Institutions must judge remuneration on investment value, not public anger, says F&C
Institutional investors must remain focused on their fiduciary duties as shareholders when analysing remuneration packages, despite the issue being surrounded by often heated political and moral debate, says one of the UK’s largest institutional investors and advisors on shareholder voting.
The words from the director, corporate governance at F&C come in a reporting season when various European companies – most notably, but not only, banks – face sometimes intense political and societal pressure to stop or at least reduce bonuses.
Most prominently the chairman and CEO of Royal Bank of Scotland in the UK turned down their 2011 bonuses. But Societe Generale, BNP Paribas, Deutsche Bank, UBS, Credit Suisse, Barclays and Citigroup have all cut their investment banks’ bonus pool, by between 17% and 60%.
F&C’s George Dallas (pictured) says that value for shareholders, not public moral anger on the issue, should be the “guiding light” for institutional investors in whether or not they support or oppose companies’ remuneration packages.
Dallas’s words carry great weight, not least because F&C invests about $84.3bn on behalf of institutional investors, and its Responsible Engagement Overlay unit advises for about $86bn on shareholder voting in regards ESG issues.
Dallas said decisions should be made dispassionately, and each company’s remuneration plans be judged on its merits.
He said: “There are many perspectives on the issue, some of which are valid, that have been given added visibility from societal pressure groups and politicians.
“We recognise this as investors. But it is the investment angle we need to focus on, to ensure that pay structures make sense in terms of how they are structured, what the incentives are, and how a company divides its net earnings after tax, and what this implies in terms of bonuses and dividends.”
He acknowledged there were political issues involved, and some strongly felt views had been expressed about the perceived ‘fairness’ of packages.
“These are legitimate perspectives of politicians and social groups,” he said.