Executive compensation gets a lot of scrutiny these days, up to and including public companies' annual shareholder meetings, which are going on now.
Most public home builder chief financial officers rank just below chief operating officers in compensation packages, but their work these days is complex and critical. The range of key responsibilities may include converting maturing long term debt into new, favorable borrowing terms in an interest rate and debt market that's not as accommodative nor as active as it had been this past few years, to accessing new growth capital through equity, to mergers and acquisitions integration.
The 22 chief financial officers we researched from among this Spring's proxy statements reveal--on average--long and respected professional tenure that reflects some of the unique brand of skill-sets required to do the a job that involves both real estate acumen and manufacturing, operations, and sales and marketing of a highly valued consumer durable good. Oddly, or not, they're all men, all of Western European heritage, and all well-trusted, both among their managements and among the Wall Street institutional investors they're always courting.
Among the biggest challenges, Lennar CFO Bruce Gross oversees a highly complex empire of real estate and home building operational interests, including the recently-activated for-rent component of Lennar's intricately-hedged housing juggernaut. This, along with his tenure, speaks to his perennial top ranking among his peers. Toll Brothers' Martin Connor, too, presides--financially speaking--over an equally-complicated array of businesses, assets, and initiatives, as the Toll Brothers brand moves assertively into multifamily and student housing versions of itself. Jeff McCall, CalAtlantic's CFO, meanwhile has been a leader in financial command central over the $5.7 billion integration, starting in June 2015, of Ryland and Standard Pacific Homes, upwards of 540 selling communities in 26 divisions, and 17 states.
Base salaries among the 22 average $505,720, within a range from about $300k to almost seven figures. On average, about a third of CFOs' total comp occurs at the base salary level. It's the total, all-in, compensation, with bonuses, stock, and non-equity merit disbursements that one sees the big spread: from a humble $370,162 earned by GreenBrick Partners' Richard Costello to a rather impressive $4.8 million taken down in 2015 by Bruce Gross. Again, very different business models here, but the higher comp packages definitely skew the average, which clocks in at around $2 million for the peer group.
No doubt, however, that where it comes to bonus and non-equity incentive compensation, activist investors and even the comp committee on each company's board will be looking hard at how executive managements validate those discretionary awards.