Silicon Valley Bank pays $250,000 per employee, tops in the U.S.

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Silicon Valley, better known for hot tech startups and venture capital firms, is also home to the highest-paying public bank in the U.S.

SVB Financial, based in Santa Clara, Calif., paid its employees on average $250,683 a year in 2018, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Among the nation's household names, JPMorgan Chase came in a distant 10th, at $129,310, and Wells Fargo was 12th, at $127,506. (The salary analysis looked only at commercial banks; investment banks such as Goldman Sachs weren't counted.)

SVB, the holding company for Silicon Valley Bank, is small by global standards, which helps explain the pay disparity. It operates only five U.S. branches with just 3,200 employees, and focuses on commercial customers, especially venture capital and private equity firms.

JPMorgan, on the other hand, runs a vast network of retail branches, roughly 5,000, staffed by lower-paid tellers and representatives who reduce the average pay for its 256,000 workers. In the executive suites, pay levels are what might be expected. Jamie Dimon's $30 million compensation at JPMorgan last year comfortably exceeded the $7.6 million paid to SVB Chief Executive Gregory Becker.

The salary figures are based on average compensation, not median. This paints a rosier picture because high-paid executives pull up the number. But on a median basis, SVB's salary per worker still exceeds JPMorgan's: $135,614 to $78,923.

"Branches cost money," said David Chiaverini, an analyst at Wedbush Securities. "Not having all those branches and all those bodies in the branches frees up more money to be spent on fewer employees."

Bloomberg News