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Compensation Survey Reveals Banks’ Growing Concerns Around Incentive Pay, Hiring Talent & Succession Planning

Study Finds Stress Around Tying Compensation to Performance Nearly Doubled Compared to 2022 Survey

Bank Director, the leading information resource for directors and officers of financial institutions nationwide, released the results of its 2023 Compensation Survey, sponsored by Chartwell Partners. The findings reveal that a growing number of bank leaders have increased concerns around compensation, attracting and retaining talent, and succession planning.

The hiring environment remains tough and compensation costs have continued to climb, but many bank leaders have stayed focused on aligning pay with performance. According to the survey, conducted in March and April, 44% of respondents list tying compensation to performance as a top challenge, more than doubling from those who said the same a year ago.

“Last year’s survey found bank executives and board members most concerned with the rising cost of compensation and the ability to offer competitive pay as they sought to compete for talent,” says Emily McCormick, vice president of editorial & research at Bank Director. “Those remain important concerns, but incentive compensation has been thrust back into the limelight on the heels of recent bank failures, as regulators focus on aligning compensation and risk.”

Concerns about succession planning for the CEO and other key executives also ticked up from last year, with a little over a quarter of respondents citing it as a top compensation-related challenge. In addition, the survey found that bank leaders have less confidence in their long-term succession plans for the CEO than they do in shorter-term plans in the event of a sudden departure or leave of absence.

“While it is common for a firm like Chartwell to be engaged for a sudden departure, what many boards struggle with is a comprehensive succession plan that includes assessing internal candidates, engaging in a multi-year development plan for these internals and an eventual comparison with external candidates to make a confident decision,” says Scott Petty, managing director, financial services, at Chartwell. 

Although concerns around succession planning have grown, 71% of respondents say their bank coaches mid-level talent to prepare them for C-suite roles and 55% say their bank uses external career development programs.

Additional Key Findings: 

Pay Continues to Climb
Large majorities of respondents say their bank increased employee pay (97%) and executive compensation (89%), reporting a median increase of 5% in overall compensation expenses in 2022. Layoffs remain rare: 78% say their bank is not considering laying off staff in 2023. Just 5% say layoffs are likely at their organization.

Hiring Pressures Ease?
A smaller proportion of bank executives and directors report difficulty hiring; 56% of respondents this year report that hiring was more difficult in 2022 than it was the year before, down from 78% who said as much a year earlier.

Hiring Challenges
Almost three-quarters of respondents cite an insufficient number of qualified applicants as a key obstacle to hiring new talent. Bank directors and executives also cite rising wages in their markets (69%) and rising wages for key positions (47%) among their top hiring challenges.

Casting a Wider Net
Forty-one percent say their bank is more open to hiring from other industries than it has been in the past, while 10% report that their organization has always recruited aggressively outside of the banking industry. But 32% say their institution mainly recruits from within the industry, with no plans to change that approach.

Retention Bonuses Gain Ground
Nearly a third of respondents (32%) say their bank has offered retention bonuses to key staff as a carrot to delay retirement, up from 21% who said as much in last year’s survey.

Demand for Business Bankers Cools
Concern around hiring and retaining commercial bankers have lessened somewhat, likely due to a dampened outlook for business borrowing amid higher interest rates. The percentage of respondents who expect their bank to add commercial lending staff fell to 61% in 2023 from 70% a year earlier. Similarly, the proportion who say their bank has difficulty hiring commercial lenders (52%) fell slightly.

Remote Work Lingers
A majority (80%) of survey respondents say their bank continues to offer remote or hybrid work options to at least some of their employees, while just over half (52%) offer remote or hybrid work options to executives. Smaller banks were somewhat less likely to offer remote work.

The survey includes the views of 289 independent directors, CEOs, HROs and other senior executives of U.S. banks below $100 billion in assets. Compensation data for directors, non-executive chairs and CEOs was also collected from the proxy statements of 102 publicly traded banks.