Standard Chartered Bank has faced a major shareholder revolt over its directors’ remuneration with over a third voting against the company’s policies at its AGM, amid concerns about pension arrangements for senior management
In the run up to the AGM, there was criticism over a change in the way the bank calculates pensions for top executives including Bill Winters, chief executive, and Andy Halford, finance director.
Winters is in line to receive a pension cash allowance of £474,000, the highest of any chief executive of a large UK-listed bank. Standard Chartered said this equivalent to 20% of his ‘total salary’, calculated by combining his cash salary of £1.185m and a share payment of the same amount. However, this marks a change from previous calculations which were worked out by dividing the executive pension allowances only by basic salary alone. Using that method, pension was reported as 40% of his cash salary.
A resolution put to the AGM to approve the remuneration report for the year ended 31 December 2018, excluding the directors' remuneration policy was passed with a smaller level of objection – 10.7% of shareholders opposed this motion.
However, another resolution which did require approval of the directors' remuneration policy saw 36.2% of shareholders vote against the bank’s proposals, one of the highest levels of objections recorded recently.
In response, Standard Chartered said that it welcomed ‘the majority support for our new directors' remuneration policy’, but went on to ‘recognise that there were a significant number of votes opposing the resolution’.
The bank stated: ‘The new remuneration policy was developed following extensive consultation by the remuneration committee with major shareholders, proxy advisors and shareholder representative organisations. Their feedback was valuable and considered carefully by the remuneration committee.
‘We put forward to shareholders a policy we believe is responsible and is in the best interests of the Company in the long-term. Whilst the majority of institutional shareholders expressed their support during the consultation process, we were aware that certain shareholders were not supportive of all aspects of the new policy.
‘The views of all shareholders are important to us and we acknowledge that more needs to be done to understand and address the concerns raised by some shareholders on specific areas of the policy.’
High levels of pension payments to top executives has become a key issue recently.
Standard Chartered has said it will ‘continue to engage with shareholders on these important issues and on their concerns with the new policy in the forthcoming months’, and will publish an update on that engagement within six months of the AGM.