Equilar Report Shows Companies More Sophisticated in Their Use of Peer Groups When Setting Pay

February 21, 2014

Contrary to media reports asserting that benchmarking simply leads to ratcheting up pay, companies generally show an appropriate consideration of relative size when setting pay versus peers, according to Equilar's 2014 S&P 1500 Peer Group Report.  The survey, which looked at S&P 1500 companies disclosing at least one individual peer between July 2012 and July 2013, showed that the majority (63.7%) of companies surveyed ranked at or below the 50th percentile of peer revenue, with both median and average at the 44th percentile.  This would seem to indicate that S&P 1500 companies typically benchmark to larger peers.  However, the study additionally showed that S&P 1500 companies also paid their CEOs less than their peers, since both median and average ranking for CEO pay were around the 46th percentile, indicating that most companies take size differences into consideration when setting pay.  Other highlights of the report included:

  • Most peer groups include 11 to 20 companies, with S&P 500 companies having a median of 17 peers, and 3M continuing to be the most commonly selected peer company;

  • 32% of companies had at least one peer headquartered outside the U.S., with the most popular countries being Ireland, Canada and Switzerland; and

  • The vast majority of S&P 1500 companies (90.8%) benchmark to only one peer group, solidifying a growing trend over the past few years toward the use of a sole peer group for benchmarking both pay and performance.