Executive Compensation

Compensation or remuneration for the executive managers is different from compensation for other employees in most the organizations. Executive compensation covers employees that include presidents of company, chief executive officers (CEOs), chief financial officers (CFOs), vice presidents, occasionally directors of the company, and other upper-level managers. These high level employees are paid executive compensation. 

Usually only those members of your most senior management team qualify for executive pay. It is usual the members of the “C-Suite.” (A widely-used slang term used to collectively refer to a corporation's most important senior executives. C-Suite gets its name because top senior executives' titles tend to start with the letter C, for chief, as in chief executive officer, chief operating officer and chief information officer.)

What Are the Components of Executive Compensation? 

Many organizations, especially large ones, administer executive compensation somewhat differently than compensation for lower-level employees. An executive typically is someone in the top two levels of an organization, such as Chief Executive Officer (CEO), President, or Senior Vice-President. As Figure shows, the common components of executive compensation are salaries, annual bonuses, long-term incentives, supplemental benefits, and perquisites.

 Apple CEO Tim Cook's salary doubled in 2014.

Apple CEO Tim Cook got a fat cash bonus that brought his total compensation to $9.2 million in 2013. That's more than double what he received in the previous year (2013), as the company enjoyed a upsurge in sales and profit fuelled by the popularity of its new, oversized iPhone 6 models. Cook's pay for fiscal 2014 included $1.7 million in salary and $6.7 million in incentive pay that was awarded by Apple's board after he beat the performance goals that directors had set for him, according to a regulatory filing. He also received $774,176 in other compensation, including a 401k contribution, company-paid insurance premiums and security expenses. Apple reported $182.8 billion in revenue for the fiscal year that ended September 27 of 2014 and $39.5 billion in profit, after seeing record sales last fall. Sales of iPhones rose 21% in the company's fourth quarter, which made up for a decline in sales of iPads. 


The chairmen at Indian companies, many of them in non-executive roles, are serving longer than their counterparts elsewhere, at a time when the trend of having long-tenured chairpersons is on the wane globally.

Campaigners for boardroom diversity argue that long-staying non-executives are a factor preventing change. In the US, institutional investors have identified lengthy average tenure coupled with under-performance and high overlap between the tenure of the CEO and that of the non-executive directors to be concerning. The UK is working on a corporate governance code that proposes that chairmen step down after nine years on the board, including the time they spent in previous non-executive director roles.

Bloomberg data available for 337 of India’s top 500 listed companies (BSE 500) show the average tenure of a chairman in India at 9.5 years and the average age at 64. At the top global companies on the S&P 500 list, the chairman on average spends 7.6 years in the post and is a year younger at 63.


India’s large number of family owned businesses are a reason for the chairman’s lengthier tenure here. The patriarchs often stay put as long as they physically can. On an average, the chairman stays in the post for 9.6 years at family-controlled firms in India, compared with 6.4 years for professionally managed businesses and 3.5 years at state-run firms.

Corporate governance standards prefer the chairperson to be an independent non-executive director —55% of the chairmen of BSE 500 companies are nevertheless executive. Also, under new rules mandated by Sebi earlier this year, the top 500 listed companies have to ensure that the chairperson is a non-executive director from April 1, 2020 - eventually splitting the post of chairman & MD.


British and American corporate executives are not created equally. British company shareholders usually vote on executive compensation packages. They also vote to reduce compensation that is deemed excessive. The British disclose more on executive pay packages as well as divide the roles of chairman and CEO in their companies.

Two objectives influence executive compensation:

Elements of Executive Compensation

At the heart of most executive compensation plans is the idea that executives should be rewarded if the organization grows in profitability and value over a period of years. Because many executives are in high tax brackets, their compensation often is provided in ways that offer significant tax savings. Therefore, their total compensation packages are more significant than their base pay. Especially when the base salary is $1 million or more, the executive often is interested in the mix of items in the total package, including current and deferred compensation.


Salaries of executives vary by type of job, size of organization, region of the country, and industry. On average, salaries make up about 40-60% of the typical top executive's annual compensation total. At times publicly traded company to hike or reduce the salary of executive based on performance, approval may be needed from  directors and shareholders .


Because executive performance may be difficult to determine, bonus compensation must reflect some kind of performance measure if it is to be meaningful. As an example, a retail chain with over 250 stores ties annual bonuses for managers to store profitability. The bonuses have amounted to as much as 35% of a store manager's base salary.

Bonuses for executives can be determined in several ways. A discretionary system whereby bonuses are awarded based on the judgments of the chief executive officer and the board of directors is one way. However, the absence of formal, measurable targets is a major drawback of this approach. Also, as noted, bonuses can be tied to specific measures, such as return on investment, earnings per share, or net profits before taxes. More complex systems create bonus pools and thresholds above which bonuses are computed. Whatever method is used, it is important to describe it so that executives trying to earn bonuses understand the plan; otherwise, the incentive effect will be diminished.


Performance-based incentives attempt to tie executive compensation to the long-term growth and success of the organization. However, whether the emphasis is really on the long term or merely represents a series of short-term rewards is controversial. Short-term rewards based on quarterly or annual performance may not result in the kind of long-run-oriented decisions necessary for the company to continue to do well.

A stock option gives an individual the right to buy stock in a company, usually at an advantageous price. Different types of stock options have been used depending on the tax laws in effect. Stock options have increased in use as a component of executive compensation during the past 10 years, and employers may use a variety of very specialized and technical approaches to them,  such as crypto market investments, which are beyond the scope of this discussion. However, the overall trend is toward using stock options as performance-based long-term incentives.

Where stock is closely held, firms may grant "stock equivalencies" in the form of phantom stock or share appreciation rights. These plans pay recipients the increased value of the stock in the future, determined by a base valuation made at the time the phantom stock or share appreciation rights are given. Depending on how these plans are established, the executives may be able to defer taxes or be taxed at lower capital-gains tax rates.


As with benefits for non-executive employees, executive benefits may take several forms, including traditional retirement, health insurance, vacations, and others. However, executive benefits may include some items that other employees do not receive. For example, executive health plans with no co-payments and with no limitations on deductibles or physician choice are popular among small and middle-sized businesses. Corporate-owned life insurance on the life of the executive is popular and pays both the executive's estate and the company in the event of death. Trusts of various kinds may be designed by the company to help the executive deal with estate issues. Deferred compensation is another possible means used to help executives with tax liabilities caused by incentive compensation plans.


In addition to the regular benefits received by all employees, executives often receive benefits called perquisites. Perquisites (perks) are special executive benefits—usually noncash items. Perks are useful in tying executives to organizations and in demonstrating their importance to the companies. It is the status enhancement value of perks that is important to many executives. Visible symbols of status allow executives to be seen as "very important people (VIPs)" both inside and outside their organizations. In addition, perks can offer substantial tax savings because many perks are not taxed as income.

Indian Top executive pay chart in Indian corporate sector: 

2012-Sep: Naveen  chairman and managing director of Jindal Steel and Power (JSPL)  has topped the executive pay charts for listed companies in the country with a package of Rs 73.4 crore for the fiscal 2011-12, which grew by over Rs 6 crore from previous year. Jindal. He was followed by Sun TV Network's Kalanithi and Kavery Maran (Rs 57 crore each), Hero MotoCorp's Pawan Munjal (Rs 34.5 crore) and Brijmohan Lall Munjal (Rs 34.4 crore) among the five top-paid executives. These pay packages include 

Jindal remained the top-paid executive for the second consecutive year after he dislodged Kalanithi Maran from the top slot in the year 2010-11. The collective pay of the 10 top-paid executives rose by Rs 43 crore (over 12%) to Rs 387 crore in FY12, according to the data companies have so far published their annual reports. The pay packages declined for only two - Kalanithi and Kavery Maran - among these 10 in 2011-12.

Reliance India Ltd chief Mukesh Ambani, once the country's highest-paid executive, was not in the top-10 and was ranked 15th with a remuneration of Rs 15 crore, which has remained unchanged for four consecutive years now. Those ranked higher than Ambani include 

The collective remuneration of 15 highest-paid executives rose by about Rs 38 crore to Rs 478 crore. Interestingly, there are only four sensex companies whose top executives figure among the ten top-paid persons.

Source: Times of India

Top 10 highest paid CEOs of 2013

Here are the 10 highest paid CEOs of 2013, as calculated by The Associated Press and Equilar, an executive pay research firm:

1.Anthony Petrello, Nabors Industries, $68.2 million, up 246 percent

2.Leslie Moonves, CBS, $65.6 million, up 9 percent

3.Richard Adkerson, Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold, $55.3 million, up 294 percent

4.Stephen Kaufer, TripAdvisor, $39 million, up 510 percent

5.Philippe Dauman, Viacom, $37.2 million, up 11 percent

6.Leonard Schleifer, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, $36.3 million, up 21 percent

7.Robert Iger, Walt Disney, $34.3 million, down 7 percent

8.David Zaslav, Discovery Communications, $33.3 million, down 33 percent

9.Jeffrey Bewkes, Time Warner, $32.5 million, up 27 percent

10.Brian Roberts, Comcast, $31.4 million, up 8 percent