Compensation governance
Shareholders’ engagement

ABB’s Articles of Incorporation, approved by its shareholders, contain provisions on compensation which govern and outline the principles of compensation relating to our Board and Executive Committee. They can be found on ABB’s Corporate governance Web site and are summarized below:

  • Compensation Committee (Articles 28 to 31): The Compensation Committee (CC) is composed of a minimum of three members of the Board of Directors who are elected individually by the shareholders at the Annual General Meeting (AGM) for a period of one year. The CC supports the Board in establishing and reviewing the compensation strategy, principles and programs, in preparing the proposals to the AGM on compensation matters and in determining the compensation of the Board and of the EC. The responsibilities of the CC are defined in more detail in the Board Regulations and Corporate Governance guidelines, which are available on ABB’s Corporate governance Web site.
  • Compensation principles (Article 33): Compensation of the members of the Board consists of fixed compensation only, which is delivered in cash and shares (with an option to elect for shares only). Compensation of the members of the EC consists of fixed and variable compensation. Variable compensation may comprise short-term and long-term elements. Compensation may be paid in cash, shares or other benefits.
  • “Say-on-pay” vote (Article 34): Shareholders approve the maximum aggregate amount of compensation of the Board for the following Board term and of the EC for the following financial year.
  • Supplementary amount for new EC members (Article 35): If the maximum approved aggregate compensation amount is not sufficient to also cover the compensation of newly promoted/hired EC members, up to 30 percent of the last maximum approved aggregate amount shall be available as a supplementary amount to cover the compensation of such new EC members.
  • Credits (Article 37): Credits may not be granted to members of the Board or of the EC.

Shareholders also have a consultative vote on the prior year’s Compensation report at the AGM. The Compensation report describes the compensation principles and programs as well as the governance framework related to the compensation of the Board and EC. The report also provides details of the compensation paid to the members of the Board and of the EC in the prior calendar year.

The Compensation report is written in accordance with the Ordinance against Excessive Remuneration in Stock Listed Corporations (Ordinance), the standard relating to information on Corporate Governance of the SIX Swiss Exchange, the rules of the stock markets of Sweden and the United States where ABB’s shares are also listed, and the principles of the Swiss Code of Best Practice for Corporate Governance of economiesuisse.

Authority levels in compensation matters

The CC acts in an advisory capacity while the Board retains the decision authority on compensation matters, except for the maximum aggregate compensation amounts of the Board and of the EC, which are subject to the approval of shareholders at the AGM. The authority levels of the different bodies on compensation matters are detailed in Exhibit 1.

Exhibit 1: Authority levels in compensation matters










Compensation policy including incentive plans



Maximum aggregate compensation amount EC



CEO compensation




Individual compensation EC members



Performance target setting and assessment CEO




Performance target setting and assessment EC



Shareholding requirements CEO and EC




Maximum aggregate compensation amount Board



Individual compensation of Board members




Compensation report


Consultative vote

Activities of the CC in 2017

The CC meets as often as business requires but at least four times a year. In 2017, the CC held seven meetings and performed the activities described in Exhibit 2. Details on meeting attendance of the individual CC members are provided in the Corporate governance report.

Exhibit 2: CC activities during 2017

Performance: items relating to past performance cycle

Individual performance assessment of CEO and EC members

Performance assessment for short-term variable compensation

Payout of long-term variable compensation

Performance: items relating to upcoming performance cycle

Setting of performance targets for short-term variable compensation

Setting of performance targets for long-term variable compensation

Quarterly updates on status of various performance plans

EC compensation review and planning

Review of EC compensation (incentive structure, levels and mix) relative to external benchmarks

Specific review, in 2017, of the Long-Term Incentive Plan

Recommendation of individual compensation of EC members

Review of pensions and benefits

Review of shareholding level of each EC member

Board compensation

Comparison of compensation levels against external benchmarks

Recommendation of individual compensation of Board members

Compliance and regulatory

Preparation of Compensation report for publication

Preparation of maximum aggregate compensation amount of EC to be submitted to AGM vote

Preparation of maximum aggregate compensation amount of Board to be submitted to AGM vote

The Chairman of the CC reports to the full Board after each CC meeting. The minutes of the meetings are available to the members of the Board. As a general rule, the CEO, the Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO) and the Head of Compensation and Benefits attend part of the CC meetings in an advisory capacity. The Chairman of the CC may decide to invite other executives upon consultation with the CEO, as appropriate. Executives do not attend the meetings or the parts of the meetings in which their own compensation and/or performance are being discussed.

The CC may decide to consult external advisors for compensation matters. In 2017, Hostettler & Company (HCM) and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) were mandated to provide services related to executive compensation matters. HCM has no other mandate with ABB. Apart from its CC advisory role, PwC also provides human resources, tax and advisory services to ABB.