CEO pay survey 2021: Median FTSE 100 CEO now paid £2.69 million

Annual HPC survey examines how the pandemic has affected top pay

Our new report shows that the median FTSE 100 CEO was paid £2.69 million in 2020, 86 times the median full-time worker in the UK. The figure represents a 17% fall from median CEO pay of £3.25 million recorded in 2019.

Pascal Soriot of AstraZeneca was the highest earning CEO, making £15.45 million, ahead of Brian Cassin of Experian who made £10.3 million.

The ten highest paid FTSE 100 CEOs in FYE 2020

Chief executive (2020)


2020 pay (£m)

Pascal Soriot



Brian Cassin



Albert Manifold



Laxman Narasimhan

Reckitt Benckiser


Rob Perrins



Mark Cutifani

Anglo American


Peter Jackson



Jean-Sébastien Jacques

Rio Tinto


Emma Walmsley



Tim Steiner



The analysis also found that:

  • Across 9 companies that used public money through the coronavirus job retention (furlough) scheme to pay their employees, average CEO pay over the period was £2.39 million.

  • 64% of companies paid their CEO an annual bonus, down from 89% in 2019, while 77% paid out so-called ‘long-term incentive plans’ based on performance over the previous 3-5 years, compared to 82% in 2019.

  • The average bonus size fell from £1.1 million to £828,000. The average long term incentive plan (LTIP) payment decreased from £2.4 million to £1.38 million.

  • For the 6 companies that had a female CEO throughout the whole of their financial year 2020, median pay was £2.63 million, slightly below the median of £2.8 million at companies with male CEOs for the whole year. The small sample size limits the value of comparisons.

The research findings raise interesting questions about inequality, pay and responsible business practice in the UK

CEO pay packages are designed to reflect the experience of shareholders, employees and other stakeholders, so in one sense the lower pay levels this year show the system working as intended.

On the other hand, these are still very generous rewards for individuals who have already made millions of pounds over the course of their careers, at a time when, in general, government support for the economy has probably been more important to the survival and success of the UK’s biggest companies than the decisions of their executives.

Very high CEO pay reflects a wider gap between rich and poor in the UK than in most other European countries. The inequalities exposed by the pandemic and the volume of public money used to protect large businesses could strengthen the argument for measures to contain top pay and re-balance extreme income differences.

At HPC these findings will inform our ongoing research into the extent, causes and consequences of top pay and economic inequality in the UK, and our work identifying and promoting the policies and business practices that can achieve a fairer income distribution in the future.