior executives who have already made “more money than they ever thought they would” and are now asking themselves “What do I want to do?” he explains. “People are getting in touch with their professional soul.”
It turns out that ex-Wall Street executives and business mandarins now want to follow their passions and get paid big bucks. And what jobs are they taking? “Anything you can describe as mission-driven or businesses that make lives better.”
Hanold says that life sciences, healthcare and non-profit sectors are attracting the best talent, thanks to a widespread desire to do good professionally.