Report: Compliance Salaries Up 3.5 Percent

Compliance professionals saw an average salary increase of 3.5 percent last year to roughly $200,000, although male compliance officers still make about 8.2 percent more in total compensation than their female counterparts, according to a new salary survey.

The report, from executive search firm BarkerGilmore, polled 2,500 compliance professionals in an online survey earlier this spring. It also broke out average salary increases by industry sector, as well as whether a person has a JD law degree, works in a public or private company, or has the “chief compliance officer” title versus a plain old “compliance officer” or compliance counsel. 

As one might expect… 

  • Public companies pay more money than private ones: 51 percent more for chief compliance officers, 55 percent more for compliance counsel.
  • Larger companies pay more money than smaller ones.
  • Companies in major metro areas paid more than those in smaller cities or rural areas.
  • Compliance professionals with a law degree make more money than those without: 26 percent more among chief compliance officers, and 28 percent more among compliance counsel.

The report also had some striking observations about compensation and gender. The 2,500 respondents were divided almost evenly, 51 percent female versus 49 percent male. Median total compensation for men was $265,000, roughly 8.2 percent more than median total compensation of $245,000 for women. That was driven foremost by larger bonuses that men earned, although they also earned a wee bit more than women in base salary and long-term incentive pay, too. See Figure 1, below.

Source: BarkerGilmore

Total compensation for female chief compliance officers was 6.4 percent lower than that of their male counterparts: $295,000 versus $314,000, according to the BarkerGilmore report. That was due to men receiving a higher average base salary and a higher average bonus. 

On the other hand, total compensation for female compliance officers (no “chief” in the title) and compliance counsel was actually 6.5 percent higher than their male counterparts: $223,600 versus $210,000. Among these employees, men and women had the same average base salary, but women earned more average bonus and average long-term incentive compensation. 

Where the Money Is

The BarkerGilmore report slices up its compensation numbers in various ways, so you can dig into the details to find the averages most comparable to your particular situation. Definitely worth the time to do if you’re in salary negotiations with your boss or looking for greener pastures somewhere else. 

For chief compliance officers, the money was at large organizations. For example, median total compensation at businesses with more than $10 billion in annual revenue was $485,000, more than twice as much as the $228,000 median total compensation at businesses with less than $500 million in annual revenue. A considerable portion of that gap came from greater long-term compensation and bonus pay at the bigger firms. 

And somewhat to my surprise, chief compliance officers in the financial services sector made less in total compensation than any other major sector. See Figure 2, below.

Source: BarkerGilmore

Interestingly, that low-ball amount for the financial services sector also held true for compliance counsel, too. Compliance counsel in publicly traded consumer businesses reported the highest median compensation, followed by those at publicly traded healthcare or life sciences companies. In third place were privately held tech companies, which makes sense if you assume these are high-growth startups blundering into privacy or data security risks much earlier in the corporate lifecycle. See Figure 3, below.

Source: BarkerGilmore

We recently had a post about the compliance job market these days, and suffice to say that market is good. Large corporations have generally recovered from the pandemic and are now performing well, so they’ve defrosted all those req orders on hold from 2020 — and it’s not like compliance risks are receding, either. 

So even if specific compliance officers are having a tough go of things right now (and you have my sympathy if that’s the case), the overall market is humming along briskly with lots of demand for your talens. Dig into this BarkerGilmore report, figure out what you’re worth, and then stand your ground with HR!

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