Huge salaries for South Africa’s ‘Big Four’ banking CEOs – earning up to $8400 a day or R152,000 a day


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South Africa’s ‘Big Four’ banking CEOs earned a whopping R176 million combined over the last financial year, with Standard Bank’s Sim Tshabalala coming out on top as the best-paid out of the four banks.

PwC’s Major Banks Analysis Report was compiled on Standard Bank, Absa, FirstRand, and Nedbank, following their interim results in September.

According to the report, the combined headline earnings of these four banks rose by 16.8% to R55.8 billion in the first half of 2023. Their revenue benefitted from higher interest rates, balance sheet growth, and efficiencies from the digitalisation of their services, said PwC.

Standard Bank’s total income was up 18% to R156.92 billion, from R132.72 billion in 2021, while headline earnings per share were up 33% to 2,087.1 cents (2021: 1,573).

Absa reported revenue up 15% to R98.9 billion, with net interest income rising 13% to R60.5 billion and non-interest income increasing 18% to R38.42 billion. Group headline earnings increased by 14% to R20.26 billion from R17.83 billion the year prior. Headline earnings per share were recorded at 2,443 cents

Nedbank’s results were also strong, showing strong growth in headline earnings, which increased by 20% for the year to R14 billion.

For the year ending June 2023, FirstRand reported a 12% growth in headline earnings to R36.7 billion, with net asset value up 10% to R180.7 billion.

PwC noted that their revenue benefitted from higher interest rates, balance sheet growth, and efficiencies from the digitalisation of their services. Market volatility also benefitted their trading revenues.

CEO pay

Of the four banks, Standard Bank’s CEO was paid the most, amounting to R55.69 million – a 12.7% increase from the R49.38 million he received in pre-Covid 2019.

This comprises his fixed salary of R10.5 million and a cash incentive of R8.65 million. The group CEO also got a deferred award of R10.65 million as well as a performance award vested of R25.8 million.

Tshabalala’s salary equates to him earning around R152,575 a day.

Absa’s Arrie Rautenbach was the second-highest-paid CEO, receiving R46.05 million at the end of 2022 – an 82.7% increase from the R25.22 million he received in 2021.

This comprises his fixed salary of R9.28 million and a cash incentive of R9.75 million. The group CEO also got a deferred award of R8.75 million as well as a performance award vested of R18.28 million.

Rautenbach’s salary equates to him earning around R126,164 a day.

Nedbank’s Mike Brown was third, taking home a total package of R43.6 million for the year. This included a guaranteed salary of R9.6 million, a cash bonus of R17 million (of which R9 million was delivered in shares), and a short-term incentive payout of R17 million.

Brown’s executive pay translates to around R119,452 a day (over 365 days).

FirstRand’s Alan Pullinger is the ‘least paid’ Big Four executive, taking home a single-figure total pay package of R31.55 million for the year. Pullinger’s remuneration comprised a guaranteed pay of R10.17 million, short-term annual incentives (STIs) of R14.95 million, and long-term share options settled under the Covid-19 scheme during the financial year that amounted to R6.42 million.

However, it must be noted that FNB is a division of FirstRand, while RMB is part of the FNB Group, which is why we added their salaries to the table below. Interstingly, FNB CEO Jacques Celliers’ pay amounted to R31.92 million in 2023 – slightly more than Pullinger.

CEO Bank Total single-figure Remuneration Average per day
S Tshabalala Standard Bank R55 690 000 R152 575
A Rautenbach Absa R46 050 000 R126 164
M Brown Nedbank R43 600 000 R119 452
A Pullinger FirstRand R31 546 000 R86 427
J Celliers* FNB R31 922 000 R87 458
E Brown* RMB CEO R27 477 000 R75 279
*J Celliers and E Brown were included in the table as FNB and RMB are divisions of FirstRand.


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