Standard Life shareholders revolt over chief exec pay

Skeoch Keith Standard Life Investments

More than a fifth of Standard Life shareholders voted against the company’s remuneration report, despite a last-minute deal to cut chief executive Keith Skeoch’s pay.

At the company’s annual general meeting yesterday, 22.31 per cent of shareholders voted against the directors pay plan.

Last week Skeoch announced that he would cut his maximum bonus amount by £700,000, reducing it from 500 per cent of his salary to 400 per cent.

Standard Life chairman Gerry Grimstone admitted that the deal was done too late for many shareholders, who had already voted on the pay deal.

Grimstone also defended Skeoch’s pay deal in comparison to his predecessor David Nish.

He says: “When we appointed Keith Skeoch to replace David Nish last year, the remuneration committee restructured his pay to reflect his new responsibilities running both a global investment company and a life assurance business.

“We believe in pay for performance and although, compared to his predecessor, the variable component was increased, his basic salary was decreased, deferral was lengthened, and shareholding requirements were tightened.”

However, speaking at the meeting the Guardian reports Grimston said he agreed with the downward pressure on pay in the industry.

He said: “My personal view is that pay in financial services is too high … There is downward pressure on pay and I think that’s a good thing,”

He added companies need to move together on reducing pay, saying: “The pay climate is tightening and I think will continue to tighten.”

Standard Life is the latest financial firm to face a shareholder backlash, with Schroders most recently seeing a shareholder protest over plans to appoint former chief executive Michael Dobson as chairman of the board.

Around 30 per cent of external shareholders voted against the move, widely seen to be breaking corporate governance principles, discounting the 47 per cent shareholding that is held by the Schroders family.