Press Release

Bank Compensation Survey Results: Findings Released

Bank Director Survey Explores Talent Trends, Reveals Bank CEO and Director Pay Data

BRENTWOOD, TENN., June 8, 2021 – Despite a challenging year for the U.S. economy, most banks increased pay and expanded benefits during the pandemic, according to Bank Director’s 2021 Compensation Survey, sponsored by Newcleus Compensation Advisors. The results provide a detailed exploration of employee benefits, in addition to talent and culture trends, CEO performance and pay, and director compensation.

Meaningful, thoughtful compensation will be essential for banks interested in motivating and retaining key executives and talent as they continue navigating through the post-pandemic environment. Tying compensation to performance (43%), and managing compensation and benefit costs (37%), remain the top two compensation challenges reported by respondents.

“Talent forms the foundation of any organization’s success, and banks proved to be stable employers during uncertain times,” says Emily McCormick, vice president of research at Bank Director. “But given the industry’s low unemployment rate, coupled with specific needs for highly-skilled employees, some financial institutions could find themselves challenged to attract and retain the employees they need.”

The majority of the survey respondents – 79% – believe their institution can effectively compete for talent against technology companies and other financial services companies. However, the smallest banks express less confidence, indicating a growing chasm between those that can attract the talent they need to grow, and those forced to make do with dwindling resources.

“Our clients are requesting more assistance with comprehensive reviews of their total compensation offerings, from base salary to vacation, employee assistance programs and social involvement,” says Flynt Gallagher, president of Newcleus Compensation Advisors. “Quite a number of clients – including those in the multi-billion asset range – are having increasing trouble getting potential employees to even apply for numerous job openings. Additionally, turnover is higher than in previous years, mainly due to strong offers from competitors and other industries.”

Key Findings Include:

Cultural Shifts
Eighty-two percent say their bank expanded or introduced remote work options in response to Covid-19. Of these, 39% believe that remote work hasn’t changed their institution’s culture, and 38% believe the practice has had a positive effect. However, one-quarter believe remote work has negatively affected their organization’s culture.

CEO Performance
Following a chaotic and uncertain 2020, a quarter say their board exercised more discretion and/or relied more heavily on qualitative factors in examining CEO performance. More than three-quarters tie performance metrics to CEO pay, including income growth (56%), return on assets (53%) and asset quality (46%). Qualitative factors are less favored, and include strategic goals (56%) and community involvement (29%).

Median CEO compensation exceeded $600,000 for fiscal year 2020, a modest decrease compared to the previous year. CEOs of banks over $10 billion in assets earned a median $3.5 million, including salary, incentives, equity compensation, and benefits and perks.

Director Compensation
More than half of directors believe they’re fairly compensated for their contributions to the bank. Three-quarters indicate that independent directors earn a board meeting fee, at a median of $1,000 per meeting. Sixty-two percent say their board awards an annual cash retainer, at a median of $21,600.

Commercial Loan Demand
More than one-quarter of respondents say their bank has adjusted incentive plan goals for commercial lenders, anticipating more demand. Ten percent expect reduced demand; 60% haven’t adjusted their goals for 2021.

The survey includes the views of more than 250 independent directors, chief executives, human resources officers and other senior executives of U.S. banks below $50 billion in assets. Full survey results are now available online at

About Bank Director
Bank Director reaches the leaders of the institutions that comprise America’s banking industry. Since 1991, Bank Director has provided board-level research, peer-insights and in-depth executive and board services. Built for banks, Bank Director extends into and beyond the boardroom by providing timely and relevant information through Bank Director magazine, board training services and the financial industry’s premier event, Acquire or Be Acquired. For more information, please visit

Newcleus Compensation Advisors
Newcleus Compensation Advisors are the premier consulting experts on compensation strategies to include: base salaries, incentive plans, equity compensation, nonqualified executive retirement plans and director compensation strategies. Our greatest strength is helping financial organizations spend smart dollars in efforts to help attract and retain the top talent. Our unbiased solutions bring best of industry practice related to products, services, administration, and regulatory compliance support.

For more information, please contact Bank Director’s Director of Marketing, Deahna Welcher, at


Emily McCormick

Vice President of Editorial & Research

Emily McCormick is Vice President of Editorial & Research for Bank Director. Emily oversees research projects, from in-depth reports to Bank Director’s annual surveys on M&A, risk, compensation, governance and technology. She also manages content for the Bank Services Program. In addition to regularly speaking and moderating discussions at Bank Director’s in-person and virtual events, Emily regularly writes and edits for Bank Director magazine and She started her career in the circulation department at the Knoxville News-Sentinel, and graduated summa cum laude from The University of Tennessee with a bachelor’s degree in Spanish and International Business.