CIO salaries - The truth

By Stuart Sumner
02 Jun 2014 View Comments

Once an IT professional has made it to the top and been awarded the title “CIO”, they could be forgiven for thinking they’ve “made it”. But have they “made it” to the same extent as their peers in different functions? The latest data seen by Computing shows that CIO salaries have only risen modestly in recent years.

Based on data from the Harvey Nash CIO Survey 2014, the average base salary for a UK-based CIO has risen by 15 per cent in the past seven years, from £104,000 in 2007 to £117,000 in 2014.

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“This is a modest rise, but little different from most other executives who have exercised pay constraint during the recession years,” said James Hallahan, COO, Harvey Nash.

But other benefits have risen more dramatically, with share incentive schemes ensuring CIOs don’t miss out on those ski trips and five-star hotels – provided the company performs well. Hallahan described this trend as “de-risking” compensation during the recession.

The average base salary for a UK-based CIO today is £117,419, according to figures from Harvey Nash, but this is far from the complete picture, as Hallahan explained.

“There are huge differences from one CIO to another,” he said. “Budgets are a big factor. A CIO managing budgets of less than £10m is typically paid £96,801, while someone managing a £50m budget can expect £158,336 or more. Ten people in the survey managed budgets of over £400m and ticked the “£400,000+” base salary box, so next year we’ll need to add more categories!”

Salaries also vary by industry, with financial services, fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) and tech companies at the top, construction, charity and public sector towards the bottom.
So how do these figures compare with packages received by CIOs’ peers?

One relatively new function is the chief digital officer (CDO). Today, seven per cent of organisations employ a CDO, rising to 16 per cent in companies with $100m+ IT budgets, according to the CIO Survey. Analyst firm Gartner expects this to rise to 25 per cent by 2017.

Currently, the average basic salary for a CDO is £90,000, but Hallahan explained that this fluctuates wildly depending on the reliance on digital within the firm, and the geography, with Asia and the US more mature in their approach to digital and more likely to employ a C-level digital head. In these cases, the salary can advance well beyond £90,000, with Hallahan stating that his firm had been involved in the recruitment of a CDO with an annual package topping $1.1m.
Interestingly though, Hallahan doesn’t see a rosy future for the CDO title.

“There is a general sense in the market that the CDO role will die away over the next 10 years. It’s felt that the next generation of C-level execs will come through with digital in their DNA and therefore hoover up the responsibility of the CDO.”

But what of data scientists, that rare breed apparently in high demand today as companies gear up to exploit big data? According to Hallahan, there’s a real split in the approach to this role depending on which side of the Atlantic you call home.

“In the US, they are talking about this role in Ivy League schools and potentially commanding salaries up to $300,000! I think in the UK there is more ambiguity as to what the job title entails. Over here I think we are looking more at business intelligence titles rather than scientist ones,” he said.

“Harvey Nash has recruited very few ‘data scientists’ if you purely looked at the job title, but plenty of business intelligence and big data experts who are data scientists by everything bar name.

“Mind you, the name may well catch on. In 2012, there were six ‘data scientist’ roles advertised in the UK, while in Q1 of 2014 there were 233,” he added.

And the people who fill these roles are set to earn £50,000 to £80,000, depending on the seniority of the role and “just how big that Big Data really is”, according to Hallahan.

Another peer of the CIO, and one who is working increasingly closely with IT, is the chief marketing officer (CMO). Hallahan said that CMOs are gaining more control of tech budgets, worryingly for the CIO, often without his or her involvement. But on a remuneration level they are broadly on a par, with an average salary of £120,000, again varying by industry and size of role.

Looking to the future, Hallahan said the IT roles set to increase in demand are around mobile, big data and online.


Computing’s CIO Summit will be held on 4 December. Stay tuned to for more details.

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