How should bank boards properly compensate executives, under the watchful eye of regulators and the media, while still retaining key talent? That’s the question with which directors and chief executive officers continue to struggle. Despite this, there is perhaps a touch of newfound optimism in the banking industry regarding the management and fairness of compensation programs.
Last March, more than 300 directors and senior executives of financial institutions across the U.S. responded to the 2013 Compensation Survey, conducted via email by Bank Director and sponsored by Compensation Advisors by Meyer-Chatfield. Almost half of the respondents were independent directors. Response was almost evenly split from respondents representing privately-held and publicly-traded institutions.
- Bank boards continue to struggle with how to effectively tie compensation to performance. Sixty-nine percent of respondents cited this as their top compensation challenge for 2013. Boards continue to struggle with regulatory compliance—41 percent indicated that this is a key concern. Rounding out the top three, retaining key people was selected by 40 percent of respondents as a top challenge.
- Talent retention could increasingly prove to be a concern for the industry. Forty-four percent of respondents reported the departure of a key executive within the last three years. Very few reported that these departures are due to promotional moves, for a better pay or position, or even lateral moves to other banks. Of those reporting an executive departure, 23 percent indicated that the officer left the banking industry. With increased scrutiny on the industry coupled with the departures of retiring baby boomer executives, could the banking industry find itself in the midst of a talent drain?
- Thirty-five percent of directors expect to see a pay increase in 2014. Just two percent expect pay to decrease. Moreover, the majority, at 62 percent, believe that they are fairly compensated. Respondents also reported that the amount of time spent on bank board activities remains the same, at a median of 15 hours per month.
- The mood is a little lighter. Respondents indicating a positive or neutral feeling in the management of executive compensation rose 17 points from last year’s survey, to 92 percent. When it comes to management of director compensation, those indicating a positive or neutral feeling rose 10 points, to 90 percent.
- Banks are increasingly tying executive compensation to performance metrics or strategic goals. Still, nearly one-third, or 32 percent of respondents, said they don’t tie executive pay to a strategic plan.
- Show me the money. Cash rules as the most valued form of compensation for executives, in the form of salary, and directors, in the form of annual retainer and meeting fees. Benefits for boards, such as retirement or health insurance plans, continue to decline, with 58 percent indicating that they receive no benefits at all as compensation for board service. This represents a drop of 19 percentage points since 2011.