Double Your Pay in Switzerland

Higher salaries, lower taxes lure European treasury pros, who have seen few raises since 2008

European treasurers looking to boost their earnings after years of static pay could do worse than relocate to Switzerland, a recent survey by U.K.-based treasury search firm MR Recruitment has revealed.

The survey, which attracted responses from 615 participants worldwide, found that the average base salary in the U.K. for group treasurers, as the treasurer is known there, was £120,777 ($199,344), with an average total compensation of £165,047 ($272,399). In comparison, group treasurers in Switzerland can expect to earn a base salary of 235,480 Swiss francs ($265,551) and a total package of 306,296 Swiss francs ($345,410).

Job category

Average base salary

Average total compensation

U.K.

Group Treasurer

£120,777/$199,344

£165,048/$272,399

Treasury Manager

£55,329/$91,316

£64,664/$106,723

Treasury Analyst/Dealer

£34,063/$56,218

£36,243/$59,817

Switzerland

Group Treasurer

£157,628/$265,551

£204,996/$345,410

Treasury Manager

£101,380/$167,321

£112,633/$189,813

Treasury Analyst/Dealer

£79,762/$131,642

£82,917/$139,716

       

Source: MR Recruitment 2011 Treasury Salary Survey. Conversions at prevailing exchange rate.

At the treasury analyst/dealer level, the discrepancy is even more dramatic. Average total compensation was £36,243 ($59,817) in the U.K. and 123,895 Swiss francs ($139,716) in Switzerland. Meanwhile, total compensation for treasury managers was £64,664 ($106,723) in the U.K., compared with 168,319 Swiss francs ($189,813) in Switzerland.

Not surprisingly, the higher salaries on offer in Switzerland, combined with lower tax rates—higher living costs notwithstanding—have led to an increase in the number of treasury professionals who are prepared to relocate, says Mike Tucker, a director at MR Recruitment. “There has been a significant increase in people who are prepared to make the move,” Tucker says. “There is a big U.K. ex-pat community in Geneva, Zurich and some other cities.

“What we have noticed over the past five to seven years is that treasury professionals tend to be more aware of opportunities outside the U.K., and particularly in Switzerland,” he adds. “The treasury professional is more geographically mobile than ever before; I have recently placed U.K. residents in Switzerland, the Netherlands, Singapore and Australia.

“The weakness of sterling has certainly had a major bearing on U.K. residents making decisions to stay in the U.K. or relocate to Switzerland. Of course, once an individual has made the move to Switzerland, they get used to the higher salaries and lower tax, and at that point it becomes harder to move back to the U.K.,” Tucker continues. “They are more likely to move to another international company in Switzerland, or seek a new opportunity outside the region, in the Middle East or Asia, for example.”

In other European countries, including the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany, treasury salaries tend to be comparable with U.K. salaries. Tucker says Poland is one country where compensation is significantly lower, and cites an executive he knows of who was earning £75,000 ($123,782) in the U.K. but is now paid the equivalent of £45,000 ($74,269) after returning to Poland. “Of course, that salary level goes a lot further in Poland than it would in the U.K.,” Tucker notes.

As in many other professions, treasury salaries have increased relatively little since the beginning of the financial crisis. “According to the 2011 Hays Senior Finance Salary Survey, almost half (46%) of employers imposed universal pay freezes during the recession—5% replaced pay rises with non-financial benefits, such as training or extra holiday,” comments Ed Colt, a director at Hays Tax and Treasury, another search firm. “But nearly four in 10 (37%) plan to lift freezes in the coming six months.”

This may be advisable, with the Hays survey showing that 67% of finance professionals plan to look for a new job in the coming year, although Colt points out that compensation may not be the only reason for this trend. “Over half [55%] of professionals say they currently feel overworked,” he says. “This can have a detrimental effect on the motivation of the department.”

To address this, Colt suggests recruiting temporary employees or additional staff members to relieve the pressure on existing staff. Temporary treasury staff tend to be paid significantly higher rates than their full-time equivalents, particularly in more senior roles. The Hays survey found U.K.-based group treasurers working for FTSE 100 or equivalent companies could expect to earn £800 ($1,320) or more per day. On the other hand, temporary employees sacrifice many of the benefits enjoyed by permanent employees.

Looking forward, there are signs that treasury employment is beginning to pick up in Europe after some sluggish years in which movement was restricted both by pay freezes and by a reluctance among treasury professionals to risk job security by making a change.

Increased demand should eventually lead to a long overdue boost in salary levels. However, this may take some time to materialize. Colt suggests that in the current market, companies concerned about a possible increase in staff turnover look beyond salary levels.

“If pay rises are simply not an option, employers will need to consider what they can provide without a substantial outlay,” he says. “Coaching, extra training, time off, flexible working arrangements and team building may pay dividends in loyalty and commitment.”


For a look at what U.S. finance chiefs earned in 2010, see CFO Pay Heads Up.

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