Executive compensation linked more closely to stock performance
DAX executives earning less
Management board members with the 30 companies listed on the DAX exchange earned an average of 3.508 million euros in 2018, or 3.5 percent less than in 2017. The study compares the 2018 figures of DAX-listed companies with the previous year including companies that were not yet listed on Germany's top exchange in 2017. There were two changes in the DAX in 2018.
The decrease runs counter to the prevailing trend over the past decade, in which executive compensation increased every year except in 2012 and 2015. Although gross wages in Germany were up by 3.1 percent in 2018, top executives still earned an average of over 52 times as much as their employees.
As compared with recent years, the DAX corporations increased the portion of executive compensation linked to the longer-term performance of their stock prices. This component now represents 30.4 percent of overall compensation as compared to 26.8 percent a year earlier.
"We approve of this trend because the stock price is the most accurate reflection of a company's long-term performance," says Prof. Gunther Friedl of the Chair of Management Accounting at TUM, who headed the study. "In 2018 the German economic engine showed signs of slowing down. Share prices dropped significantly in some cases and the business outlook turned gloomy. The changes we have observed in executive compensation largely reflect these developments."
"The figures show that the system of 'breathing' salaries for board members basically works. But it's also clear that the assumption that it's all about what a company has to pay in executive compensation, and not the total that a top manager can receive from the system, does not go far enough. Public discourse will always revolve around how much money ultimately ends up in executives' wallets. Shareholders will be more interested in how much the company spends on their pay. A supervisory board should bear both aspects in mind and keep to a happy medium," says DSW managing director Marc Tüngler.
Base salaries unrelated to performance still represent approximately one third of total compensation. However, companies reduced the average share of bonuses primarily dependent on corporate profits ("variable cash bonuses") from 41.8 percent to 36.7 percent. As a result, these payouts were 15.6 percent lower despite an overall increase in corporate profits.
Female board members, with average earnings of 3.1 million euros, again lagged behind their male counterparts, who received an average of 3.6 million euros. As before, not a single DAX company has a female CEO. Board members from other countries earned more than those from Germany in 2018 (3.7 million euros vs. 3.4 million euros).
After SAP's executives headed the salary rankings in 2016 and 2017, Volkswagen returned to its accustomed number one spot in 2018. The automaker's top managers were paid an average of 6 million euros, followed by their colleagues at Merck (5.2 million). Number three was Deutsche Bank (5.1 million), where executive compensation was 55.2 percent higher than in 2018 – the largest increase among the DAX companies. In 2017 the bank's top managers had waived their variable compensation. The steepest drop in executive pay, at 38.9 percent, was at BMW.
The average compensation of CEOs of DAX companies was 5.4 million euros. Bill McDermott, the CEO of SAP, remained at number one, earning 10.8 million euros as the head of the highest-valued DAX company. In second place was Herbert Diess of Volkswagen, with 7.9 million euros, ahead of Bernd Scheifele, the CEO of Heidelberg Cement, with 7.3 million euros.