Swiss blue-chip bosses earn the most in Europe

UBS’s Sergio Ermotti has plenty to be happy about Keystone

The chief executive officers of Switzerland’s top multinational companies earn on average more than their rivals in any other European country, according to a study by consultants Willis Towers Watson.

This content was published on September 20, 2016 - 17:13 and agencies, and agencies

The Eurotop 100 study, published on Tuesday, analysed the direct remuneration – not including pension or bonuses – of the CEOs of the 100 most highly capitalised blue-chip companiesExternal link in Europe. The report only includes the 74 bosses who had held the position all year – with the result, for example, that Credit Suisse doesn’t feature since CEO Tidjane Thiam didn’t start until June 2015.

Of the seven heads of Swiss companies that made the list, the median salary (the middle salary in the sequence) was €8.77 million (CHF9.6 million), an increase of almost 15% on 2014.

Switzerland was followed by Spain, where the median salary was €7.18 million, Britain (€6.78 million) and Germany (€5 million).

The overall top earner was Rakesh Kapoor, the Indian head of British consumer goods company Reckitt Benckiser, who pocketed €20.85 million. He beat off Joao Mauricio Giffoni de Castro Neves from Anheuser-Busch, the world’s largest brewing company, who had to make do with €13.8 million.

The best-paid Swiss was Sergio Ermotti, CEO of Switzerland’s largest bank UBS, who was third on the list, taking home €13.11 million, just ahead of BP’s Bob Dudley on €12.86 million.

Fifth and sixth place also went to Switzerland and the bosses of pharmaceutical giants Roche and Novartis, who earned €10.65 million and €10.6 million, respectively.

The median salary of all 74 CEOs was €5.77 million, an increase of 6% on the previous year.

‘Fat cats’

In March 2013, Swiss voters backed an initiative to curb the high salaries of what they considered “fat cat” executives.

Although shareholders of listed firms now have binding votes on remuneration packages and various types of bonuses, such as “golden parachute” severance agreements, are forbidden, the initiative doesn’t appear to have had much effect on the size of the top salaries.

The youth wing of the leftwing Social Democratic Party tried to limit the pay within a company at a 1:12 ratio between lowest and highest salary earner, but voters rejected this in November 2013.

Disquiet about so-called fat cats has not gone away completely, however, and it still simmers in the background. 

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