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2021 Switzerland Spencer Stuart Board Index

2021 Snapshot

 CHF 203 782

average non-executive retainer

 CHF 1 362 279

average chair retainer

 73 %

of companies remunerate partially with shares

Directors’ remuneration

Unlike most countries in Europe, most SMI companies (73%) remunerate board directors, at least in part, with shares. Among the 14 companies that pay directors under a cash retainer scheme, 10 are listed in the SMI Mid.

The average retainer fee for non-executive directors is CHF 203 782 across all SMI companies, 3.6% higher than the average reported in our previous survey.

The SMI Mid average NED retainer increased by 5.3%, compared with an average rise of 3.4% in the SMI 20. However, the average fee is lower in the SMI Mid (CHF 199 523) than the SMI 20 (CHF 221 286).

Following the trend noted in the 2019 Index, approximately 70% of companies have not changed their retainer fee. As most companies in our sample remunerate directors at least in part by shares, the average total payout is susceptible to changes in average share price.

The average non-executive cash retainer increased by 8.4% across the sample, a significant change from the NED cash retainer decrease of 1.9% noted in our previous Index. In comparison, the average NED retainer paid in shares decreased by 3.4%, following a 1.4% drop recorded in 2019.

The average retainer fee for chairs in the SMI 20 is CHF 1 949 236, showing very little movement on the previous year. In the SMI Mid, an 8% decrease took the chair fee to an average CHF 841,426. The majority of chair fees are composed of cash and shares, other than at nine companies. The highest-paid chair sits on the board of UBS and has a retainer of CHF 4 900 000.

Average chair remuneration (CHF '000)
Average NED remuneration (CHF '000)

Committee remuneration

The vast majority of SMI companies provide an additional fee for committee work in addition to the role retainer. Only seven companies do not disclose remuneration, or whether they remunerate committee work.

The highest average compensation is paid to an SMI 20 audit committee chair — representing more than double that paid to an SMI Mid chair in the same core committee. This significant difference is observed across all mandatory committees; substantial differences also apply to committee membership.

Average core committee fees

The average total board fee this year for SMI 20 companies was CHF 5 439 571 — a 5% increase compared to the previous year. UBS remains the highest total board fee constituent, reaching more than CHF 11 million in total. The bank also has the highest cost per board member (CHF 963 854), well above the SMI 20 average of CHF 486 061.

Chair Member
SMI 20 SMI Mid SMI 20 SMI Mid
Audit 130 56 42 30
Remuneration 95 50 41 28
Nomination 72 42 42 25

In the SMI Mid, the average total fee paid to constituent boards this year is CHF 3 062 796, and the average cost per member equates to CHF 341 839. Schindler Holdings tops the SMI Mid list with the highest total board cost (CHF 10 813 000), followed by Dufry (CHF 6 561 700) at almost 40% less.