Salary Benchmarks 2020


In this special episode of the Seldon Rosser podcast, Katie Rosser and Graham Seldon discuss the 2020 salary benchmarks, and trends in the salary bands by role and region.

To learn more about what your role is worth, check out the 2020 salary benchmark data. Of course, these tables present just the data and it’s important to understand that salaries differ between roles, regions, sectors, firms and candidates.

We invite you to contact us for a confidential discussion about your salary and earning potential.


Katie Rosser: [00:00:03]

Hello and welcome to the Seldon Rosser podcast, where we and the guests discuss how to build a flourishing career in marketing, business development, communications professional services.

[00:00:15]  I’m Katie Rosser and I’m Graham Seldon and we are Seldon Rosser.

Graham Seldon: [00:00:23]

It’s that time of year when H.R. managers and CMOs are reviewing the salary budget for their teams. And when BD and Marketing communications professionals are questioning if their salaries and reward packages are in line with their roles and responsibilities. So with this in mind, we’ve just updated our salary benchmark guide for 2020, taking into consideration roles we have placed and been briefed on in the past year across the Asia-Pac region and the salary package data collected when candidates register with us. The guide is now available under the article section of our website, So to explain what’s happened in the market since our 2019 tables were published, I’m joined by Katie, who will now talk us through the most obvious changes.

Katie Rosser: [00:01:09]

Last year, the trend was not one of the bands changing, but of more firms hiring people in the top half of bands. And our prediction that the bands might be on their way to shifting and increasing and that is something that we have seen play out. So some of the trends I will pick up on for you are about subtle shifts upwards at the top end of some of the salary bands. Let’s look level by level and I’ll focus on executives to start with. And this is the same advice, whether you’re a BD Exec, a marketing exec, a client exec or a bid exec.  At that level, it’s all the same. So in Australia the band was $80k to $125k. It’s now $85k to $130k. So that band has gone up at both ends, really reflective of supply and demand and competition in the market and also the increased sophistication that firms are requiring for those roles.

Katie Rosser: [00:02:20]

Co-ordinator salaries have pushed up a little as well, which has affected that at the bottom end. If I have a look at the Asia based markets as well and look at Hong Kong, we’ve also moved our band upwards for execs, which is now $40k to $60k Hong Kong dollars a month. So the top of that has moved up from $55k. And again, the same reasons for that, Singapore, we’ve gone up again from $9,500 to $10,000 a month at the top end of that bracket. So it’s good news for execs, really, whatever market that you’re in. But I do think the demands that the firms put on execs and the expectations have increased as well as a senior level execs act into roles similar to managers before getting promoted.

Graham Seldon: [00:03:12]

And I think it’s also a reflection of the fact that it’s typical of most professional services firms who do quite good, healthy annual increases every year, percentage increases. It’s not always in line with a promotion. So, you know, if you were an exec a year ago and you were at the top of the band and you’ve had a good year and you’ve had a pay rise, but you’ve not been promoted, you’re still an exec but you’re now over the band that we set last year. So it’s not actually always about supply and demand. Sometimes it’s just about the fact that the market is becoming more mature and there are more people in these roles and they’re staying in these roles at the same level.

Katie Rosser: [00:03:49]

Absolutely right. And it’s a retention strategy sometimes, isn’t it? And I think it’s interesting. I think our clients would fall into two buckets. And there’s no rhyme or reason other than their own strategy to this, which is while you’re at the top of our bracket we can never pay you any more. And actually those people often don’t end up coming and introducing themselves to us. Or actually we will increase we will push our band up to retain our talent, you know, at the same level.

Graham Seldon: [00:04:16]


Katie Rosser: [00:04:17]

So I should probably talk about the next layer and we should move on to managers.

Graham Seldon: [00:04:22]

And BD manager, marketing manager, communications manager, thinking about them all in the same category. This is where the most volume is in the market. This is where most nuances come to market. So first of all, why don’t you just talk us through the band itself and then let’s just have a quick conversation about why this band in particular is a little bit more difficult to track than the others, in my opinion.

Katie Rosser: [00:04:48]

Sure. So in Australia, we’ve had a slight uplift at the bottom end of BD manager. We’re now saying $130k to $170k, whereas we did say $125k to $170k. I will just caveat, we’re not including very small state based firms in say Adelaide or Brisbane in these stats, they would be a bit lower. Look, in terms of Singapore and Hong Kong, very small, nuanced uplifts at the top and bottom of those bands as well. You can see the exact numbers on the website. So small nuance, slight shift upwards.

Katie Rosser: [00:05:31]

The diversity of people’s experience at the $150k package mark in Australia is a really interesting point. And clients find this really curious to get their heads around when they’re hiring. I can be putting forward a shortlist of five people for a role paying $150k, all five of them looking for $150k. One of them has got 18 months as a manager, they’re fantastic. They’re an up and comer. They’re already on, you know, $140k because they just had a pay increase. Why would they move if not for 150k? I’m not in a rush to tempt me away. And then you’ve got somebody right at the other end of the sphere who’s got 15 years as a manager and didn’t perhaps have an ambition to become senior manager or has preferred very generalist varied roles and medium sized firms that didn’t have that opportunity for whatever the reason, wants the flexibility that might come, you know, staying at that level. And then everything in between. And it’s important for people who are applying for roles to understand that as well so that you know what you’re up against. And depending on how much you want that role you might temper your expectations.

Graham Seldon: [00:06:49]

It’s also important for clients to know that if you’re a large firm and you’re in you’ve got 10 BD managers in Australia, then you have parity strategy. If you’re a firm that is hiring the BD manager, it’s a standalone role, you’ve got, you know, real sort of reason to stick at $150k if you find the amazing candidate at $160k, somebody who’s bringing him in at $130k wants to step up. So what I’m trying to say is when there are no parity issues, teams are not as worried about, you know, they just say, well, get me the right person. And here’s the sort of band that we want to pay – it’s $130k to $170k or whatever it might be. And I think that is very interesting in this market, because you will have firms who have got more managers and senior managers and more managers than execs sometimes.

Katie Rosser: [00:07:37]

Yeah. Absolutely. And it’s really interesting how that plays out in Asia in particular, because sometimes the top end of the manager bracket and even the top end of the senior manager bracket can be reserved for those standalone roles. Often, but not always in U.S. firms, where you’re actually working very long hours (and you and it’s you know, everyone talks about it, they know what they’re getting themselves in for) you’re doing very operational hands on work. Broad, varied. And they know that they need to pay a very high salary to attract you because they can’t offer a team, they can’t offer peers and learning and development and the same sort of environment. So it’s interesting how that plays out. In the Australian market I think there are some clients out there whereby the top end of the bracket is more dictated by the operational aspects of the role as well, a strategy than their ability to have to have the money.

Graham Seldon: [00:08:37]

So I think with this band, we would say the candidates looking at this band and saying, well, you know, I’m either paid too little, you know, for my experience, I’m going to go I’m worth $150k – $160k, the reality is, that it’s case by case scenario with every every job that we get. The bands are indicative of that group of candidates who are at a manager level. I think this band is the trickiest band sometimes to benchmark for both clients and candidates. Would you agree?

Katie Rosser: [00:09:07]

Well, I would say I agree with you, but I think the same applies to the senior manager band because it’s also a large band and that’s probably a good segue. So last year this was $170k to $220k. And actually it was really interesting because almost within six weeks of us publishing, we were really feeling some upward shift from that $220k. And it started out, you know, $225k and it became $230k. And there are enough instances in the market now that we have changed that to $170k to $250k. I really do need to clarify, though, that if somebody is in a senior manager now paid $200k, we don’t need all those people to suddenly think that their $50k underpaid.

Graham Seldon: [00:10:01]

Yeah, exactly. And again, it goes to sometimes people who had been in senior manager roles for two, three years, they’re getting the annual pay rise, it’s pushing them over to $220k to $230k. And you know, as we get to the top of the pyramid of job titles, we’ve had this conversation before on our job title podcast, you know, can only be one director, the overall director in the business, that there may be a head of sector, whatever, but you might have three directors, one directors clients, one directors sector, one director practice, for example. Then underneath that, you’ve got five or six senior managers across the across the board. Talk about a national Australian firm. You can’t give everybody a head of title. They have to stay at senior management till such point as the vacancy comes up. They do a restructure or that person leaves. And generally what we see also is if a senior manager leaves, they will tend to look at their manager level group and see as anybody they can promote.

Katie Rosser: [00:10:59]

Yes. And so they should.

Graham Seldon: [00:11:00]

Or they’ll go to market for a manager because they know how top-heavy they are. So it doesn’t surprise me that that band is creeping up. There have been examples where firms have actually gone above budget to bring in somebody with amazing sector experience or client experience. And that’s also played a part and see move up now to 250000 Australian dollars.

Katie Rosser: [00:11:23]

Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. And when firms have an attraction strategy which looks to bring people in from other sectors, then sometimes it needs to be a bit more market led than, you know, band land.

Graham Seldon: [00:11:36]

We’re going to see more of this because we’ve got several, you know, mandates in front of us for 2020, which offer firms who say bring me a sector specialist. And some of those sector specialists are starting at mid twos. And the way in which they are remunerated may include more at risk salary. And we haven’t yet seen enough of that to document it.But I can see this level. We’ll see the manager easily getting to three in the next 18 months. 300000 easily.

Katie Rosser: [00:12:07]

Which actually would not be dissimilar from what happened in the Big Four. And if we look at what BD and account people do in the Big Four and the sorts of people they are. Talking about different types of remuneration structures, Graham, our bands that we put on the website don’t cover director and CMO level because they’re so nuanced and so varied. Do contact us for that advice because we’ll give that on an ad hoc bespoke basis. But there is one trend worth highlighting there isn’t there?

Graham Seldon: [00:12:38]

Yeah. And there’s a trend for global firms, which is to start to remunerate CMOs heads of directors, as partners. You know, to bring them in as an almost on the same compensation package that the partner would get. So healthy guaranteed income, healthy at risk and performance related based on point systems. So the London market has been seeing quite a lot of examples of this in the last twelve to eighteen months. And as firms have become global and they’ve started to globalize business services, then we’re starting to see those types of opportunities arise in the Asia-Pac region. So I think that the more senior you get now, whereas it was, you know, never a possibility to become a partner status. We are seeing a lot more.

Katie Rosser: [00:13:28]

Yep, absolutely. And it will only continue.

Graham Seldon: [00:13:31]

Only continue to keep and retain talent. And I think also the legal sector in particular is beginning to understand better the value that non fee earnners and it’s bringing to their business and that they are an intrinsic part of their financial success. Particularly with the roles of innovation managers and things like that. You know, the firms are now understanding that their fee income is not necessarily just always going to be based on the technical expertise of their lawyers, their fee earners. It could come from technology, could come from business development. So I think that’s a trend that we will definitely see more of.And it’s exciting, you know. Yeah, it makes salaries serve as impossible to do. But it’s exciting

Katie Rosser: [00:14:13]

Well, this is why we give a guide and a podcast rather than do a survey. Absolutely. They know there are always so many nuances. One question I do get asked a lot more so by people in the middle part of their career who are sort of earning somewhere in the ones at the minute. You know, they often ask, well, what’s the difference between accounting and law and engineering? And because of the advice often is will the legal firms are paying higher up in these bands than most of not all, but most of the engineering firms. And certainly for most roles, the Big Four accounting firms, there’s exceptions to every rule there are. And so I often have to have a conversation with candidates whereby we have to put things in priority order. I came up with somebody, came out with the 3F. She could tell they were a marketer. I sat down with yesterday. It was firm, flex and financial. So we’re working with marketers and we have to put them in order. And if you’re thinking about changing sector and you’re in legal, but financial step is number one for you, sometimes people, you know, quickly turn on the heel on that.

Graham Seldon: [00:15:21]

Yeah, I think I think what we’re starting to see as organizations in professional services become more sophisticated in terms of how they reward their talent, whether it’s through flexibility or whether it’s through financial, whether it’s through educational opportunities or whatever. I think we are going to start to see benchmarking become more and more and more difficult. And, you know, that’s not a bad thing either, because I think firms are now more open to what is in the market talent wise. Can we shape a role around a particular individual skill set? And I think candidates are also now more more inclined, particularly the older they get. They’re more inclined to not see financial as being the main motivator. So it is common to see somebody drop salary to go and have a role with more flexibility or to join the business as a startup. And it may well be that they are then, you know, going to receive a packet of shares or they’re going to have some sort of stake in the business. And all this affects financial, but it’s difficult to benchmark.

Katie Rosser: [00:16:23]

Yeah, absolutely. The engineering firms, of course, are very close to that listed law firms. Now we’re getting more of those in the market, so it’s exciting. Yeah, it is. Really? Absolutely.

Graham Seldon: [00:16:33]

So our salary benchmarks table has been updated. It’s on the article section of our website And again, we encourage you to call us or e-mail us if you’ve got any specific questions – either if you’re a client who wants to benchmark salaries in your team or if you’re a candidate who wants to find out how much you’re worth in this market – give us a call.

Thanks for visiting our site. We’d love you to stay in touch. If you’re not ready for your next job, follow us on social media or sign up for our jobs & news so you can watch the market. When you’re ready, contact us for a confidential discussion about your next role.