CFOs cash in big with MBAs from elite schools

If you’re a CFO or a wannabe with primarily an accounting background, you probably know you could make more money by adding an M.B.A. to your educational mix. But here is something you may not know: you’ll earn substantially more only if the degree is from an elite school. Those are conclusions of a new academic study by Sudip Datta, T. Norris Hitchman Endowed Chair, and Mai Iskandar-Datta, professor of finance at Wayne State University School of Business Administration. They studied first-year compensation for 1,598 CFOs appointed to their posts between 1994 and 2007. A goal of the research was to prove that "generalist" CFOs — defined as those with M.B.A degrees, based on the premise that the degree confers on its recipients a broader, strategic knowledge — can command higher compensation packages than "specialist" CFOs, defined as those with a professional accounting certification. The authors claim their study, slated to be published this year by the Strategic Management Journal, is the first to prove the point. "The major contribution of our research is presenting numbers regarding how much of a premium elite strategic skills lead to," Iskandar-Datta says. "Viewed this way, paying for an M.B.A. from a great educational institution and putting in time to get the degree will be handsomely rewarded."