The Top End

The Top End

Have you ever wondered what salaries in the top end of the market are like? In a country where some companies employ up to 400,000 people, you'd imagine that top executive salaries would be massive, as they are in the USA. Interestingly, within Japanese companies - even large ones - the salaries of CEOs are typically less than US$1 million a year. Indeed the median is more like JPY30-60 million. Even when receiving retirement allowances, these CEOs would be fortunate to take much more than an extra US$1.5 million home with them.

Within foreign companies, the very top "hired gun" CEO remuneration is about the same as it is for top people in Japanese companies, the main difference being that those Japanese companies are up to 100 times larger. Whether this is fair or not is hard to say, but being in charge of a foreign company in Japan does introduce its challenges. I've seldom seen any but a few foreign company CEOs make more than JPY100 million per year, however, where the serious money is to be made is from stock options and on leaving the firm. One CEO I know received over JPY300 million separation allowance after leaving his CEO position of 5 years.

It's in among the senior management positions that the difference between foreign and Japanese companies really stands out. In any reasonably profitable foreign firm with 1,000 staff or more, the high-end positions CxO (COO, CTO, CFO...) can be worth a combined salary of JPY50-80 million per year. You'd be surprised just how many people out there are on this type of money. Clearly they are extraordinary performers - talented in their specific fields, as well as the art of surviving in a highly political environment.

Senior managers in large Japanese companies seem to usually top out at about JPY20 million a year or so. While there are a few banking jobs paying higher than that amount, clearly as a Japanese if you are after more money you have to work for yourself, or go work for a foreign company.

Of course, at a salary of JPY50 million, the taxation becomes onerous, and a proper tax strategy becomes very important. For this reason, often the JPY50 million is actually a lot less cash and loads of benefits. Look no further than the kids in private foreign schools and apartments being rented for JPY2 million a month to see some of these benefits at work.

Personally as a recruiter (versus what I've heard in the industry) the highest salaries/packages I've ever seen are as follows: JPY300 million plus severance for one CEO, JPY150 million plus severance for a COO, JPY100 million including bonuses for one CxO (this person was a really top performer), then a number of people at JPY70-80 million after bonuses. I've heard of bigger packages than this, but not seen them myself.

Hmmm, you may be thinking, how do I get a piece of that? The fact is that all these people almost without exception are at the top of their respective professions. They're typically very well educated - MBA from an ivy-league college, very bilingual, and have been in their industry for at least 20 years. They're also very skilled in the boardroom and have a track record that no one could argue with. Interestingly, many of these same people are also modest. You could walk past them in the street and not notice their status.

As always, my contact details are simply:

Looking forward to getting some enquiries...