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Getting The Message? 87% Of Pension Funds Say Executive Pay Is Too HIgh

Posted on December 1, 2016 at 3:45 PM

It's funny - except it isn't - how the gap between what the person on the street thinks and big business does not appear to be narrowing, despite all this talk about "re-establishing trust in business."

There is a lot of talk about on executive pay, with the launch of the UK government's consultation on corporate governance.

So, listen to the the Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association (PLSA.). Its AGM Season Report published today focussing on the issue of executive pay reveals that 87% of pension funds responding to a member survey say executive pay is too high.

Of that 87%, almost two-thirds (63%) believe executive pay is generally too high, while 37% say it’s too high in cases of poor performance. Pension funds also have serious concerns about the pay gap between executives and their workforce with 85% of respondents highlighting it as a problem.


The PLSA member survey also highlights concerns from pension funds over the capacity of asset managers to fulfil their stewardship responsibilities with 35% of respondents stating dissatisfaction. There is "a strong sense that high levels of pay in the asset management industry is preventing asset managers from properly holding companies to account over pay practices" says the report, with 60% stating it as a problem.


Its analysis of remuneration-related shareholder votes at company AGMs found that overall levels of dissent did not change dramatically in 2016. However, the number of FTSE 100 companies experiencing dissent levels of 40% or higher increased from two in 2015 to seven in 2016.

In the FTSE 350, nine companies that experienced significant shareholder dissent levels of over 20% in 2015, also received dissent of over 15% in 2016.


The report also argues that of the five FTSE 100 companies with the highest level of shareholder dissent: BP (61%), Smith & Nephew (57%), Shire (51%), Babcock (48%), and Anglo-American (48%), none were prepared to acknowledge they had their approach to remuneration wrong in their subsequent statements to the vote.


Despite this, the PLSA also found that there were no significant votes against the re-election of the remuneration committee chairs who had set the most controversial pay packages.


“There has been a lot of public debate about executive pay recently and our members have clearly expressed their concern. It’s time companies got the message and started to reduce the size of the pay packages awarded to their top executives" said Luke Hildyard, Policy Lead for Stewardship and Corporate Governance, Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association, said


“Pension funds make up some of the most long-term and engaged shareholders in UK companies and are understandably worried by the long-term consequences of the pay gap between those at the top and the wider workforce. We will shortly be publishing guidelines encouraging our members, and their asset managers, to take a tougher line on the re-election of company directors responsible for executive pay practices” he added.


The PLSA is to update its Corporate Governance Policy and Voting Guidelines to reflect the findings in the report. The guidelines "will include stronger recommendations on the re-election of remuneration committee chairs, in order to bridge the gap between stakeholder concerns on executive pay and those responsible for overseeing them" it said.


The AGM Season Report comes after the PLSA wrote a letter, supported by the Pensions Minister, Richard Harrington MP, to the Chair of every FTSE350 company asking them to share fuller information with investors about the culture and working practices of their workforce.


The PLSA also published its toolkit, ‘Understanding the worth of the workforce’, in July outlining the type of information about workforce-related issues that pension fund investors should request from the companies in which they invest, and how this information could be most helpfully presented to investors.

Business needs to start joining the dots between how it values its people - all of them. It's just no good talking about pay gaps, culture and employee engagement as if they are completely separate issues.

And then there's that 'productivity' conundrum. Hmm - you think ?

Categories: Pay, Scrutiny, Accountability