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CISOs Tell All: Everything You’ve Ever Wanted To Know About CISOs in 2022

You’ve got questions and they’ve got answers. A global survey provides a snapshot of what it’s like to sit in the CISO chair, as these cybersecurity leaders face increasingly sophisticated cyber threats and heightened expectations from their organizations. 

They're questions that most cybersecurity professionals have about their CISOs. Which career path do they take on their way to becoming cyber chiefs? How long do they stay at their jobs? How much do they earn? And, most importantly, what keeps a CISO up at night? 

The third annual global survey of CISOs from executive search firm Heidrick & Struggle takes a deep dive into the organizational structure and compensation data from top cybersecurity leaders around the world. 

The 2022 Global Chief Information Security (CISO) Survey polled 327 CISOs from the U.S., Europe and Asia-Pacific. While most respondents were predominantly from the U.S., other countries such as Australia, Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Singapore, South Korea, and the U.K. were also represented. 

What CISOs had to say

The survey revealed some significant findings in the following areas: 

Most significant threats facing their organizations. Most CISOs listed ransomware (67%) as their organization's top threat, followed by insider threats (32%), nation/state attacks (31%) and malware attacks (21%). 

Tenure length. In an encouraging trend for job stability, 77% of respondents said they've been at their current position for at least three years, up from 56% of respondents in 2021's survey. Additionally, almost two-thirds of CISOs who have been in their current role for less than a year came from a previous CISO role, highlighting a broader trend that CISO roles are often terminal.

An increase in cash compensation. In the U.S., CISOs' reported median cash compensation rose from $509,000 to $584,000, a 15% increase from last year and a 23% increase from 2020. Total compensation, including equity grants and other incentives, has increased to $971,000 from $936,000 in 2021. 

Team size. In comparison to last year, CISOs' team size grew, with the share of CISOs with the smallest teams dropping from 38% to 31% while the share with the largest teams rose from 18% to 21%. Team-size growth reflects increased investment by organizations in cybersecurity. And with burnout being a key concern among CISOs, larger teams may, over time, help to reduce it. 

Organizational visibility. CISOs reported having significant visibility with their board of directors, with 88% of CISOs saying that they present to either the full board or to a board committee. However, regionally, U.S. CISOs most often present to the full board while CISOs in APAC and the Middle East most often present to a committee with reporting to the audit committee typically being more frequent. 

Personal risks. CISOs reported burnout, stress and higher-than-usual staff turnover as the highest personal risks associated with this role. It is recommended that organizations succession or retention plans so that CISOs do not make unnecessary exits. 

Snapshot #9 -- image 2

(Source: “2022 Global Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) Survey” from Heidrick & Struggles, August 2022.)

Where do CISOs see themselves in the future? 

The majority of CISOs desire to be something other than a CISO with more than half wanting to be board members. Regionally, 56% of CISOs in the U.S. desire to be board members while only 40% of CISOs in Europe expressed the same desire. 

Although there's an increased focus and investment in cybersecurity, the study found that there is still not enough interest from organizations in having CISOs become board members, though this could change in the future. Outside of board roles, the career path of a CISO still remains tricky. Despite 38% of CISOs globally reporting to their CIO, only 13% see that as an ideal next role. Therefore, the career path for CISOs moving forward still remains unclear. 

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