This very solid financial performance demonstrates the demand for the essential research, data, analytics and benchmarks S&P Global provides, and underscores the positive influence of productivity initiatives.
The earnings power—and the potential—of S&P Global have created significant value for you, our shareholders.
In 2017, total return to shareholders was 59%, surpassing the S&P 500's return of 22% and our peer group's 29% return.
Last year, the Company returned $1.4 billion to shareholders in the form of dividend payments and share repurchases. In February of this year, your Board of Directors once again approved an increase in the regular cash dividend on the Company's common stock. The increase of 22% to an annual rate of $2.00 affirms S&P Global's commitment to shareholders. For 45 consecutive years, through a wide variety of business cycles and market conditions, the Board has increased the regular cash dividend. Fewer than 25 companies in the S&P 500 can claim such a record.
To maintain our commitment to shareholders, the Board and management team continually assess the Company's strategy and operating performance. Late last year we discussed the biggest trends in technology and themes influencing global capital and commodity markets. This conversation was informed by the leadership team's outreach to customers and users to understand their needs today and well into the future.
The result of this strategic project both affirmed S&P Global's purpose of providing essential intelligence to customers so they can make confident business decisions, as well as crystallized a vision to power the markets of the future. In Doug's letter, he lays out the steps the Company is taking to realize this vision.
Thriving in an evolving environment based on a foundation of integrity and a capacity to anticipate and absorb change are key characteristics of successful organizations. The Board of Directors has oversight responsibility of the Company's risk management framework, including working with the senior leadership team to foster a culture instilled with honesty, transparency, accountability and risk awareness.
We have a terrific set of directors who bring a diverse and valuable set of experiences, skills and perspectives into the boardroom. They also offer a fresh point of view. With the addition of four new Board members over the last two years, we've significantly reduced the average tenure of directors to about six years. That is well below the average 8.2-year tenure of directors of S&P 500 companies. I am grateful to all our directors for their counsel, contributions and commitment to the highest standards of good corporate governance.
By returning cash to shareowners while investing in the most promising growth initiatives, S&P Global has proven to be a responsible steward of shareholder capital. The actions the management team took in 2017 and continues to take today are designed to enable S&P Global to continue delivering superior results for all of its stakeholders.
Thank you for your support.
Charles E. "Ed" Haldeman, Jr.
Chairman of the Board