CHARTS: How the salary of CPA Australia's chief executive grew faster than membership

Former CPA Australia CEO Alex Malley. Michael Dodge/AFL Media/Getty Images

An independent review of the operations of CPA Australia has taken a close look at the salary of the former CEO Alex Malley, who resigned after a backlash from members of the professional accountancy body.

The independent review says the base pay of $1.77 million was well above benchmarks for similar roles. Another 30% on top of that was paid as a bonus.

When he left the organisation, Malley was paid a contractual employment benefit of $4.9 million, or about three years pay.

The review described the CEO pay as excessive for a member-based organisation. It also found that $1.8 million was spent on the book the Naked CEO, by Alex Malley, and $4.16 million on a TV channel, In Conversation with Alex Malley.

The book has been distributed to 38 countries, translated into five languages in CPA Australia markets and ranked seven on the bestselling business books of all time.

The review says the organisation had an over-emphasis on marketing and brand building activities that centred on the former CEO.

“Concerns from many CPA Australia members and stakeholders have focused on the high levels of remuneration, including the former CEO payout, and the lack of public disclosure around processes involved in setting them,” says the review’s interim report.

The review looked at the relationship between the former CEO’s salary and the growth metrics of CPA AUstralia.

“It is evident that the former CEO’s annual salary grew at a rate several times higher than growth in memberships or revenue,” the interim report says. “These would seem two clear proxies for organisational growth.”

Source: CPA Australia Independent Review

When comparing the pay to a range of member-based, publicly-listed, government and international organisations, the review found that the former Australia CEO’s salary is second only to the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, the world’s largest member association representing the accounting profession, with more than 418,000 members in 143 countries.

In 2016, CPA Australia had more than 160,000 members and annual revenue of more than $180 million.

The Australian CEO salary standards out when expressed as a percentage of revenue, as this chart shows:

Source: CPA Australia Independent Review

The American institute had more than twice as many members and 40% more revenue than CPA Australia in 2016.

“The level of the former CEO’s remuneration has clearly been an issue with many members, as expressed through interviews and submissions. Many responses have been received regarding the salary level, with the overwhelming trend to be questioning,” the interim report says.

“The board provided their reasons for the increase in salary each year in a letter to the former CEO citing his contribution to the strength of the CPA Australia brand and culture.

“The board also cites his activity in the market, as a figurehead and providing CPA Australia with a voice on issues that impact the accounting profession and professionals.”

The members of the board of directors at CPA Australia are also paid well.

The review finds that CPA Australia’s Board remuneration is on par with Australian Super, an organisation with more than $100 billion in managed assets.

The remuneration for CPA Australia’s board is about twice that of Teacher’s Mutual Bank and SRG Limited, an ASX-listed public company, both of which have similar annual revenues, and manage subsidiaries or significant business units internally.

The CPA Australia Constitution provides guidelines as to the maximum remuneration for directors.

The president has a maximum remuneration of $423,000, set at 60% of the Australian Auditor General’s salary of $705,030 in 2016. Directors have a maximum remuneration of $108,000, or 15% of the Auditor General’s salary salary.

Here’s how the pay of CPA directors compares:

Source: CPA Australia Independent Review |

TMB is Teacher’s Mutual Bank. CAANZ represents over 100,000 members in Australia, New Zealand and overseas and is the major competitor to CPA Australia within Australia. The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) is the UK professional accounting body with similar member numbers and annual revenue to CPA Australia.

The review recommends that directors still be paid but that remuneration no longer be benchmarked to the Auditor General’s salary.

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