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Insider In Full: Executive pay 2019: Greenberg, Glaser and Wilson top the league table

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Chubb CEO Greenberg's near-$20.5mn pay narrowly beats that of his closest rival...

Carlos Pallordet

 

Chubb CEO Evan Greenberg, Marsh & McLennan Companies (MMC) CEO Dan Glaser and Allstate CEO Thomas Wilson were the three best-paid executives in (re)insurance in 2019, according to this publication’s annual analysis of executive compensation.

Other prominent executives to feature in the top 10 included AIG CEO Brian Duperreault, Berkshire Hathaway’s Ajit Jain, and broking CEOs John Haley and Greg Case.

Key executives across seven new companies were featured in this year’s top-50 league table as the panel of companies covered by the study was expanded with 19 additional US carriers, including personal lines writers and regional and Floridian insurers.

Headline findings from this publication’s newly expanded annual study of executive compensation included:

  • The average remuneration for the top 50 best-paid executives – including CFOs and other staff – rose by 3.8% to $10.6mn in 2019.
  • Chubb CEO Evan Greenberg took up the top position in 2019, after two years of AIG’s Brian Duperreault heading the chart.
  • London executives – including CEOs – did not make it to the top 50.
  • On a like-for-like basis, CEO average remuneration across the whole panel was up by 5.5% year on year, in line with a benchmark for the broader S&P 500 published by The Wall Street Journal.

The collective remuneration for the top 50 highest-paid executives in the P&C (re)insurance industry increased by 3.8% to $532.3mn in 2019, the executive pay league has shown.

Not accounting for AIG – for which the 2017 management transition has the effect of skewing recent years’ overall results – the change in pay of the top 50 was an increase of 3%.

With that same metric standing at 2.2% in the previous year, the new record highlights a slight acceleration in executive compensation increases for 2019, and marks a recovery from the downturns of 2016 and 2017.

 

Our annual survey, which has run since 2013, includes all executives named in SEC filings (DEF 14A and 10-K) – or group annual reports in their absence – across publicly listed P&C (re)insurers and brokers.

It ranks them in order of total compensation for the year, encompassing base salary, cash bonuses, stock and option awards and other benefits such as pensions.

It should also be noted that total compensation figures as reported in SEC filings can be distorted by multi-year compensation arrangements, with pay often front-loaded to the first year of the arrangement, which can cause swings in the league table.

This year, the list of companies covered in the study was broadened with the inclusion of 19 new US P&C carriers, which were added to reflect this publishing house’s expanded coverage universe, taking the total number of companies in the panel to 48.

Including AIG, each member of the top 50 executive cohort earned $10.6mn in 2019 on average, compared with $10.3mn in 2018.

The above figures include the firms’ CEO, CFO and highest-paid named executive officers.

However, 20 of the 48 companies covered in the study did not make the league table, as the 2019 pay of their key executives fell below that of other executives in the top 50.

In fact, the addition of the 19 new US P&C carriers to the panel meant that London executives – including CEOs – are now displaced completely from the top-50 league table. This is the case not just in 2019 but for the last three years.

On the contrary, executives across seven of the 19 new members of the panel were featured in 2019. These included the leaders of Progressive, Alleghany, Kemper, Selective, HCI, Heritage and NatGen.

Shifting the focus to CEO pay in isolation, the analysis shows that average compensation for bosses across all 48 companies totalled $7.9mn last year, led by CEOs of US large-cap carriers who earned on average $14.9mn.

When compared to CEO pay across those same companies in the previous year, average remuneration on a like-for-like basis was up by 5.5%.

By way of comparison, the median compensation for 143 CEOs of S&P 500 companies was up 5.6%, reaching $13.1mn in 2019, according to an analysis by TheWall Street Journal.

  

CEO pay performance differs across peer groups

The 5.5% increase in average compensation for CEOs in 2019 was driven by all peer groups except Florida, which had a fall of 43.1%.

The significant drop in this newly covered peer group was particularly influenced by corporate governance and executive compensation changes at Universal Insurance Holdings, which resulted in a 70% reduction in the pay given to the top job.

As part of this process, Universal boss Sean Downes passed on the CEO baton to Stephen Donaghy in July last year, remaining only as an executive chairman.

But other members of the Florida peer group also showed significant reductions – the pay of Heritage CEO Bruce Lucas and FedNat CEO Michael Braun fell by 45.4% and 29.2%, respectively, in 2019.

 

  

Only HCI founder and CEO Paresh Patel managed an increase in pay, which in his case amounted to 42.6%.

Despite all other peer groups showing positive changes, there were still differing dynamics among them, not only in terms of the magnitude of upturns, but also overall levels of compensation.

CEOs from the US large-cap peer group – which includes AIG, Berkshire Hathaway, Chubb, CNA, The Hartford and Travelers – earned twice as much on average as their Bermudian or US specialty peers, and three times more than their colleagues in the US regional and Florida cohorts.

However, US large cap remuneration increased by only 5.4%, compared to 17.8% for Bermudians, 15% for US specialty and 14.8% for US regional carriers.

Meanwhile, London CEOs saw an 18.1% increase in 2019, but this took their average remuneration to “only” $2.3mn, nearly half of their peers in Florida and one sixth of the compensation of US large-cap CEOs.

  

  

 

On the other side of the spectrum, average CEO compensation for the broker peer group surged by 36.5% to $13.8mn.

This was propelled by Willis Towers Watson CEO John Haley, whose pay jumped from $5mn in 2018 to $18.7mn in 2019, having extended his contract by two years instead of retiring in 2018.

Following the announcement of the Aon-Willis deal in March this year, Haley’s contract has been extended further to ensure he remains in post until the company’s merger with Aon comes into effect, at which point he will take up the post of executive chairman at the combined entity.

 

Veterans of the top 10

The relative importance of the US large cap and broker peer groups in terms of compensation levels was also reflected beyond the companies’ CEO role. A total of 27 of the top 50 positions on the pay league, and nine of the top 10, were taken up by executives from these two groups, similar to the previous year.

Executives in the top 10 positions not holding the top job included Berkshire Hathaway’s vice chairman for insurance Ajit Jain – who shared fourth with his colleague in non-insurance operations Gregory Abel – and AIG group COO Peter Zaffino, who climbed five positions to eighth place in 2019.

Aside from AIG’s Zaffino – whose compensation increased by 45.7% in 2019 – and Willis’ Haley, all other members in the top 10 were present the previous year.

Chubb’s president, chairman and CEO Evan Greenberg took up the top position in 2019, after two years of AIG CEO Brian Duperreault heading the chart.

Greenberg received total pay of $20.5mn, slightly above the previous year but still below his record $24.4mn in 2016, when his variable compensation provided an extra $4mn boost to his usual remuneration levels.

Duperreault, in turn, fell to fourth place with total compensation of $19.4mn, 7.1% down from 2018.

With AIG shares trading this year at half the price they were when Duperreault took over, the drop was explained by a $4.5mn reduction in the value of stock and option awards. This was partially offset by a short-term incentive award of 185% of target, amounting to $5.9mn, compared to $3mn in the previous year.

In recommending the incentive award, the compensation committee determined “that Mr Duperreault not only met, but significantly exceeded, expectations in his contributions to AIG in 2019 in all four performance areas” and helped “restore AIG’s position as a thought leader in the industry”.

One position above Duperreault, and completing the podium of executive pay, was Allstate chairman and CEO Thomas Wilson.

Wilson held onto third place, which he had achieved the previous year with his total remuneration increasing by 5% in 2019 to $19.6mn.

The Allstate chief had received a $4.8mn boost in his non-equity incentive plan compensation in 2017, when he was credited with the second-biggest improvement in net income of all companies covered that year.

Similarly, Travelers chairman and CEO Alan Schnitzer stayed in the same ninth position he had achieved in 2018. This was despite him benefitting from the highest rise among CEOs of carriers in the top 10, with a 14.5% surge in his fourth full year as the head of the Hartford-based company.

The bulk of Schnitzer’s increase in executive compensation in 2019 was explained by a rise in annual equity award of $1.8mn “in consideration of the company’s strong financial results and strategic achievements”, and “to position his total compensation closer to the median when compared to other chief executive officers in our compensation comparison group”.

On the broker side, Dan Glaser, MMC president and CEO, received $20.3mn in compensation, up 17.6% from 2018, allowing him to climb five positions into second place.

By contrast, rival Greg Case – the Aon CEO – saw his take-home pay slip by 1% to $16mn in 2019, which make him drop two positions to the bottom place in the top 10.

However, he had seen the biggest increase among the top-10 earners in 2018, when his contract was extended to confirm him in the post until 2023.

Risers and fallers

Beyond the top 10, and in contrast with previous years, in 2019 there were some significant movements in pay league positions.

John Langton Sennott Jr., Alleghany’s former CFO, made the biggest progress up the table after being named president and CEO of CapSpecialty on 1 July last year. The appointment led to the executive receiving an additional $6.9mn in stock awards, which propelled him 99 places into 25th place.

Sennott had take-home pay of $8mn in 2019, having earned $1.1mn in his last full year as Alleghany’s CFO in 2018.

Meanwhile, the change in Willis CEO Haley’s remuneration agreement, as part of his contract extension, allowed him to rise 50 positions year on year to seventh.

His compensation package, which amounted to $18.6mn, was 1.7% of the broking house’s net income in 2019 – the highest of all brokers in the peer group.

The former Towers Watson CEO had benefitted from a previous transition when the consulting group merged with broker Willis at the start of 2016. That year, he walked home with pay of $28.8mn, jumping into the very top of the executive compensation ranking.

  

Among the fallers of 2019, the most significant shift was that of Heritage’s Bruce Lucas. With total compensation of $6.1mn, the CEO of the Florida-based homeowners’ insurer fell 29 positions to 46th place.

However, the change predominantly reflected a return to his normal compensation levels, having received a $3mn bonus and an additional $2.7mn deferred cash incentive boost to his non-equity incentive plan compensation in 2018.

Lucas, who became chairman and CEO of Heritage in May 2014 at the age of 42, occupied second place in the pay league in 2015 when he received total compensation of $27.3mn.

In a similar vein, Aon’s CFO Christa Davies fell 18 positions to 33rd, after the $7.7mn compensation package she earned in 2019 marked a return to previous levels achieved before her $12.3mn take-home pay of 2018.

In a move that shocked the market last April, Aon announced a short-lived decision to cut salary staff in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

As part of that process and alongside fellow named executive officers at Aon, Davies agreed to a salary cut of 50%, as well as forgoing the 2019 bonus.

Aon’s salary reduction programme ended as of 1 July, but the temporary salary cuts for named executive officers and 50% reduction in cash compensation for the board of directors remained in place.

  

 

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