After years of filling the top financial spot for so many different organizations, we decided to start compiling our own CFO salary information based upon our industry knowledge and placement information.
The following compensation information should be used as a general guide to determine what a certain-sized company might expect to pay on average for a highly-qualified CFO. These are very general salary ranges and there are many unique factors that could cause these ranges to shift in one direction or the other.
Generally speaking, the larger the company, the higher the average CFO salary range and the higher the total compensation package. On average, public companies tend to pay slightly higher than private companies and areas with a higher cost of living tend to pay slightly more than areas with a more moderate cost of living. Industry and organization type are also factors that can influence the average CFO salary that an organization might pay.
Average CFO Salary Range by Company Size
*CFO Salary Data Updated September 13, 2023
$10 – $40 Million
$41 – $100 Million
$101 – $300 Million
$301 – $500 Million
$501 – $999 Million
$1 Billion – $5 Billion
$5.1 Billion – $10 Billion
$161,808 – $254,392
$176,840 – $284,300
$207,280 – $324,862
$235,208 – $384,464
$264,312 – $486,972
$271,364 – $536,032
$313,344 – $574,000
$176,064 – $278,186
$184,320 – $304,112
$224,416 – $342,128
$256,448 – $410,480
$274,659 – $506,780
$293,716 – $567,274
$331,712 – $762,030
Factors Affecting CFO Salary
There are many exceptions to this rule, but at least generally speaking, the larger the company, the higher the average CFO salary range and the higher the total CFO compensation package.
As a general rule, publicly-traded corporations typically pay more than privately held corporations and for-profit companies tend to pay more than non-profit companies. While there are many exceptions to this rule, this is nevertheless the general rule and overarching principle when it comes to CFO compensation packages.
While type of industry is a definite influence upon CFO salary and compensation in general it is a little difficult to pinpoint exactly the level of influence that these factors contribute. For instance and as often is the case, tech companies, software firms and biotech firms typically pay higher than more traditional industries.
Location does play a role in determining a CFO salary package, but probably less so than some of these other factors. Since we are primarily dealing with companies in the United States, areas such as California, New York City, Chicago and Boston are all areas within which we typically find higher levels of CFO compensation.
Based upon our current CFO salary data within the United States, the following metropolitan areas would be expected to pay a higher overall rate of total CFO compensation among all states and areas.
- San Francisco
- San Jose
- New York City
- Los Angelos
- San Diego
- Washington, D.C.
Other Components of CFO Compensation
The majority of public company CFO positions that we work on consist of three main compensation components: base salary, bonus and equity. Equity stakes vary from one organization to another but generally consist of an initial first year grant with the remainder vesting over a period of several years. Equity stakes can be significant, especially with larger public companies in excess of $500 million. Although less common than public companies, we see a significant number of private companies offering some sort of equity stake in addition to base salary and bonus.
There are in fact a multitude of different and various equity plans that may be offered. Here is a very brief summary of just a few of the different types of equity packages that we see being offered at the CFO level.
This is by far the most common and straightforward type of equity compensation and are typically the type of equity granted to CFOs who are the employee of a public company.
Restricted Stock Plans (RSUs)
RSU plans are a less common, but still fairly straightforward way of granting equity to an employee, but what is granted is a notional unit, in other words not an actual share of stock, but a notional unit very similar to an actual share of stock.
Share Appreciate Right Plans (SARs)
SARs function very similar to stock options, but do not require the employee to actually purchase the exercise price when they exercise the option. Share Appreciation Right Plans have some of the characteristics of standard stock options and some characteristics of RSUs.
Deferred Share Unit Plans (DSUs)
DSUs are similar to to stock options, but typically carry slightly different tax implications than some of the plans above. DSUs typically only vest upon employee termination and they are designed to be longer term in nature than the other plans.
ESPP or ESOP
Employee Stock Purchase Plans (ESPPs) are another structured way of doling out equity. With an ESPP, employees are granted the right to purchase shares at a discounted rate, while ESOP plans generally provide the stock at no cost to employees. Clearly ESOP plans are typically favored by employees over an ESPP type plan.
Bonus structures vary greatly from one organization to another. Generally speaking most Chief Financial Officer positions have an average bonus potential of around 30 – 60% of base salary. Many have the ability to pay out much higher. We have seen some that could potentially double or triple a candidate’s base salary. Typically the bonus potential and total earning potential increases as the size of the organization increases.
Cash Bonus (Annual Bonus)
This is the most common and straightforward type of annual bonus granted to CFOs as part of their overall compensation plan. There are numerous types and structures, but the majority of annual cash bonuses are based upon different measures of the employees performance and the company’s performance.
Discretionary – A Discretionary Bonus is bonus that is completely at the discretion of the employer. There are no guideless or minimum standards. If employer chooses to pay a bonus, then and only then is it paid. It is typically given one time as an added token of appreciation for a job well done or service that is above and beyond the norm. Some employers might refer to discretionary bonuses as “spot bonuses”.
- Typically, one-time
- On the spot
- For a direct and recognizable effort or achievement
- Typically, unannounced, and unexpected
Non-Discretionary – A Non-Discretionary Bonus is bonus that is a required aspect of compensation assuming certain pre-determined and outlined guidelines are meet.
- Typically recurring
- Pre-planned, calculated and expected if goals meet or guidelines achieved
- Typically part of structured compensation plan
- Generally speaking, larger and more valuable than smaller discretionary bonuses
*Generally speaking, an employee prefers a non-discretionary bonus over a discretionary bonus; and an employer prefers a discretionary bonus over a non-discretionary bonus for logical and straightforward reasons.
Most Bonus paid out at the CFO level are typically non-discretionary. There are typically minimum standards and/or guidelines to be met and if those are met a bonus is paid out.