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Finance and governance

The COVID-19 pandemic continued to affect AO Foundation activities considerably. Due to repeated global travel restrictions in all regions, many on-site events were either canceled or replaced by online meetings and offerings.

Compared to 2020, the number of educational events increased slightly, although still substantially below 2019 results. Given the unprecedented level of uncertainty, the net result achieved was extremely satisfactory, boosted by the financial performance of our portfolio thanks to the surprising strength of the financial markets in 2021. The asset management result realized in the current year was an increase of CHF 189.4 million.

Compared to the previous year, third-party income increased by +68 percent (CHF +8.2 million) to CHF 20.3 million but remains -53 percent below budget due to the continued pandemic situation and restrictions mainly impacting the educational events activities (CHF -21.8 million versus budget). Total operating expenses increased by +29 percent in the current year, with the biggest driver being educational expenses, which increased by +35 percent compared to the prior year. The net operating result for the year was CHF -28.7 million.

 Operating income

94 million


 Financial result

181 million


 Foundation equity

1,618 million



Financial overview and income statement

The financial result of CHF 180.6 million was the result of the strong global financial markets in 2021. As a result, the AO Foundation’s Equity increased to CHF 1,618 million by the end of 2021.

Find the financial overview and the income statement 2021 in comparison to budget and previous year here:

Asset management

The asset management result of CHF 189.4 million reflects an actual return of 13.2% on the underlying financial assets amounting to CHF 1,611 million by the end of 2021.


The number of permanent staff by December 31, 2021 is 385.5 full-time equivalents (FTEs). The percentages of their distribution across the AO is represented below.

FTE overview by area

385.5 FTEs

  • AO Research Institute (ARI)

    123.2 FTEs/32%

  • AO Education Institute (AO EI)

    26.7 FTEs/6.9%

  • AO Innovation Translation Center (AO ITC)

    44.8 FTEs/11.6%

  • Global Networks (GN)

    88.9 FTEs/23.1%

  • Support Units

    100.7 FTEs/26.1%

  • Others

    1.2 FTEs/0.3%

Governance overview

At an organizational level we launched, midyear, a new structure called Global Networks bringing together our four clinical divisions and one clinical unit teams under one roof. This allows us to better respond to our constantly changing environment and better address future developments in the AO networks. Global Networks is driven by a clear mission and follows AO strategic priorities, and it facilitates access to central AO infrastructures, systems, and resources for all specialties. The new cross-functional structure has established purpose-driven teams and facilitates the fast and efficient sharing of best practice and expertise, for the benefit of our surgeon network.

AO Access

With its AO Access initiative, the AO took decisive steps in 2021 toward establishing diversity, inclusion, and mentorship firmly within the organization and demonstrated our commitment to addressing existing inequalities to entry and advancement, and identifying and overcoming barriers. In 2021, AO Access piloted its mentorship platform, bringing together mentees and mentors, enabling collaborative learning, and facilitating personal and professional growth in an inclusive and sustainable way. Additionally, AO Access created a suite of freely available resources, ranging from the Voices for change web series celebrating diversity within the AO to the Access to success podcast. Learn more about AO Access here and discover the AO Access Task Forces discussions on AO TV.


According to its Transparency Policy, the AO Foundation annually publishes the total remuneration of the AO Foundation Board, international boards of the clinical divisions, and the AO Executive Committee, in addition to disclosing all scientific grants to third parties.

Remunerations per board

The total remunerations summarized for all governance activities of the International Funding Boards in 2021 were CHF 1,363,450 (2020: CHF 1,309,950), which is 1.1 percent (2020: 1.4 percent) of the total operating expenses of the AO Foundation and its institutions. The table below shows the total remuneration of each individual AO International Board in absolute amounts CHF and as a percent of the total amount of individual operational expenses, as well as the absolute amount of the highest individual remuneration amount within each board in 2021:

Remuneration of the AO Executive Committee

The total annual compensation of the six members of the AO Executive Committee 2021 was CHF 1,871,850 (2020: CHF 2,248,621 with ten members until July 2020). The highest individual compensation was CHF 331,600, resulting in a 1/7.47 relative ratio between the highest and the lowest paid individual compensation (permanent employees).

Assignment of scientific and other grants to third party organizations

In 2021, AO Foundation funded research projects with scientific and other grants totaling CHF 2,524,152 in 49 different third-party organizations (2020: CHF 2,515,328).