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Risk managers at some very large companies earned average salaries of nearly $135,000 last year, as risk management compensation overall increased 11% to 14% over a two-year period, depending on the industry and the size of the company.

A just-released study of compensation and risk management responsibilities in 1996 also found that risk management staff size either edged up slightly or held firm from two years prior.

Risk managers working at the smallest companies and therefore earning the lowest salaries saw greater total gains over the past two years than risk managers at the largest operations, according to the study commissioned by Logic Associates Inc., a New York-based executive recruitment firm specializing in risk management. The survey generated responses from 1,256 risk managers in 20 industries. A total of 3,487 surveys were distributed.

Risk managers at companies with sales of $200 million or less reported an average increase of 14.1% in total compensation, which is salary plus bonus. Their average salary jumped 14% to $66,105 in 1996, from $57,915 in 1994, while their average bonus rose nearly 15.7% to $2,532 from $2,190 over the same period.

Some of the highest gains also were reported at companies with $4 billion to $7 billion in sales volume. Risk managers there garnered, on average, a 13.9% increase in total compensation, with salaries rising 14.1% to $119,052 from $104,363 in 1994. Their bonuses jumped 12.4% to $10,370 from $9,227.

In comparison, risk managers for companies with sales of more than $7 billion gained 12% in total compensation. On average, their sal-aries rose 12.5% to $134,630 from $119,621, while bonuses increased 10.4% to $14,652 from $13,268.

Those increases follow company "rightsizing" of their risk management staffs earlier in the decade, said Bill Perry, president of Logic Associates. Risk management departments now are left with people who efficiently meet their employers' needs, he explained.

"There is just a better quality of risk manager today. I think they are better educated today. They are more involved with the esoteric ends of risk management (such as alternative financing and due diligence for acquisitions), and I think that in itself is why salaries and bonuses are basically up."

This survey is the 15th conducted by Logic, which has sponsored them annually except for last year, when the Risk & Insurance Management Society Inc. sponsored a similar survey (BI, April 1, 1996). Comparisons between the two are difficult because of methodology differences.

Compensation rose significantly at the smallest companies because many risk managers in that category were last employed by insurance companies where salaries are up, said Barry Citron, vp of Logic Associates. Meanwhile, companies in the $4 billion to $7 billion sales range are not hesitating to pay higher wages for the right risk manager.

In contrast, risk managers at midsized companies saw the smallest raises.

For example, companies with sales ranging from $2 billion to $4 billion only saw, on average, a 10.8% increase in total compensation over two years. Their salaries rose to $105,521 from $95,209. Their bonuses jumped 15% to $7,322 from $6,366.

Risk managers at companies with $1 billion to $2 billion in sales also saw an 11% increase in total cash compensation over two years.

Increases at midsized companies were dampened by mergers and acquisitions that have eliminated risk manager positions, Mr. Citron said.

Those companies "are more readily accepting the out-of-work risk manager," Mr. Citron said. "They will take a guy who was earning $60,000 and was laid off, and now they will offer him $50,000."

Logic's recent survey found some slight gains in staff size from two years prior. For example, companies with sales of $200 million or less had, on average, slightly less than two professional staff members and one clerical position in their risk management departments during 1994. That edged up in 1996 to two professionals and one clerical worker.

The greatest staff growth came at companies with $1 billion to $2 billion in sales. Risk managers there reported an average of 2.5 professionals and 2.5 clerical workers in 1996, compared with two for each category in 1994. Meanwhile, companies with sales exceeding $7 billion reported no change.

But capturing information about the large companies and their risk managers, who earn the highest wages, is difficult.

For one reason, there are just fewer of them, Mr. Perry said. Additionally, those risk managers tend to be too busy to complete a survey, or they do not want their bosses or peers to compare their salaries.

But there are risk managers who earn considerably more than the survey respondents. Take for example, the case of a Fortune 200 international manufacturing corporation that recently asked Logic to find a risk manager. The company is willing to pay $300,000 for the right person to fill the position.

Logic contacted 25 potential candidates, and they are all currently earning between $200,000 and $700,000 annually, Mr. Perry said.

None of them answered the survey, he said. "There is a sector of risk management people making a lot of money. There is really a good number of people who are in this range, if not better."

Of those who did respond to survey questionnaires, risk managers in the paper industry reported the highest annual total compensation. On average, managers at paper industry companies with more than $7 billion in sales reported earning total compensation of $181,775. Their paper industry colleagues working for the smallest companies earned an average of $53,898.

Risk managers in the service industry also were among the high earners. Those at the largest companies averaged $172,800 in total cash compensation, while those at the smallest companies earned $64,748.

Risk managers at the largest companies in the entertainment industry received average total compensation of $150,000. Their counterparts at the smallest companies received $78,094.

Large manufacturing companies, meanwhile, paid risk managers an average of $146,653 in salaries and bonuses, while the smallest companies paid $75,458.

Drug and pharmaceutical operations paid an average of $145,900 at the top end of the size spectrum and $55,927 at the bottom end.

Consistent with past surveys, risk managers in publishing, construction, and metal and mining reported the lowest earnings.

Those at the largest publishing companies earned $116,008 in total compensation, while those at the smallest companies reported earning $82,056.

Construction industry risk managers at the largest companies earned $114,850, and those at the smallest companies earned $64,643. Meanwhile, metal and mining company risk managers reported earning $110,350 at the largest companies and $55,800 at the smallest.

The survey also found:

Enhancement of job titles held by risk managers has reached smaller companies. Vp, assistant vp and assistant treasurer titles, which have been more common at the larger companies, increasingly are being found at smaller companies.

Smaller companies are catching up in their computer use for risk management functions. The survey found that 71% of companies with sales of up to $200 million had computers in 1996, compared with 61% in 1994. Computer use increased to 81% from 72% among companies with sales ranging from $201 million to $500 during the period. In contrast, 99% of companies with sales exceeding $7 billion use computers for risk management purposes, up from 98% two years ago.

Copies of the 1996 Risk Management Salary survey are available for $70 each from Logic Associates Inc., 67 Wall Street, Suite 2411, New York, N.Y., 10005.