Same role, lower salary: There's a reason some finance jobs pay more than others

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Have you ever eaten at a restaurant with stellar Yelp reviews only to be disappointed by the meal? Or read a book you loved and then saw it averaged only minimal stars on Amazon? Online salary estimates and total compensation ranges are similar: They can be ballpark figures but likely are inaccurate.

Too often, we see candidates flock to the internet for salary information without understanding that the numbers they find are an amalgamation of vast variations on a role or title. Companies have deeper data and much more to consider before tendering an offer. Companies tailor specific offers to specific candidates – hopefully you – and that’s a good thing.

Why don’t we trust online salary ranges? Several examples compare and contrast recent hires we placed, with the same title, same industry, similar sizes and in the same city. Also, each salary was perfect for each job. Why do we think they were each the correct salaries? Here’s a quick breakdown.

Senior equities analyst #1

$420,000 base plus a 50%-200% bonus

  • 22 years of equities experience
  • Reports to SVP of investments
  • Oversees staff of four associates and two administrators.
  • Responsible for decision making within the portfolio.
  • Has relatively consistent one-on-one exposure to company’s larger investors.
  • Meets with the firm’s institutional prospects and/or potential high-net-worth (HNW) investors.

Senior equities analyst #2

$130,000 base plus a 30% bonus

  • Eight years of equities experience
  • Reports to director of equity investments.
  • No direct reports.
  • Spends majority of time analyzing companies and compiling reports.
  • No face-to-face exposure to investors or potential investors.

Middle-market commercial banker #1

$220,000 base plus a 50%-70% bonus

  •  “Middle market” at this bank is considered lending to companies with revenues between $50m and $500m.
  • Focus on business development of new prospective banking clients.
  • Presents in front of banking loan committee.
  • Works with multiple banking offerings.

Middle-market commercial banker #2

$130,000 base plus 30% bonus

  • “Middle market” at this bank is considered lending to companies with revenues between $10m and $30m.
  • Focus is on increasing revenue with existing clients.
  • No loan committee exposure.
  • Focus is on credit lines alone.

Controller #1

$140,000 base plus a 25% bonus

  • CFO is in the office 95% of the time.
  • Four people report up to the position. The other 25 in accounting report up to the CFO.
  • Company has been on steady growth pattern since 2002; no acquisitions or mergers since 2005.
  • No future acquisitions planned.

Controller #2

$350,000 base plus a 30%-35% bonus

  • CFO spends 80% of his time on the road doing business development.
  • All 50-plus people in the accounting department report up to the senior controller.
  • Company almost collapsed in 2010, rebounded and has purchased one or two companies a year since 2012.
  • Several more acquisitions are planned for 2016 and 2017.

Everyone loves to search their own job’s salary ranges online and see that really high “shoot -for-the-stars” salary number that makes our eyes pop and heart skip a beat. The reality is, a similar online salary search can likely support lower estimates. Whether you are looking for a new job or are an employer working to source a position, pay more attention to the realities of the current job market and less to the job title when formulating salary expectations.

Peter Keseric and Monica Vida are managing consultants at Korn Ferry Futurestep.

Photo credit: Murat Giray Kaya/GettyImages

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