An exceedingly strong year for retail brokerage and mortgage banking helped top officials in these two industries lead the list of the highest- paid specialty finance executives in 1998.

According to American Banker's first annual compilation of pay data at the top brokerage, mortgage, credit card, and finance firms, the highest- paid executives in 1998 were Charles Schwab & Co.'s helmsmen, Charles Schwab and David S. Pottruck.

In a year in which the two became co-chief executive officers, both men earned a tidy $6,964,701. Mr. Schwab's pay fell 3% from 1997, when he was chairman and CEO, while Mr. Pottruck's rose 38% from a year earlier, when he was president. (See chart on page 10.)

While Schwab took the first two spots, Merrill Lynch & Co. had the most executives among the top 10, with four.

David H. Komansky, Merrill's chairman and chief executive, placed fifth, with nearly $5.3 million in 1998 compensation. Also among the top 10 were Merrill president Herbert M. Allison, who earned $4.2 million, placing him seventh; vice chairman John L. Steffens, whose compensation totaled over $3.9 million and placed him eighth; and executive vice president E. Stanley O'Neal, who ranked 10th, with over $3.2 million.

Though all four Merrill executives were highly ranked, their 1998 compensation declined from what they earned in 1997 by 25% to 33%. The drops were probably because of Merrill's significant emerging-market losses during the second half.

Executives at the mortgage banking giant Countrywide Credit Industries Inc. took third and fourth place. Countrywide chief executive Angelo R. Mozilo earned just over $6 million in 1998. He was followed by president David S. Loeb, whose 1998 compensation added up to $5.5 million.

American Express Co. was the only credit card company to crack the top 10. Chairman and chief executive Harvey Golub placed sixth by earning $4.3 million in 1998.

William F. Aldinger, the chairman of Household International Inc., the nation's largest finance company, earned $3.4 million. He placed ninth.

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