It's getting tougher to be a CEO — if you don't work for one of the giant banks.
In a year when none of the CEOs of the biggest banks in America saw their overall compensation decline, pay for corporate CEOs overall shrank on a median basis, according to research from Mercer, a consulting firm based in New York. Mercer's data suggest that compensation for CEOs declined from a median of $10.6 million to $10.3 million last year. CEOs of smaller banks are among those that have seen declines. Cuts in incentive-based compensation was partially to cause for the decrease in pay, Mercer said.
Mike Mayo, banking analyst at brokerage and investment group CLSA, said it's a sign that on Wall Street, more than anywhere else, size matters.
"Size still drives bank CEO pay more than earnings, returns, or stock price, creating a reason for shareholders to protest, at least for those banks that do not earn their cost of capital," he said to CNBC.com.
The six biggest banks in the United States either declined to comment or did not respond to a CNBC request for comment.
And half of the CEOs of the biggest banks on Wall Street had a better year than many of the CEOs whose data Mercer crunched. Of the four biggest commercial banks in the United States, none reduced executive pay in 2015, bucking the trend Mercer highlighted.
At Bank of America, CEO Brian Moynihan's pay rose by 23 percent in 2015, to $16 million, and at JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon took home $27 million in compensation last year, an increase of about 35 percent.
Citigroup CEO Michael Corbat saw his pay rise 27 percent in 2015, to $16.5 million — but that came in a year where the bank's profits more than doubled. Bank of America, Citigroup and JPMorgan Chase are three of the four biggest banks by market capitalization in the U.S.; Wells Fargo is the largest. At Wells Fargo, CEO John Stumpf's pay was unchanged in 2015 compared to the prior year, in which he received $19.3 million.
Some of the big Wall Street CEOs did see their compensation contract. At Goldman Sachs, CEO Lloyd Blankfein saw pay decline slightly, from $24 million to $23 million last year. At Morgan Stanley, CEO James Gorman's pay also declined nearly 7 percent, to $21 million. Investment banks are a fraction of the size of big consumer banks.
Big banks' shareholders approved CEO pay packages with overwhelming numbers, and in some cases voted against other measures to curb senior pay. For example, at Bank of America, Moynihan and other executives dependent on shareholder approval for compensation received a whopping 93 percent of votes cast favoring their pay.