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In 2023, cash is king for tech execs

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silhouette of a woman leaping from a pile of coins to a stack of 100 dollar bills against a blue background with screen linesInsiders say tech companies will shell out more cash to shore up compensation packages.

Marianne Ayala/Insider

  • Tech salaries took a hit in 2022.
  • Insiders say tech’s bottomline’s will take a beating too as companies look to hang on to talent.
  • Expect 2023 to be the year of retention packages.

Tech spent last year finding ways to keep their employees happy and calm in the midst of perk cuts and layoffs. Now, insiders say they expect tech companies to issue more stock and cash incentives to keep their c-suite intact too. 

Top technology stocks thrived in 2020 and 2021 from the sudden shift en masse to digital as the pandemic hit. Once 2022 rolled around, it seems the luck ran out as stock values fell.  

In 2023, insiders say tech companies will be looking to structure long-term deals with payouts for longevity as a way to induce exec loyalty.

Five of the biggest tech stocks, Apple, Microsoft, Alphabet, Amazon, and Meta, lost an aggregate value of $3.7 trillion in 2022. A slumping stock doesn’t just hurt the shareholders, it also hurts employees that have a portion of their compensation package paid in equity. Tech companies doled out additional shares to shore up employees whose stock lost its value last year, so much so that investors worried about future returns

Other companies like Shopify and Netflix opted to allow employees to have more control over their compensation packages by choosing how much of their salary is cash versus equity every year.

Deepali Vyas, a top headhunter at Korn Ferry, told Insider there’s going to be a recalibration of exec cash compensation downward to a level that reflects where valuations are today.

“I would see those levels come down anywhere between 10 and 20%,” she said.

As the Fed continues to raise rates to combat inflation, companies’ boards of directors and shareholders will be asked to get creative with compensation packages to satisfy spooked employees, including leaders, who are seeing tech-boom benefits be scaled back and are shouldering more work due to layoffs.

Competitors from within the sector and beyond have been ready to nab big tech talent at a more realistic, yet still competitive price, Vyas added.

Since this is the worst time to lose top-tier talent like an exec that hits their marks, Vyas said, she expects to see companies create long-term and metric-based incentives where cash or equity is paid out in a few years or more. 

To measure who gets a promise of a big payday for sticking around, companies will be looking at what kind of holding power they have on each person they’re looking to keep, said Aalap Shah, managing director at advisory firm Pearl Meyer.

“Looking at their unvested equity holdings and determining what the value of that is currently gets you an understanding of how much value the executive is being retained by and if that is a meaningful enough value,” Shah told Insider.

For execs that hit that bar, even with a tempting job market opening up say over the next few years, it could be more profitable to stay put.

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