Share options, bonuses and other perks account for all but a quarter of executive pay packages, with share incentives worth an average of 60% of salary for chief executives and 29% of salary for senior-level executives (below board level), according to research.
The Executive Reward Survey of more than 1,900 senior executives by HR consultancy Watson Wyatt indicated that most companies underestimate the value of their share options, believing them to be worth about 30% of salary.
However, getting a bonus or share option has become tougher in recent years. Sue Bartlett, a senior reward consultant at Watson Wyatt, said: "Performance conditions have become tougher following shareholder pressure, with many plans using multiple conditions, or requiring exceptional levels of performance for a full payout.
"There have also been changes in financial conditions, especially a decrease in general levels of share price volatility, which have led to a reduced chance of significant payouts from options, and hence lower values."
Last year, FTSE 100 chief executives saw their pay rise, on average, 43% to £2.9m - just £730,000 of which was made up by salary. The rest was made up of bonuses, share options and added perks.