Citizens CEO Van Saun made $8.5M in 2017

Bruce Van Saun, chairman and CEO of Citizens Financial Group Inc., in his office at 1 Citizens Plaza in Providence. / PBN FILE PHOTO/MICHAEL SALERNO
BRUCE VAN SAUN, chairman and CEO of Citizens Financial Group, received total compensation of $8.5 million in 2017, according to the company's most recent federal filing. / PBN FILE PHOTO/MICHAEL SALERNO

PROVIDENCE – Bruce Van Saun, chairman and CEO of Citizens Financial Group Inc., made $8.5 million in 2017, marking a 7.5 percent decline from the prior year.

Van Saun, 60, earned the greatest portion of his total compensation in stock awards, totaling $4.7 million in 2017, representing a decrease from the $5.5 million he earned a year earlier. He earned another $2.3 million in nonequity incentive pay. His base salary was $1.5 million.

Van Saun joined the Providence-based parent of Citizens Bank in 2013. He was tapped to spin the company off from its former parent, The Royal Bank of Scotland PLC.

The top executive has since been largely successful in growing the bank’s balance sheet, and recently enjoyed a $331 million after-tax benefit from the new tax law, which helped the bank grow 2017 profit 58.1 percent to $1.7 billion.

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Van Saun’s compensation, along with other top-paid executives at Citizens, was made public in documents filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Friday.

The bank’s compensation committee, responsible for setting executive pay, lauded Van Saun’s performance, saying he achieved strong financial performance and balance sheet management, advanced strategic capabilities such as digital products and services, and was successful in recruiting talented individuals to several key positions.

To the latter point, Van Saun successfully recruited John Woods to become the company’s new chief financial officer. Woods joined the company in February 2017.

As part of his employment contract, Citizens agreed to pay Woods a $7 million buyout to compensate him for money he would have otherwise earned from his former employer.

Accounting for a portion of the buyout included as part of his total compensation, Woods earned $9.1 million in 2017 making him the highest-paid Citizens executive.

Citizens shareholders will be given an opportunity to vote for or against the company’s executive compensation strategy during its annual meeting of stockholders. Last year, more than 96 percent of the votes cast were in favor of the company’s strategy.

The meeting is scheduled for 9 a.m. on April 26 at the company’s headquarters in Providence.

The next four highest-paid executives include:

  • Donald H. McCree III: $3.7 million (head of commercial banking)
  • Brad L. Conner: $3 million (head of consumer banking)
  • Stephen T. Gannon: $2 million (general counsel)
  • John J. Fawcett: $838,967 (former interim chief financial officer)

­Eli Sherman is a PBN staff writer. Email him at, or follow him on Twitter @Eli_Sherman.