2021 Exchange CEO Salaries

Patrick L Young
3 min readJun 7, 2022

Various data points made a virtual ‘thwunk’ in our in-boxes the other day which struck us as a base for some discussion on exchange CEO pay.

Let’s start with a base statistic: The S&P 500 median CEO salary (according to AP/Equilar) rose 17% to $14.5 million last year.

So let’s look at what I nickname “The Magnificent 7” in the parish of exchanges for their 2021 income:

The graph makes for interesting and thought provoking reading.

CME Chairman & CEO Terry Duffy tops the list with that $22.89 million package which recently drew shareholder ire at the CME AGM. In second place comes Adena Friedman with a package just shy of $20 million while in third place is ICE’s Jeff Sprecher ($14.79 million) just ahead of Tradeweb’s Lee Olesky on $14.77m — on his valedictory swansong as CEO ahead of his impending move to Chairman).

A little behind is Nicolas Aguzin on $13.67 million then the magnificent 7 of top exchange earners concludes with Ed Tilly of CBOE comes 7th on $10.65 million behind Howard Lutnick on $12 million.

Thus you can see the “Magnificent 7” were chosen because all of their salaries comfortably broke the $10 million mark.

At the same time, there are some fascinating thoughts to be had on the overall level of remuneration. By far the most extravagant appears to be in the realm of the IDB world with Howard Lutnick scoring more than Ed Tilly and not that far off the bulk of the group, yet his firm is remunerating the equivalent of 1% of the entire firm’s market capitalisation! Only Lee Olesky even makes it to 0.1% of his firm’s market cap while the others are all in single figures (admittedly Ed was 0.09% when we ran the figures the other week).

Note, I am not remotely concerned about precise equivalence in our market cap / salary marker, it’s just a useful indicator of salary to size of company and this would (as I am sure some PR person will insist on pointing out) differ quite significantly depending on the date we took the market cap (QV at the market peak all the numbers were a fair bit less).

Okay so having pointed out the bit that hopefully keeps some PRs off my back, the key factor to view here is that realistically by the market cap comparison we can safely say the longstanding BGC CEO is a very healthy OTC margin above the pure exchanges.

The most interesting point — doubtless already in the Terry Duffy armoury to help shareholders understand why he reckons they were wrong to vote against his pay package… is that the CEOs of the three leading Young’s Pyramid Tier 1 exchanges, CME, ICE and HKEX, all paid essentially 0.03% of their market cap to the boss last year…

On the absolute money front, I leave it to you to draw your own individual conclusions although I would suggest Jeff Sprecher’s shareholders ought to have a serious thought about whether their CEO is not underpaid as he seems to have been consistently banded around the same salary for some years now while consistently building an incredible company. Nasdaq can justify the Adena Friedman package given her voluble championing of the exchange sector during Covid while simultaneously reworking her business… After all not that long ago, Nasdaq and CBOE were equivalent market caps and now after several Adena-years, Nasdaq is almost 2.5 times the value of CBOE.

I’ll continue this thread with an examination of the “Ocean’s 11” group of leading CEOs in due course…

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You can also check out the “Reflections From Young’s Pyramid”, it illustrates the relative value of exchanges around the world.

Or the “ICE Cost of Borrowing 2020–2022” An Interest Rate Comparison, which illustrates the end of the funny money era of QE and how interest rates have already had a major lurch up from their previous region of zero to, even negative, levels.

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Patrick L Young

Entrepreneur, Investor, Author. #Exchanges #Fintech #Startups #Motorsport Emerging Markets. CoFounder @Exchange_Invest @HanzaTrade @MissionToRun @YMarkets