Average total compensation for chief compliance officers has risen 4.5 percent over the last two years to $185,500, according to a CCO compensation survey released the other week by the Society of Corporate Compliance & Ethics

That said, compensation increases were greatest for those CCOs already at the high end of the pay scale. Among CCOs in the 75th percentile, average total compensation rose 7.2 percent to $236,000. For peons only at the 25th percentile, however, average compensation actually fell from $105,000 two years ago to $92,000 today.

So even in corporate compliance, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Somebody call Bernie Sanders.

Anyway, the SCCE report has tons of compensation data, sorted by years of experience, size of company, industry sector, professional certification, and much more. Whether you want to benchmark compensation for your team, or get a sense of how you compare to peers so you can score a raise yourself, it’s well worth the time to read. 

The SCCE publishes its compensation surveys every two years, and the 2019 report is based on more than 900 responses — everyone from compliance assistants up to vice presidents. SCCE members can even play with an interactive version on the SCCE website to build an even more precise comparison of you against your peers. 

By job level, average total compensation ranged from $81,700 for compliance assistants to $238,000 for vice presidents, although those average numbers could vary greatly depending on factors such as geography, industry, and size of the company. CCOs in retail made the most ($257,800), while those in government made the least ($133,300). 

Figure 1, below, is a nice industry-by-industry breakdown for CCOs. (Healthcare is excluded from the survey, since the Health Care Compliance Association does a whole separate survey just for those folks.) 

CCO compensation

Source: SCCE

Other nuggets of note in the SCCE data… 

Professional certifications help. Across the board, professional certifications correlated to higher pay. Compensation for those holding a CCEP certification was $207,000, up from $201,000 in 2017. Compensation for those holding a CCEP-I (the certification given for running compliance at international organizations) was even higher, at $240,000, although that was down from $245,000 two years ago. 

People with the CIA certification for internal auditing or the CFE for fraud examiners saw less compensation than compliance-related pedigrees, but that might be because CIAs and CFEs weren’t the target audience for this survey, and perhaps the big money-makers in those fields didn’t participate. 

Either way, as we can see from Figure 2, below, “None” placed last with $141,360 — but that category might include younger professionals who haven’t obtained a certification yet, and presumably make less money since they’re earlier in their careers.

Source: SCCE

Folks with privacy certifications make the most. OK, we get it, you’re in the sexy field and rake in all the dough. Point made. 

Contracts help too, so get one! Seventy-four percent of survey respondents said they don’t have an employment contract — but the 26 percent who do tend to make more money ($191,000 versus $184,000), and the majority of them also have a severance clause in their contract. That’s probably a nice clause to have, when you consider some of the risks mid-career compliance professionals face

Geography matters. Nifty chart here showing that West Coast compliance professionals make the most, while their Rocky Mountain peers make the least — and also have the smallest bonus compensation, too. 

Source: SCCE

Then again, how far can $247,000 take you if you’re paying California home prices and taxes? The South Atlantic region might be the best bang for your buck, although of course everyone in Florida is crazy.

We’ve really scratched the surface here, so by all means, pore over the complete report and see how your situation compares to peers. It’s a great resource to assess your company’s own approach to compensation, either for your team or you personally. 

Now if we can only get more than a 4.5 percent raise by 2021… 

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